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The American Dream is Green Newsletter

Office of Sustainability Newsletter February 2012

From Waste to Food - Closing the Loop

How would AU look without a single trash can full of waste bound for the landfill? What if all our food was sourced from local, sustainable, and organic sources to ensure the health of both people and the planet? In this month's newsletter, we seek to answer these questions by looking at both ends of the "consumption loop" - the source of our food, and the destination of our waste, including food waste.

From participating in the national RecycleMania competition to expanding our campus community garden, we already working on both ends of the loop. But of course a loop, by definition, actually has no ends. So the big question is how to transition one-directional processes into closed loops. A one-way process is "materials in" and "waste out." In a closed loop, materials circulate. For example, food waste becomes an input for new soil rather than heading to a landfill.

Find how you can help us close the loop by visiting our "What You Can Do" webpages for Zero Waste and Food. Don't hesitate to contact the Office of Sustainability at with any questions, comments, or suggestions.

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Bin It to Win It: RecycleMania 2012

RecycleMania 2012 Logo

"Bin It to Win It" is our rally cry for February and March, as AU competes in RecycleMania. From February 5th to March 31st, AU goes up against more than 600 schools nationwide to claim up to four recycling titles:

  • Highest recycling rate ("Grand Champion")

  • Most recyclables per capita ("Per Capita Classic")

  • Most total recyclables ("Gorilla")

  • Least trash per capita ("Waste Minimization")

Additionally, individual waste categories such as mixed paper, plastic, glass, food and organics, and e-waste are also included in the competition. This is AU's third consecutive year of participation in the tournament. In 2010, AU placed third in the competition. Based on our first two weeks of reporting, it looks like we're headed for a top ten seat again this year but we need you to keep recycling to put us in top spot!

Visit our RecycleMania webpage for a full schedule of events being hosted throughout the 8 week competition, and our Recycling, Composting, and Waste webpage for more information about how and where to recycle everything from batteries to clothing right here on campus.

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Introducing AU's Waste Wonk - Helen Lee

In January, Helen Lee joined staff as AU's first full-time Zero Waste Coordinator. The sole focus of this important new green job is to implement AU's Zero Waste Policy, which was issued by Dr. Kerwin in 2010. The main goal of the policy is to send absolutely no waste to landfill. 

Lee's bread and butter is closing the loop. Where others might see trash, she sees treasure. Finding new ways to reduce, reuse and recycle means meticulously tracking and monitoring any materials exiting campus, and identifying whether they are bound for a recycling center, a compost facility, or still headed to landfill.

Lee's passion for zero waste is not confined to her new office in the Osborne Building. She is out and about looking for ways to make it easier to "do the waste thing" by pitching materials into any of the growing number of waste diversion containers. So make sure to say "hello" when you see Helen around campus! 

More information about AU's Zero Waste programs can be found on the Office of Sustainability webpage, or by e-mailing Helen at

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Green Eagles Take on Trash in SIS Waste Audit

Waste Audit 2012

What do old coffee stirrers, white office paper, banana peels, and coffee grounds have in common? On Friday, February 3rd over 20 student and staff volunteers meticulously picked through them as they participated in the first-ever waste audit of the LEED-Gold School of International Service building. Over the course of three hours, students sorted, weighed, and measured the more than 500 pounds of waste generated by building occupants in a single 24 hour period. 

The audit revealed that nearly 50% of the waste generated in the building was already being diverted from landfill, but more than 90% could have been recycled, composted, or reused. This data shows that we have the potential to nearly double our waste diversion rate in SIS, preventing an additional 240 pounds of trash from heading to landfill every day from just this one building.

Waste audits offer an up-close and personal glimpse into the waste generated by our consumer society. Since this audit, several other campus offices have conducted smaller scale audits within their office suites. Do you want to conduct a waste audit in your office? Contact Helen Lee, Zero Waste Coordinator at

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Way to GO! Green Offices

Recycle Heroes visit SIS

The Recycle Heroes pose with the staff of the SIS Program Development office as part of their quest to promote waste diversion at AU.

The Green Office (GO!) program, launched last fall as a pilot initiative to introduce sustainability at the office level around campus, continued to pioneer new green practices this semester. The number of participating offices grew to 15 as the program welcomed the Global Scholars Program and the Department of Psychology.

Throughout the months of January and February, more than 300 staff members participating in the program took a critical look at waste. Staff posted signs above waste and recycling bins to help users easily identify what can be recycled (spoiler alert: just about everything!) and what goes to landfill. More than 80 individual desk-side trash bins were removed in an effort to discourage casual or accidental disposal of recyclables into trash bins. Years of excess paper files were purged and recycled as Office of Sustainability "Recycle Heroes" visited offices during AU's first "Office De-Clutter Day." Eight offices replaced their disposable batteries with rechargeable ones, eliminating this source of toxic waste; and both the Career Center and University Center conducted waste audits to educate their staff about what gets tossed in the trash. Ten offices signed up to receive compost collection bins as part of an office compost collection pilot program -- helping divert a significant source of AU's waste from landfill by sending it to what we like to call a "soil factory," where organic material is composted into rich soil amendment.

Finally, congratulations to the Career Center for achieving the highest score in this month's GO! program. The Career Center is on a hot streak, winning Champion status during "Green Office Supply" month last October, and placing as Runner-Up during energy months in November and December. Way to go Career Center -- clearly one of the greenest offices on campus!

Pats on the back also go to Facilities Management for winning Runner Up during the January and February zero waste months -- their highest finish yet!

Click here for a photo album from Office De-Clutter Day.

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Get Fresh and Local -- Registration Now Open for AU's Farm Share Program

Farmer's Market

Students, Faculty, and Staff at AU can again take advantage of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program offered through a partnership between the AhealthyU program and Fresh and Local CSA.

Participants in the CSA receive a share of fresh, local, and biodynamic produce delivered to campus weekly. Order your share right away so that it can be planted in time for delivery beginning in June!

Three different share sizes are available:
  • 9 Week Academic Share: $225, begins with classes in September
  • 18 Week One Person Share: $425, begins in June
  • Standard Full Share: $600, begins in June

To sign up for the Academic or One Person shares, e-mail Farmer Allan at Credit cards are accepted. To sign up for a Full Share, or for more information about the CSA, visit

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Community Garden Grows

Community Garden Spring 2012

Photo Credit: Tom Meyer, Eco-Sense

AU's Community Garden was formed in 2009 through a partnership with the student environmental club Eco-Sense and AU's facilities and grounds staff. The past three seasons have seen a continuous expansion of the vision of the garden's founders - to provide a place where plants can be grown by the community and for the community, and serve as an educational tool in the university setting. 

This spring, the garden is moving from behind Nebraska Hall to a new, bigger, more convenient location next to the tennis courts behind Leonard Hall. The new space, nearly double the size of the existing garden, will provide opportunities for the garden to increase its outreach to all members of the AU community, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and neighbors. The move is underway. Student volunteers have been working every Wednesday since early February to get the garden ready in time for planting during Campus Beautification Day on April 17th. The new garden location will be inaugurated by the planting of nearly 20 fruit trees, donated by Casey Trees to create a small orchard adjacent to the garden.

For more information about the garden, visit the garden webpage, or e-mail Jennifer Jones and Claire Williams, Garden Coordinators. To volunteer to help plant fruit trees on the morning of April 17th, just click here.

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Meatless Mondays in March

Meatless Monday

On average, Americans eat more than 250 pounds of meat per person every year. That's fifty percent more than citizens in other industrialized nations and many times more than most people in developing countries. Most livestock consumed in the U.S. comes from industrial factories that take a heavy toll on the environment, including greenhouse gas emissions from animal manure which is more than 20 times as potent as other greenhouse gases.

Meatless Monday is a voluntary commitment to forgo meat once a week. Bon Appetit offers an award-winning selection of vegetarian and vegan options in the Terrace Dining Room, making it easy to go meatless on Mondays -- or any day of the week! 

Take the Meatless Monday pledge by visiting the Meatless Monday website.

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Get in the Loop -- Join AU's New Sustainability Listserv

Sustainability Listserv

Looking to stay current with all of the sustainability news, events, job and internship opportunities, and more on campus and throughout DC? Subscribe to the new AU Sustainability Listserv, and get all of this delivered straight to your inbox. 

To subscribe, send an e-mail to with the text Subscribe AUSUSTAINABILITY-L Firstname Lastname (Firstname and Lastname should be your first and last name). 

For more information about the AU Sustainability Listserv, including instructions for functions such as receiving a digest, suspending messages, or using the listserv's web interface, visit the AU Sustainability Listserv website.

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Green Dream in the Office

Wipe Out Waste by Ditching the Bin

Small Trash Bin

Did you know that AU currently diverts almost two thirds of its waste from landfills? We're well on our way of achieving our goal of sending zero waste to the landfill, but we need your help. 

Based on a recent inventory, we have three trash cans on campus for every recycling bin, even though most of our waste is recyclable or compostable. Studies show that when a trash can is at hand, people will use it for their recyclables, even if there is a recycling bin nearby. But if the recycling bin is the nearest receptacle, people will use it. So help us make it easier to pitch in to the right bin by ditching individual desk-side trash bins. 

Not only will this increase AU's recycling, it is also a good way to get a quick break from sitting at a desk. Short breaks, even just a couple minutes walking to the recycling bin, can help increase focus and productivity by improving circulation and giving yourself a mental break. 

In January and February, participants in our Green Office program already removed over 100 extra trash bins. To ditch your bin, just e-mail with your request.

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Green Dream at Home

Residential Compost Service

Compost Cab logo

Composting - the process of speeding up the natural decomposition of organic material to create nutrient-rich soil - is already a large part of AU's waste diversion strategy. Every day we send hundreds of pounds of food waste and paper towels to a regional facility that turns them into to compost. Our next step is to research opportunities to conduct that composting process in vessel located right on campus.

But onsite composting can be challenging for residents of apartments, condos or dense homes in an urban environment. Enter Compost Cab, a residential compost collection service designed to serve urban customers who face difficulties composting at their own home but want to do their share to cut down on waste sent to landfills. 

For the small fee of $8/week, Compost Cab will pick up compostable material right at your house once a week. The fee even includes a sturdy, closed bin, and compostable bin liners. They deliver this organic waste to an urban farm in College Park, MD, where it is used to grow food for local children. After 9 months with the service, customers can opt to receive finished compost in return, for use in gardens or on lawns. To learn more about Compost Cab or to sign up, visit the Compost Cab website.

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Upcoming Events

Reclaim, Reimagine, Recreate: Recycled Sculpture Competition

Submissions due Wednesday 2/29 | Judging on Wednesday 3/7,

Katzen Arts Center Rotunda, 7:00 - 9:00 PM

Create a sculpture out of things we normally throw away and enter it in the competition to gain recognition for your work and win exciting prizes. To enter, fill out this short online form. View the sculptures, find out the winner, and enjoy refreshments, music, and a cool recycled craft on March 7th in the Katzen Rotunda! RSVP to the facebook event by clicking here.


E-Waste Drive

Thursday 3/8 & Friday 3/9, 11:00 - 3:00

Quad Outside MGC

Students, faculty, and staff can bring personal electronic waste from to be collected and properly recycled. Keeping toxic e-waste out of landfills is a critical part of AU's Zero Waste initiative and a new component of the RecycleMania competition! For e-waste generated in the office or classroom at AU, e-mail for easy pickup (AU-owned items will not be accepted at the drive).


Waste-Free Wednesdays

Across Campus

Wednesdays in March

Before you throw out your trash, stop and ask yourself, "can this be recycled?" Every Wednesday in March our Green Eagle ecoreps will be out and about around campus looking for members of the AU community to Bin It to Win It, and handing out prizes to those caught recycling. 

Recycling Tip: Use the green and blue bins throughout campus for paper, cardboard, glass, metal, and plastic, and see our guide to less common items to find out where on campus you can recycle everything from cell phones and batteries to plastic bags and clothing.


AU Community Trash Cleanup

Thursdays in March, 3:00 - 3:30

Meet in front of the Ward Circle Building

Help student environmental club Eco-Sense and the Community Service Coalition pick up trash in the neighborhoods surrounding campus and keep Spring Valley beautiful every Thursday in March. Trash will be properly sorted and all recyclables will be properly diverted from the landfill.  RSVP to the facebook event by clicking here.


Earth Week 2012

Monday, April 16th - Sunday, April 22nd

Mark your calendars for another week of events celebrating Earth Day in this exciting AU tradition. Click here to view last year's calendar of events.


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