The third annual Students for Zero Waste Conference was held in Durham this past weekend, with Keynote Speaker Lisa Bjerke hosting a talk in the Memorial Union Building’s (MUB) Granite State Room (GSR) on Saturday morning, Nov. 12. During the course of the day, presentations and activities were held to educate participants on the zero waste initiative.
The Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN), an organization that leads the zero waste movement among college students, organized the day’s events, which were sponsored by World Centric, Whole Foods, Stonyfield Yogurt and UNH.
A Sweden native, Bjerke has done work around the world as a fellowship recipient studying how humans perceive waste. Bjerk has been featured as a TEDx speaker and was asked to open Saturday’s events.
“We need to understand that the world we’re living in isn’t simple, it’s complex,” Bjerke said.
Emphasizing the reality of waste, Bjerke said that the world is not approaching zero waste and that there is a need to re-think how we deal with waste.
“I’m really challenging us to stop using the label waste because we need to embrace what we discard, ” Bjerke said, adding that there is potential to turn waste into a resource.
Following the Keynote, guests were encouraged to eat the lunch provided by the sponsors and participate in a number of workshops and presentations throughout the day.
Experts invited to the conference led discussions on hunger, pollution and climate change. Conference rooms throughout the MUB were utilized to give the event a centralized space. Students and guests rushed from event to event with free food in their hands.
During a networking break, Gabe Trevor and Madilyn Jacobsen of the Community Thrift Store at Clarke University said they were learning how important movements like these are.
“It’s important to not put the burden on individual people who have very little power in the grand scheme of things and work towards building social movements to challenge corporations and governments,” Trevor said.
Jacobsen, who presented at the conference for the second year in row, said she learned about the importance of preventative measures related to waste.
“We can probably provide more support for preventative measures like the example of the landfill and the incinerators and how there hasn’t been a new one since 1997,” Jacobsen said.
Co-Founder of UNH Trash 2 Treasure and PLAN Founder and Director Alex Freid said the zero waste movement’s message is to strive for a community that does not create waste but acknowledges that the larger political conversation is different this year.
“We’re all coming off the heels of the election and I think that there is a lot of emotions,” Freid said. “Over the next four years, under a presidency that will probably be relatively repressive to movements, how do we make change? And I think that this is an opportunity for people to come together.”
Next year’s conference will be held at Temple University in Philadelphia.