ECO Initiatives

In Spring 2015, ECO was awarded funds for two project proposals by Columbia University’s Green Fund.  The Green Fund, an initiative led by Columbia Dining, Housing and University Event Management, provides support for student-led projects directed toward improving sustainability on campus.

These projects are have continued into Spring 2016 !

To learn more and get involved, check this page and ECO on facebook for updates or contact Green Fund Sustainability Manager Sonya Suter or Green Fund Deputy Sustainability Manager Toby Hyde.

ECO’s Sustain-a-Bottle Project

ECO’s Sustain-a-Bottle Project will support the purchase and installation of Bottle Filling Stations in the International Affairs Building (IAB). The Bottle Filling Stations, which have already been installed in other areas of the Columbia campus will provide convenient hydration while minimizing plastic bottle waste. These units feature sanitary, no-touch sensor activation with automatic 20-second shut-off timers and a digital visual interface that displays the quantity of bottles saved from landfills. In order to create more visibility about sustainability and waste reduction on campus and promote the use of refillable bottles, a core feature of the project will be an educational campaign including workshops, corresponding signage and social media. Project team members will perform waste audits, check vending machine sales to see the rebound effect that composting/recycling properly has on other services and communicate these metrics to the SIPA community. Refilling stations on the 4th and 5th floors of the IAB were installed in Fall 2015.


ECO’s Zero Waste Challenge  Project

In conjunction with the Sustain-a-bottle initiative, the Zero Waste Challenge project encourages students to recycle properly through marketing campaigns and by performing waste audits. The team will work with facilities and capture data to support a potential composting pilot at SIPA, projected for Spring 2016. The sustainability campaign will be based around several key areas:

1) Educating about proper waste management and sustainability: proper recycling, using reusable water bottles at our stations

2) Educating students about the benefits of acting/living in a sustainable way

3) Demonstrating our progress and lack thereof through the use of data and metrics

4) Providing incentives to do better e.g. “This is where we stand today vis-a-vis plastic bottle waste and food waste. If we can get to this level, we will be considered for a composting program and improved food and beverage options”.



One of several waste audits conducted at SIPA to obtain metrics and data regarding recycling
behaviors and waste composition (organics, recyclables, trash).
Photo courtesy of Jamie Hanson

In the fall of 2015, as part of this Zero Waste project, the team ran a survey in the SIPASA newsletter to learn about attitudes toward recycling among SIPA students. Here are some of the results:

  1. The percent of SIPA students who said they wanted to recycle either every time they threw away their trash (75%) or when they remember (24%) suggests that nearly all students in SIPA have a positive attitude towards recycling and a desire to engage in this behavior.
  2. SIPA building recycling capacity has room to improve; over 54% of respondents described the quality of recycling as “poor,” while under 5% described them as “excellent.”
  3. The barriers to better recycling can be fixed. A significant number of respondents described the recycling receptacles as not convenient enough. Given the lack of recycling in most classrooms at SIPA, this is an understandable critique. New and better signage designed by the Green Fund Team should help to increase the efficiency of current recycling container placement, until capacity can be physically increased.
  4. Also, there was considerable confusion about what products could be recycled. The Green Fund team worked to address this component through an awareness campaign, featuring tabling and a recycling game.
Green Fund Team Sonya Suter, Toby Hyde, and Jamie Hanson tabling in SIPA as part of an increased recycling awareness campaign.

If you have doubts on recycling, look for our ECO-tips posters around campus!

Fall 2015 ECO Green Fund Team:

1. Sustainability Manager: Sonya Suter

-Chairs all Project Group meetings

-Attends Green Fund meetings and helps present project at midterm briefings and final briefings

-Works to develop the project work plan, write final report and develop final project presentation

-Creates agendas and tracks follow-up for group  meetings

-Manages plan logistics and drafts the project’s progress reports for group review and approval

-Advises team on information collection and proposes improved group management techniques

2. Deputy Manager: Toby Matthew Hyde

-Conducts waste and water audits

-Benchmarks sustainability performance measures

-Works with advocacy officer to package data into marketing/educational campaign

-Gives status update to the manager once per week covering progress, road blocks, and work plan status

3. Advocacy and Campaign Manager: Jamie Hanson

(If you would like to share any campaign ideas, media, or content about ongoing  ECO green fund activities, contact Jamie Hanson )

-Oversees all social media, video and photography content for education/marketing portion of the project

-Works closely with management team to determine marketing strategy and gives status updates to the manager and deputy manager once per week

-Helps recruit video/photographers from journalism school and SIPA

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