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Sustainability and Waste Management at UMD Project Proposal

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Executive Summary:

We live in a capitalist consumer culture. That means our economy’s success depends directly on how many “things” people are buying. More and more “things” are bought everyday, and, in order to make room for all of these new products, the old, broken, or forgotten products are thrown away. This creates copious amounts of garbage. At the University of Minnesota, Duluth, students, faculty, and staff all contribute to this when they toss a coffee cup, throw away an old pair of shoes, or upgrade to a new computer. We are all creating waste everyday. There are, however, many safer, smarter, and more environmentally-friendly ways to get rid of our garbage than many of us know about. Things like recycling or reusing can have a huge impact on the amount of garbage created. Because of these better possibilities, Ska Cubano has decided to focus on studying waste management at UMD.

The goal of our project is to conduct research about UMD’s waste management and encourage UMD students, staff, and faculty to use proper waste management procedures. This will include interviews and fieldwork about what is already being done and what needs to be done. Also, we will be raising awareness about the university’s progress by conducting surveys and doing a trash audit on campus. Our research will focus on trash (non-hazardous and hazardous), recycling, and food composting. We strongly believe that educating students, staff, and faculty about their impact will help them to change their ways and adopt better habits that will have less of an impact on our local environment and the larger world.

We will also be videotaping all of our efforts and compiling as much data as possible in order to create a short documentary film. By taking raw data and putting it together in a manner that the university community can understand, we hope to influence how people dispose of their waste. Often times, people are unaware of their impact on the world around them. By making them aware of the fact that each decision they make has an affect, we hope to create a university that has students, staff, and faculty making smarter and more sustainable decisions.
Ska Cubano is made up of three very motivated and qualified anthropology seniors enrolled in Senior Seminar, spring 2009. All three students have a passion for sustainability and, therefore, look forward to the hard work that lay ahead of them. With backgrounds in anthropology and practice in both qualitative and quantitative research, along with creative minds and good attitudes, these students are more than able to carry out the necessary work for making this project a success. The team’s concern for educating people and making positive change, combined with their strong connection to and belief in the university, makes Ska Cubano very capable and determined to complete this project.

Statement of Need:

Waste management is a very important aspect of university life. With 11,366 students, 528 faculty, and 1,073 staff in one location, a lot of trash gets generated each day. In fact, our initial research has shown that about 2.8 pounds of trash are created by each person on campus every day. In a joint effort between facilities management and every person who walks through this campus each day, we could make a huge impact on how we generate waste and what we do with it at the end of the day.

The UMD campus is taking strides to become more efficient with waste disposal and generation. You can find a garbage bin in every classroom and hallway, with recycling bins distributed at various locations. There are programs throughout campus to recycle hazardous materials such as batteries, computers, ink cartridges, fluorescent lamps, and oil. Certain groups on campus recycle cell phones. The dining center has implemented a composting program for the buffet line foods. The kitchen for the food court and dining center has an effective composting program for waste from food preparation. Changes are being made and more are being looked into. UMD has a lot to offer its patrons in respect to waste disposal, but it could be better.

There are some significant problems with the above programs. You can find a garbage bin in every classroom and hallway, but not recycling bins. Those are only in certain locations, meaning students throw every piece of trash including plastic bottles and aluminum in the garbage when they exit a room. Also, the bins’ labels aren’t up to date. Currently you can mix recycling, but the bins are labeled “Plastic Only” or “Aluminum Bins Only”. As students who have been on this campus for three or four years, we have noticed that this confuses people and they often end up throwing their trash in the garbage bin. In addition, the food court receives a high volume of patrons each day but that food isn’t composted as it is in the dining center. The people in charge say it’s too difficult to manage something like that and once McDonald’s starts doing it they will. Those are just some examples of what is happening on our campus.

There are more programs being looked at to implement in the future. There have been complaints about the accessibility of garbage and recycling bins at football games, and how fast those available fill up, so facilities management is looking into ways of improving that system. Mindy Granley, the Sustainability Coordinator, is hoping to incorporate the biodegradable dishware and utensils used in the food court during Bulldog Bash, which is a welcome week event held in the fall led by a speech from the chancellor. If this were to happen, all trash could be composted with the food waste. Combine that with recycling bins and you would have an event with no waste at all.

All of these ideas would make UMD a great role model for the community at large. If we can show community members that institutions as big as UMD can be sustainable, we can influence local businesses to use our methods and reduce waste as a community. Not only are these practices good for the environment, but it’s good for business. It is essential to our economy to cut back on waste as a whole, to minimize waste production and minimize what we put in landfills.

With our current economic crisis, every penny counts. Properly managing waste, whether it be solid, food, water, or recyclable waste, can cut back on costs for businesses, universities, and homes. At the university, cutting back on these costs might open up more funding for financial aid and cut tuition costs.

This project will give us more insight into the student, staff, and faculty body that inhabits our school. We will be able to understand how people think on the topic of waste, what they think it is, and what it means to our society. It will help us learn how to educate on the topic of waste management by getting behind the more common questions people have about it. Understanding where people are coming from is one of the most important pieces to making change. Once you know that, you know how to reach them in a way that will make it personal to them. You can help make the cause matter.

Project Description:

Our goal is to conduct a study about UMD’s waste management and encourage UMD students, staff, and faculty to use proper waste management procedures.

Our research will consist of interviews with five (5) individuals on campus who are involved with the disposal of the University of Minnesota Duluth’s waste: Mindy Granley, UMD’s Sustainability Coordinator; Joseph Michela, Director of Auxiliary Services; Doug Greenwood, Principle Building Management Supervisor and Facilities Custodial Supervisor; Tim Bushnell, Principle Food Operations Manager; and John King, Director of Facilities Management. Our research will ultimately culminate in a documentary film with a length of approximately 20-25 minutes. The film will be posted on YouTube and possibly shown in an Introduction to College Learning class, a class that is required of all Freshmen College of Liberal Arts Students at UMD. The film will consist of interviews with the members of UMD’s waste disposal programs, students, to gauge a sense of how much the student body knows about waste disposal on campus, a trash audit to determine how well the University’s recycling program is functioning, and a segment where a piece or pieces of solid waste are followed from their generation on campus to their final disposal sites, to give a visual representation of the journey that solid waste that is generated on campus goes on after it is thrown away.

UMD’s waste is comprised of solid landfill waste; recyclable goods such as paper, plastic, and aluminum; hazardous waste like electronics, chemicals from science labs, waste oil, printer cartridges, batteries, and florescent light bulbs; and compostable food waste. We have already spoken to Mindy Granley, to find out what she believes is a necessary course of research and student-led activism.

Mindy spoke about doing a trash audit, where a percentage of UMD’s solid waste for a day would be sorted through to determine how well the University’s recycling program is operating. The trash audit will be conducted by the members of this group and it will be coordinated by Mindy Granley on April 22.

Interviews will be conducted with Joseph Michela, Director of Auxiliary Services, Doug Greenwood, Principle Building Management Supervisor and Facilities Custodial Supervisor, Tim Bushnell Principle Food Operations Manager, and John King Director of Facilities Management by Friday April 10, to determine what UMD is currently doing in the arena of solid waste disposal.

Student interviews and surveys will be conducted by us to determine current student knowledge of waste management and disposal practices on campus. We will use a combination of written surveys of a random sample of students and short video-taped interviews. Because we will be using various interviewing and surveying techniques, we will incorporate a variation of interview and survey styles to fit each circumstance. For example, our written survey will have easily quantifiable multiple choice questions, while our short interviews might include more conversational questions for the documentary.

Library research will also be a crucial aspect in our project. Along with general campus sustainability research, we will be looking for information about landfills and the hazards and environmental impacts surrounding the use of landfills. We will use our research about waste to guide our research.

The film will focus primarily on the journey that discarded items take from being thrown away to their eventual disposal. This will involve driving to sorting facilities and the BFI Lakes Area Landfill in Sarona, WI, where all of UMD’s non-recyclable and non-reusable waste is transported to and then interred. There is a potential for interviews and video taping of waste disposal facilities if we can get permission to do so at this location. The film will also include footage and results of the trash audit, results of student surveys and selected student interviews, and selected segments of interviews conducted with individuals on campus who are involved in waste disposal to determine what is being done, with responses from members of the group and from students. The film will be concluded with an overview of what has being done on the campus waste management front and potential ways that UMD’s waste disposal strategies could be improved.


In order to complete this project successfully, we will need about $125.00 in funding to cover various standard expenses such as gas, supplies, and admittances to various local events. Below is a table that lays out our expected expenses.

Expense Description Budget
Supplies Tapes $25.00
Printing/Copying $5.00 (100 @ $.05)
Trash Audit Materials $20.00
Travel Gas $88.00 (160 miles @ $.55 per mile)
Events Living Green Conference $20.00 (2 @ $10.00)
Contingency $25.00
Total $125.00

Team Ska Cubano

Team Ska Cubano has the unique advantage of being a very small group, made up of three very capable students. We are all very skilled in all the necessary areas, so we will work towards completing each task together. Between the three of us, we all feel confident that we can use our strengths to work together to make this project a great success. We all look forward to increasing sustainability on campus by making the entire campus community more waste-conscious.

Autumn Juetten will be graduating in the fall of 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology, Anthropology, and Spanish. She has studied environmental issues in classes such as Environmental Sociology and Ethnobotany, and has completed a project involving the waste and recycling habits of her peers. She also joined a volunteer trip focusing on conservation and preservation in various locations of Costa Rica, such as the disappearance of rain forests with their importance to biodiversity, remote villages involving their waste disposal methods, and the truths behind ecotourism. She has a deep concern for the reckless way people treat their belongings and dispose of things before they are old or have broken. She wants to help educate people about their personal impact on the environment and how the little choices we make today have big impacts tomorrow.

Drew Martin is currently a fifth year student at the University of Minnesota Duluth and will graduate in the fall of 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology with a minor in History. Throughout his career as an undergraduate student he has gained valuable knowledge an experience conducting ethnographic research, interviews, and field work. A family passionate about the environment that constantly stressed the importance of taking care of our world sparked his initial interest in sustainability. His environmental interests were reaffirmed when he was further introduced to the world of plants in Ethnobotany.

Bryanna Raiche is a senior at the University of Minnesota, Duluth and will be graduating in May 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and a minor in Film Studies. She is currently doing an internship with the United Way of Greater Duluth, where she has improved her researching skills by compiling a parent resource guide and by developing, distributing, and analyzing a survey to better understand the problem of the recent Head Start transportation cut. Her anthropology background has prepared her for this project and she has a passion for tackling and finding solutions for big world problems like the one this project addresses.


The University of Minnesota, Duluth strives towards becoming a more sustainable campus. One key area that must be researched in order to make improvements is the university’s waste management program. With about 13,000 students, faculty, and staff contributing to the campus’s waste output, it is important that everyone has awareness about how to properly dispose of their unwanted trash. By researching what the university is doing, hopes to do, and still needs to improve, we will be able to encourage the advancement of more sustainable waste management.
Our research on how well the campus community understands the importance of recycling, reusing, and responsible disposing will help us advise how to improve campus education in this area. By creating a documentary film of the entire process, we will leave a piece of valuable waste management activism that can be utilized for years to come.