SDP 2021-2022 Week 7: An Epidemiology Professor, a Brief Discussion on Zero Waste and Systems Thinking, an Info Session about PLAN, and More Planning!

This Wednesday (October 13th) was a loaded Wednesday. At the beginning of class, we had the opportunity to meet Christopher Heaney, a professor of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, who has worked on using epidemiology as a tool to support environmental justice movements. He told us that we not only need sound science, but active, vibrant student groups who put pressure on administrative decisions, as well.

We then moved to briefly discuss the readings for the week (“Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System,” by Donella Meadows and “Exploring the Phenomenon of Zero Waste and Future Cities,” by Jonathon Hannon and Atiq Zaman). Some notable points that arose during this discussion were:

  • The idea of “leveraging” cannot be without its context–where and with whom are you doing said leveraging?
  • Is the SBCLT’s and its partners’ work away from a linear and toward a circular waste system a paradigm shift? In order to answer this question, we need to define the nuanced boundaries of the system that the SBCLT and its partners are working within. The answer isn’t simply “the city of Baltimore.” Defining these boundaries will allow us to hit the (yet-to-be defined) system’s leverage points in more concerted ways.
  • Though the idea of Zero Waste is in and of itself a paradox, it is also an ambition and a process.

The Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN), whose mission statement is to “​​cultivat[e], educat[e], and inspir[e] the student-led zero waste movement,” then ran an hour-long information session, and shared with us the work that they have done with Towson University and other schools. The young program, established in 2014 at the University of New Hampshire, started off as a student-run move-out program that “turned trash to treasure.” The program grew into an organization and now serves university students with their sustainability efforts by “equip[ping] [students] with the necessary skills and resources to implement solutions to waste in their campus communities.” PLAN has manuals that provide How-Tos on a wide range of potential campus sustainability initiatives, from reusable to-go container programs to compost programs.

After the info session, the SDP was able to “take our shoes off” and enjoy some freshly hand-picked apples from the Blue Ridge Mountains–courtesy of one of our classmates. We then broke into our two groups (one focused on working with the community, the other focused on working with the institution) to discuss the work we had done throughout the week and to plan what progress we would like to see before our next class period. Reconvening, the two teams gave each other updates. Over the course of the week leading up to today’s class, the community-focused team was able to make progress on developing a survey, as well as survey distribution methods. The team also looked into potential competitors and collaborators on SBCLT’s zero waste initiative and started a rough power map sketch. The team is looking to finalize the survey and pinpoint clear points of contact to complete the survey by next week. The institution-focused team discussed the restructuring of waste/compost disposal on campus, as well as researching the opinions of individuals and different subgroups (ex. faculty and the Office of Sustainability etc.) regarding disposal. The discussion is ongoing. Lastly, the SDP will be finalizing a letter with information regarding a petition and action event taking place on October 22nd very soon, and it will soon be circulated as widely as possible; and we would love you, the reader, to help us in this cause!

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