Beekeeping is one of MacEwan’s many efforts for a greener future.  (Office of Sustainability)

Pardon the plastic

MacEwan University has taken on new initiatives
to ‘preserve the Earth for generations to come’
By Ashley Orich

IMAGINE for a moment that you are at your favourite restaurant, and you order a drink that comes with a single-use plastic straw. You order more drinks, which mean more straws. Consider for a moment how much single-use plastic waste your visit has produced. Multiply that by how many other people were at the restaurant.

That’s a lot of waste that won’t break down for a long time.

“It’s all about seeing day to day what kind of plastic you’re using and seeing what you can reduce by bringing things with you,” says MacEwan students association community assistant Karman Ngan. “We produce so much waste on a daily basis as one person, and it can be avoided if you put in a little effort.” 

As community assistant, Ngan is responsible for many events that work towards making MacEwan’s campus more sustainable. One such event is SUSTAINaMANIA

“We’ve invited a few other organizations to come and talk about their initiatives and what they do in Edmonton to promote sustainability,” she says. “Re:Plenish YEG is coming and they’re going to be talking about how they have a refillery here in Edmonton. A lot of it is about bringing awareness.”

This year, SUSTAINaMANIA is scheduled for March 16.

“We have a lot of DIYs planned for students,” Ngan says. “One of them is with K-cups, so I’ve been cleaning out K-cups to use them as a plant starter.” 

The K-cups create an easy way to bulk start plants without having to buy small plastic  pots. Students are given dirt pellets and seeds to take home with the K-cup. After planting the seeds, they need to water them until they sprout, and then they can be transferred to a larger pot or a garden.  

“It’s a good way to reuse a K-cup, because those usually just go in the garbage can. One little K-cup can be used to start plants several times,” Ngan says.

Similarly, the Office of Sustainability found that “60 per cent of the waste on campus was coffee cups, which makes sense, but that’s a lot of waste,” Colton Rhyason says. “We are trying to get a reusable cup program on campus. We looked at what other universities were doing; UBC has a program called Mugshare, with reusable cups similar to MacEwan’s Green to Go Containers.” 

Rhyason is an outreach advisor for MacEwan’s sustainability office, and has been in the position since June 2019. He has worked in event production and collaborating with different departments on projects, and has run a student volunteer group that works on their own projects.

The sustainability office also conducts workshops around campus on environmental awareness, manages six beehives on top of Building Five, and is working to introduce composting on campus.

Staff members also are working on a project involving the banners on campus. 

“They get used for a short amount of time and then they get thrown in the garbage,” says Rhyason. “Polyvinyl isn’t recyclable at all, so we designed a project to upcycle those into reusable bags.”

This mug is a prototype for MacEwan’s version of the Mugshare program (Ashley Orich)

You don’t need to be at MacEwan to practice sustainability. Rather, you just need to become more conscientious of the waste you’re producing, and how to reduce it.  This can include buying for quality over quantity, driving less, eating less meat, and making sure that your money goes towards businesses with sustainably minded practices.

Popular stores such as Lush, Spirit Leaf Cannabis and The Body Shop are a few examples of corporate brands that try to do better for the environment through initiatives like recycling used product packaging. 

There’s no doubt that sustainable practices work best when everyone works together.

“I think, as an individual, we are somewhat handcuffed by our time,” Rhyason says. “There’s a lot you can do to reduce your carbon footprint, and we all contribute, so if we all consumed less and did less, and overall contributed less pollution the world would be in a lot better place.”

 

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