A trash-free Hope

Clara Jurik’s senior seminar at Hope College packed a challenge. The challenge was to begin working towards a goal that was based on a student’s ideal future that can begin right away.

“My goal is to lessen our ecological impact and of course trash is a big part of that. I decided to try and go waste free once a week,” said Jurik, a senior biology major.

Clara is one person recognizing the amount of trash one human can produce.

In response, people have begun living lifestyles around the elimination of trash from their lives. Others participate in incremental periods. This trend stems from the desire of living sustainably by recycling and composting while avoiding items sent to the landfill.

Jurik’s inspiration stems partly from her background in biology as well as her lifestyle growing up in northern Michigan. In her hometown, she bought in bulk and composted food scraps to her family’s chickens. Directing her efforts on landfill waste, specifically, was influenced by learning about the vast amount of land dedicated to anthropogenic waste and the amount of trash found in the oceans.

Many of the participants of this trend are not college students. Clara is a rarity. Is it possible for a college student to live trash-free for three days?

“I’d say it’s really possible,” said Melissa Porchik, a senior majoring in Spanish education at Hope College. Confident in her abilities to attempt going trash-free she admitted that she “would try to do some research ahead of time.”

Dr. Brian Bodenbender, Professor of Geology and Environmental Science at Hope College, let out a soft chuckle when asked if he believed whether college students could succeed in living a trash-free lifestyle.

“People don’t realize that not being able to throw something in a bin is a big change,” Bodenbender said.

Hope College has many programs currently in place that helps facilitate this trend. Recycling is widely available around campus and the college’s physical plant offers composting, available for on-campus housing.

“Hope has had an awareness of needing to recycle and a willingness to recycle and to even pay to recycle…” Bodenbender said.

Even living on a campus that has many opportunities to help this process, college students could face many challenges. Clara noted that her job requires gloves and a clean-up procedure involving disposable elements.

Food can be the source of temptation. The convenience of packaged food surrounds college students. Clara made sure to mention that food can be a challenge as a word of advice if anyone is considering attempting a trash-free trend.

“It heightens my awareness of how much I am throwing away and how much is packaged in society,” Jurik said, as her awareness heightened.

Clara’s journey began in the middle of September and she plans to continue throughout the semester. She is currently considering her options with composting. She desires a greater education for the student body regarding the options recycling and composting provides as an alternative to the trash can. Clara believes that her goal will continue even after the semester ends.

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