How one student’s small steps made a big impact

In 2004, Orith Fogel was a third year Jazz Studies student when she landed a job as the University’s environmental issues coordinator. A self-proclaimed “earth activist,” Fogel saw an opportunity to influence real change on campus by shedding light on the type and volume of waste we discard every year.

“Ever since I was young, I’ve been conscientious of recycling and composting,” said Fogel. “When I found out the campus was still using Styrofoam, I thought ‘what is going on here?’ How can we change this?”

Styrofoam, or polystyrene, if you want to get technical, is proven to contribute to pollution, is non-biodegradable, consumes non-renewable resources and is suspected to be a human carcinogen under extreme temperatures.

In partnership with two other students, Fogel spearheaded a campaign to push for a greener campus environment and ultimately eliminate the use of Styrofoam. She lobbied the University’s purchasing department to hire food service vendors who use biodegradable utensils, plates and cups; hosted Styrofoam-free luncheons; and ran waste drives to examine what we were actually throwing away (a prelude to the University’s current bi-annual Waste Audit).

“Through the waste drives, we were able to calculate not just how much Styrofoam we were throwing away, but the types of recyclable materials that end up in the trash as well,” said Fogel. “We calculated that the amount of soda cans that were being discarded would provide someone with an income of $4,000 per month.”

By the time Fogel graduated in 2007, Capilano University was officially Styrofoam-free, and was on the cusp of initiating additional sustainable, earth-friendly initiatives.

Since 2007, Capilano has successfully cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half, through means such as monitoring its paper consumption, a greater reliance on electric vehicles and a better boiler system.

When asked what Fogel credits her early success to, she simply said: “I just showed up. Sometimes all it takes is persistence.”

For more on how Capilano University promotes environmental sustainability on campus, check out our Sustainability website.

Submitted by Communications & Marketing

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