Sustainability event provides free, reusable items to students


Photo by Ryan Van Stralen

Volunteers advocate CSUSM's Journey to Zero Waste by 2025 at the Journey to Zero Waste event on Sept. 26.

Students learned about campus efforts for sustainability and scored free items at the annual Journey to Zero Waste event. The purpose of the event was to promote sustainability among the students of CSUSM and the campus community at large. 


“We want to make sure that the campus knows that we have a zero waste by 2025 goal, so part of it is to make sure that students, staff, faculty…know that Energy Management [has] the program, and we’re making efforts to reduce the amount of waste,” said Stephanie Hebert, CSUSM’s recycling and sustainability coordinator.  


A common misconception is that the concept of zero waste means that there is no waste at all. “Zero waste is not an actual zero. It means that we are always striving to do better, so, reduce the amount of waste we are actually sending to the landfill,” said Hebert. 


The 15th annual Journey to Zero Waste event occured on Sept. 26. It was formerly titled Thank You for Recycling Day but the program evolved to emphasize the importance of reusing, rethinking and reducing rather than just recycling. 


“The idea [is], let’s educate our community to be better about the things that they’re buying… making smart purchasing choices,” said Hebert. 


The event offered what Hebert called the “reuse program,” in which students had the opportunity to take free school supplies, such as binders, copy paper and folders, which otherwise would have been thrown away. Additionally, the reuse program provided free items such as bamboo utensils, cloth snack bags and reusable water bottles. 


“I just love that they’re supporting an environmentally-friendly campus,” said Diana Camacho, a 5th year Liberal Studies major. “I got a lot of folders that I need and also utensils that you can reuse instead of always using plastic… I’m going to start using the reusable ones.”


Another student, history major Maria Jose Calleja Perez, said “I think [sustainability] is important for the environment…some of the stuff is not recycled, and it can lead to bad health.” 


Despite a light drizzle, the event had a large turnout of approximately 700 people. Upbeat music played while students milled around and took their free items. In addition to getting items from the reuse program, students also received pizza, beverages, cookies and snow cones. 


Midway through the event, the director of Energy Management & Utility Services, Lindsey Rowell, addressed the attendees from a stage. 


In her brief remarks, she stressed how the goal of zero waste cannot be met without the participation of the entire campus community. She also expressed her gratitude for the efforts the campus community has made to reduce waste thus far. 


Representatives from Campus Recreation were also present at the event to share their recent advances in sustainable practices. While backpackers often purchase single-use freeze dried meals to eat on overnight wilderness trips, Campus Recreation realized that such a practice wastes plastic.


Instead, Campus Recreation purchased a food dehydrator to dehydrate their own food for their overnight Outdoor Adventures excursions, which greatly reduced their plastic usage. 


Examples such as this show that CSUSM is well on its way to zero waste but as Hebert said, “There’s always room for improvement… [Students] have a very strong voice here on campus about what your wants are for sustainability… if you want more sustainable things here on campus, talk about it.” 


To  learn more about CSUSM’s push for zero waste and efforts in sustainability visit