Student Voices will be a regular feature on the ThreeZeros news page. Periodically each semester a student working with Sustainability @ UNC and the Three Zeros Initiative will offer their perspective on an environmental issue or event on UNC’s campus. Our first installment is written by Adeyemi Olatunde and covers the efforts of second-year student Olivia Joyner to go trash free for one week in November 2016.

Olivia Joyner #TFUNC

Let me take you on a journey. You are in a class watching a film, the kind that intrigues you, makes you think about how the world could be different. We’ve all been there as a bright-eyed first year student who believes that we have the power to change the world. But once you leave the classroom, reality sets in and you remember the assignments that are due or the various love interests that you have to text, reply to, or ignore. Although reality intrudes, for Olivia Joyner the dreams only became clearer. The film that brought this clarity was No Impact Man – a film about a man’s journey to leave zero-impact on the world while living in the heart of Manhattan. This film had a profound impact on how Olivia saw the world around us; especially our beloved campus. She believes that we have the power within ourselves to achieve a cleaner future.

As Olivia embarked on her sophomore year, she knew that she needed to do something, no matter how small. Through her environmental fraternity Epsilon Eta, Olivia started Trash Free UNC (TFUNC), a group that will sponsor Trash Free Weeks on campus to encourage students to disrupt their basic lifestyle, think about their impact, and reduce their personal waste. “200 students at NYU went trash free for a week,” said Olivia, “why can’t we do the same at UNC?”

During Halloween week 2016, Olivia set out to organize the first of what she hopes will be many Trash Free Weeks on campus.  Like any true leader who practices what they preach, Olivia collected a week’s worth of trash, limiting it to just one mason jar. Attempting to reduce her trash impact to one mason jar for the week was a challenge, especially with all the wristbands from Halloween events on and off campus filling her jar.

From classes, to meetings, to hours dealing with the academic grind in Davis Library, Olivia’s other obstacles included temptations like chocolate, and Smoothie King, and protein bars for sustenance through the day. Olivia understands the challenges that we as students face, but all she is asking is for members of the UNC-Chapel Hill community to develop a more conscious consumer behavior, “We should let our actions speak for what we want to see in our ideal future.”

Olivia offered some suggestions for simple things students can do to minimize the amount of waste they produce, such as: using a coffee Thermos or travel mug rather than relying on disposable to-go cups; using a water bottle to refill at campus water fountains throughout the day rather than buying water in plastic bottles; keeping a reusable fork, spoon, and knife at hand rather than using disposable utensils from campus dining.

Olivia also recommends buying food and other household or classroom materials in bulk, which uses less packaging than individually packaged items. Olivia added, “All our seemingly minimal actions add up to make a larger impact. So when you recycle, your small action is part of a bigger burgeoning movement on campus.” Olivia Joyner exemplifies this movement in her pursuit for a cleaner UNC.

-Adeyemi Olatunde
2018 – Geography

TrashFreeUNC (#TFUNC) is a week long, zero-waste initiative project that aims to raise awareness about the amount of trash that students & staff send to the landfill everyday by purchasing disposable items such as packaged foods & coffee. By participating in TrashFreeUNC, students will pledge to try to use only re-usable items for a week with the goal of producing little to no solid waste. Visit the TrashFreeUNC Facebook page.

The Three Zeros Initiative (#UNCThreeZeros) aims to reduce UNC-Chapel Hill’s environmental footprint by moving the campus toward water neutrality, zero waste, and greenhouse gas neutrality. The initiative provides a way to aggregate efforts, examine what the University has already accomplished, and explore how to build on that success. A key component is for Carolina to be a living learning laboratory. Examining sustainability from a cost-saving standpoint as well as a path to new teaching and research opportunities gives Three Zeros the potential for far-reaching impact.

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