Resource Recovery launches supply store in effort to make campus events more compost-friendly

Although UT Austin may be known for Burnt Orange, the campus community has taken strides to go green. Sustainability is a word and a movement that has popped up on the radars of many campus community members. Students are playing a critical role in this movement. Karyme Valdez, a Management Information Systems major, recently worked with UT Resource Recovery to develop a comprehensive business plan for a new Zero Waste Program project to help the university move toward more compost-friendly events.

Lindsey Hutchison, senior Zero Waste Program coordinator with Resource Recovery, says the new Zero Waste Event Eco (ZWEco) Supply Store is a one stop shop managed by student interns for staff and faculty event planners. Event planners are able to purchase compostable goods, borrow compost bins and even hire zero waste staff that can provide onsite support at your event.

“These resources make it easier to achieve event waste reduction goals,” Hutchison said.

Although the supply store launches on Wednesday, Dec.1, Resource Recovery has been working with UT staff, faculty and students since UT’s Zero Waste Goal was established in 2012. The Zero Waste Program targets waste reduction in the workplace, at events and through outreach and student engagement.

Bobby Moddrell, Resource Recovery manager, says one of the first zero waste events his team coordinated at the university was the 2016 annual Planning, Energy and Facilities Employee Appreciation BBQ attended by over 800 employees. The Zero Waste Program ensures, with large campus events like orientation, an opportunity to introduce incoming students to proper recycling and composting on campus.

The ZWEco Supply Store will offer certified compostable goods such as plates, cups and eating utensils at a lower cost than retail to event planners because of Resource Recovery’s ability to purchase in bulk quantities--perfect for upcoming holiday event planning. Part of Valdez’ business plan was to select and source products most in-demand for events and develop the system to fulfill orders in fixed smaller quantities more appropriate to event needs. Findings from a pricing analysis reinforced that approach.

“Event planners buying these items on their own could pay double the cost of purchasing from the supply store,” Moddrell said.

Morgan Laner, Zero Waste Program coordinator, says that the supply store is only one of many ways that the Zero Waste Events team can support faculty and staff event planners. Zero Waste student interns offer monthly compost training to equip event planners on disposal strategies so that they can ensure bin monitors and guests are equipped for success.

“We continue to see a rise in student, staff and faculty interest in reducing waste on campus and are excited to support more events on their journey to zero waste,” Laner said.

If you are looking for more strategies as an event planner to reduce waste at your event you can find customizable waste bin signage, event checklists, consultation requests (as early in the planning process as possible) and other resources on the Resource Recovery Zero Waste Events page. Event planners can access the supply store and its order form, also available Dec. 1, through the FSC Event Planning Request Form.