Film Class Covers Campus Sustainability Topics

Davis Center Compost Cooler

The Community Development and Applied Economics (CDAE) department offers a hands-on documentary production course in which students produce films for local development and environmental organizations and causes. Nilima Abrams created this class after teaching a long-form documentary course where students watch, research and write about documentaries and how they are used for social and environmental movements. Abrams recognized that, "many students of course also want to MAKE these types of films!" Abrams does a lot of work with small non-profits and bigger companies. It was there that she noticed a matching gap: most small organizations don't have the skills, time or money to put together marketing videos for themselves.

In this class she marries student demand with the community need. Abrams exposes students to commercial marketing techniques and has the students apply them to "good" causes. Students learn production techniques and principles to plan, write, shoot, edit and share short videos that promote social change or educate audiences on a current environmental and development issues. Students come to the class from a huge range of majors (CDAE, ENVS, FTS and Art History are represented this semester) and experience levels. They all make three short films throughout the semester. "Even those who have never filmed anything are making quality projects and I'm very happy with the results," says Abrams.

Two of the films that focus on campus sustainability programs are featured below. The class is holding a public film screening in Harris 115 on December 12th from 5:30-7:30 where you can watch dozens of other student films!

Help Fight Hunger with Food by Lily Abrams and Rachel Zell 

Ecoware at The University of Vermont by Sophie MacMillan and Willa Imhoff

UVM Composting Program by Willa Imhoff

Day in the Life of UVM: Oct. 10, 2017

5:20 p.m. Redstone Unlimited Dining Hall. 

First-year environmental studies major Elizabeth Mackin, sophomore environmental science major Lucy McGrew, and sophomore environmental studies major Alysa Kelly (from left), manage a Weigh the Waste event. The idea? “We want students to realize that, even though they’re putting food in the compost bin, it’s still waste,” says McGrew. The three will weigh today’s edible compost later, but yesterday, students threw away 50 pounds of food in just two hours. Weigh the Waste aims to raise awareness so, in the future, students will start off with less food on their plates.

UVM Campus Diverts 40% of Its Waste from Landfill

From the Office of the President:  The numbers are in, and the news is good. In 2012, the UVM campus diverted 40% of its waste from landfill disposal through its recycling and composting efforts. Even better news: the amount of total solid waste generated by the campus has steadily been on the decline despite increases in square footage and campus population.

UVM Recycling recently evaluated data from the past decade with the help of first-year engineering student, Austin Grant. The data shows that the campus produced more garbage five years ago than it has in recent years. Here is a closer look at the numbers:

   *   Solid waste generation went from a high of 2,866 tons in 2006 to a low of 2,326 tons in 2012 – that’s an 18% reduction.

   *   The amount of waste generated “per square foot” of building space went from a high of 0.92 pounds per square foot in 2005 to just 0.50 pounds per square foot today.

   *   And, the amount of solid waste generated “per student per year” has dropped 
from 485 pounds in 2004 down to 355 pounds today.

UVM is clearly on the right path towards reducing waste, especially as landfill disposal space in Vermont becomes scarcer and the cost of trash disposal rises each year. W

hat is the reason the campus is "less wasteful" now? According to Erica Spiegel, Solid Waste Manager, there is no single factor, but rather there have been many changes in university operations and consumer habits over the years.

One noticeable change is capturing more organics, (i.e. food scraps) from the waste stream which are hauled to the local composting facility operated by the Chittenden Solid Waste District. On average, UVM dining facilities collect 9.45 tons of food scraps per week to be converted back into soil for growing more food locally. This is up from 4.96 tons per week back in 2006. Last fall, UVM Recycling introduced a new program with One Revolution, a local bicycle-based compost collection service, to divert an additional 120 pounds of food leftovers per week from 40 office locations around campus. 

Other significant measures over the past decade include:

   *    Elimination of the printed UVM telephone directory.

   *    Reusable take-out packaging, known as Eco-Ware, introduced by Dining Services.

   *    "Tray-Free” dining in three resident dining halls.

   *    An increase in "paperless" business transactions and procedures.

   *    Elimination of desk-side trash collection and use of plastic trash bags in staff and faculty office areas.

   *    Expansion of compostable packaging collection within the Davis Center.

   *    Greater awareness and cultural shift among students, staff and faculty to recycle and compost more, and waste less.

It’s not all silver linings however. Some parts of the University’s waste stream never seem to dwindle. Every year, the campus tosses out between 35-40 tons of old computer equipment and electronic waste to be disassembled and recycled.

UVM Recycling is offering new at-desk recycle boxes for staff and faculty. For details and to request a bin, visit UVM Recycling Website.


By Erica M. Spiegel

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