Jad Victor Smaira ’25 Facilitates the Roomside Recycling Project

Healy Hall
The Roomside Recycling project aims to educate students on campus about recycling and the importance of proper waste sorting in a fun way. Residential students get the chance to learn about recycling by playing a category game. The goal of the game is for participants to place certain items (e.g. greasy pizza boxes or shoes) in the correct four categories – donate, compost, recycle and trash. Student facilitators assist participants as needed so that participants may increase their knowledge on recycling and waste sorting.

Being a facilitator of the Roomside Recycling project has been a fun experience. I get the chance to meet many students and educate them at the same time. Being a facilitator has also helped me improve my knowledge on recycling. I learned to tell the difference between what can be composted and what can be recycled. In addition, I learned the reason behind why some things cannot be recycled or composted (e.g. being too dirty or too small) and therefore need to get put into the trash stream.

The College has two clear goals – be carbon neutral by 2040 and support the Society of Jesuits’ fourth Universal Apostolic Preference, Caring for Our Common Home. Achieving these goals requires the involvement of everyone, especially students, and includes active participation in the campus recycling efforts. Holy Cross students can better participate in recycling on campus in a couple of ways. First, students can try the Roomside Recycling category game so they can increase their knowledge about single-stream recycling and proper waste sorting. Another way students can better participate in recycling on campus is to mindfully use the recycling bins located across campus as much as possible and in the right way. As a student community, we have the ability to make positive strides toward the College’s two environmental goals through our participation in recycling.

Written by Jad Victor Smaira ’25

Freezer Composting Program Expands to Loyola Hall

White chest freezerAfter piloting a successful freezer composting program in Figge Hall and Williams Hall, residents in Loyola Hall will also now have this composting service. The freezer is located in the basement near the communal kitchen. Students who would like to participate should follow these steps:

1. Grab a compostable bag located near the freezer.
2. Collect food waste in your room (Pro Tip: If you have a mini fridge or freezer, store this waste there to avoid unfortunate smells).
3. Bring and drop your bag in the collection freezer at your convenience.
4. Repeat!

What to compost:

  • Fruit scraps
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells
  • Meat scraps

Please keep anything containing large amounts of oil, fat, or grease out of the compost.

Holy Cross Recycles Its Wooden Pallets

Stack of wooden pallets behind a dumpster
Photo taken by Brian Griffin
While most wooden pallets are reusable, there comes a time when they no longer have the structural integrity to fulfill their purpose. According to GMR, that takes about nine reuses. Once a pallet reaches this stage, there are recycling and refurbishing options. Reclaimable pallets will get fixed then resold and other pallets will get used as surplus wood. As a last stop, exhausted pallets could become mulch or a source of fuel.

Holy Cross participates in wood pallet recycling by contracting with a third party vendor to annually pickup the College’s wooden pallets and recycle them offsite. This action contributes to the College’s 35+ percent diversion rate, which helps keep recyclable and compostable materials out of the landfill and incineration. Reducing the College’s trash production also supports Holy Cross’ carbon commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

Stack of large wooden pallets
Photo taken by Brian Griffin
Watch the video where Bo’s Pallets & Mulch, Inc. demonstrates how they recycling wooden pallets.

Sara Axson ’21 Provides Tips for a Green Move-Out

It is almost finals season, which means a few things: cramming for final exams, preparing for the holiday season, and rushing to move out of dorms and off-campus apartments before we head home for winter break. Typically, many students throw out items from their dorms or apartments as they head home for winter or summer break. Are you looking to make your move out more sustainable? Here are some tips!

Invest in reusable boxes, containers, and shipping materials
Investing in reusable boxes and containers is a great way to decrease waste. Instead of buying cardboard boxes, invest in reusable containers. Not only will this save you some money down the road and decrease waste each time you move in or out of a dorm or apartment, but they also double nicely as dorm or apartment storage. For wrapping breakable items, look into sustainable wrapping materials. For instance, check out paper. For a zero-waste option, consider using blankets, scarves, or towels as wrapping materials.

Donate any leftover non perishable food items
Have any leftover cans of soup or ramen noodles sitting in your room or apartment? Instead of letting them sit there over winter break, donate them to a local food pantry. Instead of throwing them out, giving them to a shelter or food bank ensures not only that they do not go to waste, but that they go to someone who needs help, especially as we approach the holiday season. In other words, this is a great way to help your community and practice sustainable habits at the same time! Here are two local non-profits in the Worcester area that are accepting non-perishable food item donations: The Worcester County Food Bank and St. John’s Food for the Poor Program .

Donate gently used dorm items and clothing that you don’t need anymore
About to throw out your dorm lamp that doesn’t fit in the car? Don’t! Instead of throwing out gently used dorm items and clothes, consider donating them to local charities or thrift shops. This is a great idea for students living both on or off campus. Items being collected include gently used clothing, furniture, wipes, and books.

Recycle
It may seem simple, but it is super important: recycle, recycle, recycle. Make sure that you recycle any recyclable items or materials instead of throwing them in the trash.

Composting at Williams Hall and Figge Hall

Top loading freezer along wall
Residents at Williams Hall use small freezers to collect compost.

Even with careful thought and passionate execution, some sustainability projects take more than one trial to get right. For instance, the innovative freezer system used at Williams Hall and Figge Hall took over two years to develop. During the first attempt, the Student Government Association co-directors of environmental concerns and Presidential Task Force on the Environment members installed an aerated static pile composting system right outside the two buildings. However, student residents solemnly participated because the system was located outdoors. Possibly worse, the Facilities Department received complaints about bad odors. The implementation team decided to conclude this first attempt and pivot the project to a different model.

Today, student residents at Figge Hall and Williams Hall may successfully compost their food waste through a compact freezer system. Instead of traditional indoor collection bins, students will find small freezers at the collection zones. These freezers require less frequent pickup and provide flexibility for changing demand. They also mitigate icky smells and increase user convenience. When students have food waste to discard, they simply place their waste in a bag into the freezer. An Environmental Services staff member then removes the waste and brings it to the compost compactor located near Kimball Hall. Holy Cross’ hauler, Waste Management, picks up the organic waste and turns it into rich soil.

While some projects happen rapidly, many others take time, trial and perseverance to implement. The freezer composting system at Figge Hall and Williams Hall exemplifies this process.

Monica Martinez ’21 on the Logic of Externalities

The first topic of my Political Economy course, taught by Professor Justin Svec, explored the logic behind externalities. An externality occurs when one agent’s action affects the welfare or profit of another agent. There are both positive and negative externalities where positive externalities raise some other agent’s welfare (or profit) and negative externalities lower them. The problem with externalities is that the acting agents do not internalize the full costs or benefits of their actions leading to the socially inefficient equilibrium. More specifically, positive externalities are under produced while negative externalities are over produced.

Thinking in terms of sustainability and our life at Holy Cross, this simplified example of a student bringing a reusable thermos to Cool Beans will show how a positive externality is under-produced.

Benefits Costs
Reduce your consumption of single use cups, lids, and straws Having to carry the thermos around campus
Reduces the waste Holy Cross produces Having to rinse out the thermos after each use

Individuals behave optimally by setting their private benefit equal to their private cost. In this case, the student would fail to internalize the benefit of the reduction in waste for Holy Cross. Thus, the student’s cost of bringing a reusable thermos outweighs the benefits leading the student to choose not to bring a reusable beverage container to Cool Beans.

Shifting gears to negative externalities, I have outlined a simplified example of a student choosing to litter to show how a negative externality leads to overproduction. In this example, the student fails to internalize the cost to the greater Holy Cross community. That being said, the student’s private benefit is equal to their private cost leading the student to choose to litter instead of walking to a trash can.

Benefits Costs
Easier than walking to a trash can You see a dirtier campus
Every other student sees a dirtier campus

There are multiple interventions that college campuses can implement to help the community reach the socially optimal equilibrium. These interventions include command and control and Pigouvian tax/subsidy. Command and control can occur when the college administration mandates a certain level of production. One example of this is if the college were to limit the take out containers that the cafes on campus were allowed to use. In doing so, students might be nudged to bring their own reusable containers. College administration can implement Pigouvian taxes or subsidies that match the size of the negative or positive externality. Similar to Pigouvian subsidies, our very own Cool Beans has implemented various efforts to incentivize students to bring their own reusable thermos. These efforts include discounting drinks when students bring their own beverage container and selling reusable thermoses for students to use.

Recognizing the added benefits of a positive externality and the extra costs of a negative externality, I hope that we can make the conscious effort to produce more of the good and lessen the costs we impose on our environment. Let us work together to reduce our waste, reuse our beverage containers, and recycle our clean bottles, plastics, paper, and cardboard.

Kimball Trials Reusables and Takeout


When diners enter the Main Dining Room at Kimball this Fall, they will now use reusable to-go containers for takeout. Each student on a meal plan will receive one nine inch by nine inch container as well as one six inch by nine inch container, free of charge, when they visit Kimball each time this semester.

The best part? Dining Services will clean and sanitize the dirty containers; students don’t need to rinse them. Dining Services provides a clean container during each visit. Students return their containers to the Main Dining Room at Kimball at their own convenience.

This initiative builds on Dining’s consistent effort to exemplify and provide environmentally sustainable service. In 2009, the Main Dining Room at Kimball went ‘trayless,’ which saves over 900 gallons of water daily. Back of house composting dramatically expands waste diversion efforts and diners currently enjoy a styrofoam-free dining experience. The United States generates 80.1 million tons of container and packaging waste annually. By utilizing reusable containers at Kimball, Dining Services continues to offer exceptional dining services while exemplifying environmental stewardship.

Visit Dining Services for more information about sustainability initiatives.