Promotional items are only kept—on average—for a year according to the 2019 Global Ad Impressions Study by the Advertising Specialty Institute. This means many items end up in landfills very soon after they’re distributed. This fact, in addition to student and fast-food restaurants’ habits of using single-use plastics, means tons of added waste in our local landfills each year.
As part of a larger sustainability initiative, University Housing aims to address both issues—all while supporting local businesses—with reusable utensil giveaways.
“I often would hear students say they wanted to practice zero-waste efforts but were unsure how to do so. Or felt they lacked the resources to do so,” says University Housing Sustainability Coordinator Christy Tweedy. “I realized that we could make our programming efforts and swag purchases more educational and functional.”
University Housing collaborated with Satisfactory Printing (a local screen-printing company) and Community (a local boutique for sustainable fashion) to produce pouches made from reclaimed denim to hold the utensils. The pouches and reusable utensils are given away at tabling events on campus, where student sustainability ambassadors use them to start conversations with peers about plastic consumption.
“The sets are functional and allow students to practice individual waste reduction and can help to begin their sustainable journey,” says Liora McElvaney, the Office of Sustainability’s EcoReps intern for housing. “If they want to learn more about sustainability, they can ask their community council’s EcoRep, who can point them to other resources such as composting, recycling, refill stations, Green Room Certificates and more.”
Although it’s common practice to purchase giveaway items from manufacturers overseas because of the cost savings, that practice involves large amounts of emissions during the transport and unknown working conditions in the factories. Sourcing the pouches locally means not only supporting the local economy but also ensuring ethical business practices and a smaller carbon footprint.
“We are excited to use these utensils as educational tools to highlight circular economies in which there is an emphasis on reuse and repurpose as opposed to throwing away—there really is no ‘away’,” Tweedy says.