Student research: How to reduce waste on campus
October 11, 2018

By Nicole Barbato, faculty, Environmental Technician/Technology programs

It’s almost Waste Reduction Week. In winter 2018, Environmental Technology students held a campus engagement day focused on the use of disposable beverage containers and plastic straws at the Barrie Campus. Their goal was to talk to students, faculty and staff to:

  • better understand their knowledge of waste reduction on campus.
  • involve them in solutions and strategies to successfully eliminate disposable beverage containers and plastic straws from the Barrie Campus.

The three-hour event had over 250 participants. Here’s what we learned.

1. The most popular types of beverages consumed on campus are coffee and tea.

A student wearing a giant Tim Hortons cup costume

Coffee and tea make up 50 per cent of beverage purchases according to those surveyed. The next most popular beverage consumed on campus is bottled water making up 13 per cent of the votes.

TIP: We’d love to see you using your reusable mug! Post your pictures on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #GCKilltheCup. Post before Oct. 31 for a chance to win prizes.

2. Less than half of those surveyed (46 per cent) bring a reusable mug or container onto campus.

A student holding a reusable mug, with a tower of cups in the background

TIP: Reusable containers can be used for coffee or tea, but also at the Hydration Stations placed around campus in order to reduce waste from bottled water. Bring in a reusable bottle on Oct. 18 and you may receive a free coffee voucher.

3. The top reason for not bringing a reusable mug onto campus was forgetfulness.

A giant tower of paper coffee cups

TIP: Having trouble remembering your mug? Make a coffee at home and bring it in – that way you have your reusable mug with you on campus for the rest of the day. Another option: throw your reusable mug in your lunch/school bag as soon as it’s washed – then you won’t forget it in your rush out the door in the morning.

4. Only 43 per cent of those surveyed were aware of proper coffee cup disposal on campus.

A staff person picking up garbage as part of campus cleanup

Most people didn’t know how to sort their coffee cup garbage, although 82 per cent knew to recycle coffee cup lids.

TIP: The sleeve goes in the paper bin. The lid goes in the plastics bin. The actual cup goes in the landfill bin. Pay attention to the signage on waste bins around campus – this will ensure that your waste is properly diverted. Wrongfully placed items in recycling bins contaminate the contents of that bin, so everything ends up in a landfill.

5. 46 per cent of those surveyed said they use plastic straws to drink beverages.

Students conducting the survey at the Barrie Campus

TIP: Ditching straws is another easy way to support waste reduction on campus. When purchasing a beverage say “no” to a plastic straw. If you like drinking from a straw there are alternatives – metal straws are available at retailers like Bulk Barn and These straws are reusable, easily cleaned (most come with their own tiny wire brush), and often include a travel case that fits easily into your bag.

6. The Georgian College community is supportive of waste reduction on campus.

Staff and students preparing for campus cleanup - rakes in the foreground

Although those surveyed last winter may not have had a strong knowledge of Georgian’s current waste reduction initiatives, they all showed a strong interest once the campaigns were explained.

TIP: Take part! Support Georgian’s Environmental Sustainability Committee by participating in Waste Reduction Week activities from October 15 to 21. Watch Staff News for information about ewaste collection, a clothing swap and more! Also watch for information about our spring campus cleanup.

Nicole Barbato, headshot

Nicole worked for more than 10 years with Ontario’s Conservation Authorities on watershed management and drinking water source protection. She has expertise in policy development and stakeholder engagement and management. She has been a faculty member at Georgian College for six years.