The Student Government Association’s Environmental Protection and Conservation Commission (EPACC) is working to form a partnership with the South Orange Environmental Commission (SOEC) to create a more sustainable environment on campus and in South Orange.
Collaborating with the SOEC could allow EPACC to decrease food waste, increase recycling and implement sustainable changes throughout the campus and South Orange, said Lauren Sandberg, a sophomore biology major and deputy commissioner of EPACC.
“I’m really looking forward to having a sounding board to get more ideas for ways we can improve Seton Hall and ways that we can highlight our goals and the South Orange community’s overall environmental goals,” Sandberg said. “Hopefully it will connect both of our groups so that we can help each other.”
Both EPACC and SOEC are in the process of forming set goals for the partnership but have plans for projects that they will work on together.
“We’re still in the infancy with [the partnership], which is newly formed, so we’ll see how we can best collaborate and support them,” Bill Haskins, SOEC chairman, said. “I’m looking forward to the spring because we have students doing capstone projects where they’re working with us.”
The commissions will work closely on students’ capstone projects as well as service projects around river cleanups in South Orange this spring.
Haskins said he thinks the collaboration with EPACC will focus on being a student-led organization where the SOEC can support, inform and help the students.
Sandberg said the partnership will help support EPACC when presenting ideas for environmental change to faculty and administration.
“We are always looking for opportunities to partner with Seton Hall on projects because the students are really interesting and they bring a lot of energy and knowledge to environmental issues,” Haskins said. “We can also give students advice about environmental issues on a municipal scale. Seton Hall is such a big part of South Orange. It would be exciting if some environmental initiative that students decide to do on campus might even be beyond something that we would do in South Orange as a community, so then that can serve as an inspiration for us as a community or vice versa.”
One issue EPACC hopes to confront is food waste. The commission is currently working on creating a compost program on campus.
Haskins said that limiting food waste is one way to support a healthier environment on campus.
“It’s something effective and available to you all the time because you’re eating three meals a day,” Haskins said. “ If you go out of your way to reduce food waste personally and use reusable shopping bags and cups, you can keep your footprint down in that way.”
Haskins added that if students work together on minimizing food waste, then it could possibly lead to other student organizations functioning in a sustainable manner.
“If you get enough people interested in something, then maybe we can get a sorority or fraternity to host their next social event as a zero-waste social event,” Haskins said.
Sandberg noted that another goal of EPACC is to convince Gourmet Dining Services to use paper to-go containers rather than Styrofoam because it is more environmentally friendly and can be broken down easier.
In 2019, SOEC held a pilot program called “Greener To-Go,” which supplied food services with alternatives to Styrofoam takeout containers, Haskins said. With a grant from Sustainable Jersey, the commission worked with restaurants in South Orange to supply them with alternatives to Styrofoam.
“There was a lot of research involved in that because we know the Styrofoam is not a great option, but some of the options instead of Styrofoam are also problematic, so it was tricky to land on something that was a better option,” Haskins said. “The way some products are manufactured and pressed can contain a sustainable fiber, but then a suspected carcinogen could be used to stick the product together which isn’t a good option.”
Kathryn Roselle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org