A zero waste world is possible!
Waste is not something we need to take for granted. Instead, we think of waste as a logistics problem – and it’s one that students can solve. PLAN is a nonprofit, cooperative network of student leaders who are creating zero-waste solutions in their campus communities. By educating about the waste crisis, collaborating around zero waste solutions, and launching programs to reduce, reuse, and recycle materials across campus, students are building the foundation for a world without waste.
Waste on college campuses balloons at the end of each academic year. For example, at the University of New Hampshire, the average 25 tons of trash per month jumped to 125 tons when students moved out in the spring. Thousands of reusable or recyclable items, including electronics containing carcinogens like lead and mercury, were sent to landfills. This is a recurring problem at universities nationwide. What’s more, it represents a fundamentally broken pattern of consumption – using Earth’s finite resources to create toxic trash that poisons people and pollutes the planet. If we don’t change course, we face resource depletion and growing toxicity in our air, soil, water, and bodies.
A Local Solution
In 2011, a group of undergraduates at the University of New Hampshire noticed dumpsters overflowing with reusable materials after spring move-out. Then, in the fall, they watched as students moving back to campus bought many of the same items new at big box stores. To end this cycle of waste, the students created a program called Trash 2 Treasure. They collected useable items discarded by students in the spring, cleaned and organized those items over the summer, and sold them to students moving back to campus in the fall. The first Trash 2 Treasure sale was a huge success, earning more than it cost to operate – creating the country’s first student-run, self-sustaining program of its kind. In the three years since then, Trash 2 Treasure has diverted over 100 tons of waste from local landfills, donated over five tons of food and clothing to local shelters, and saved students and their families thousands of dollars on back-to-school shopping.
Year-end waste is a problem at universities nationwide – but only a fraction of schools have programs to end the cycle. From the start, the students at UNH worked to design a program that wouldn’t just work on their campus, but at other schools, too. In 2013, we launched the Post-Landfill Action Network help build student-led, self-sustaining waste-reduction programs at universities nationwide. We’re a growing movement of students working to end waste – and we’re still just getting started.
Our approach begins by tackling move-out waste. We provide student groups with advising, best practice guides, start-up funding, and other resources to help them launch or expand programs that keep reusable items on campus and out of landfills. But year-end waste is just the start. We help students conduct waste audits and work with their school and peers to design and implement solutions that cut waste year-round. Finally, we’re working to elevate the conversation about the waste crisis. PLAN supports academic research internships that allow students to research and innovate new ways to end waste. We also speak on campuses and at conferences nationwide, sharing our story as anti-waste organizers and young social entrepreneurs. PLAN also connects a network of nonprofit business partners who extend a variety of benefits to PLAN members. These include discounts on program expenses, expanded recycling opportunities, educational resources, giveaways for volunteers, and more.
A world without waste is within our reach – getting there is just a logistics problem. It’s a problem that students are working together to solve. We’re taking substantive steps to immediately and dramatically reduce waste at universities nationwide. More importantly, we’re building a movement of young leaders committed to fixing our broken cycle of consumption and waste.
Our Non-profit Status
Post-Landfill Action Network or PLAN is the business name of Student-Led Sustainable Initiatives, Inc.
Student-Led Sustainable Initiatives, Inc. was incorporated in the state of New Hampshire on 5/29/2013.
The board of directors was formed and the founding documents were approved on 6/25/2013.
The 501(c)(3) Climate Counts became PLAN’s Fiscal Sponsor on 5/1/2013.
The 1023 application for 501(c)(3) status was filed on 6/18/2014.
PLAN received 501(c)(3) status on 10/1/2014 with an effective date of 5/29/2013.