Art from trash a sustainable campaign

Trash sculptures, created by freshman fellow groups during the Love Lockdown, were on display in the College Center for roughly a week, emphasizing the importance of sustainability. Photo By: Vassar College office of Sustainability
Trash sculptures, created by freshman fellow groups during the Love Lockdown, were on display in the College Center for roughly a week, emphasizing the importance of sustainability. Photo By: Vassar College office of Sustainability
Trash sculptures, created by freshman fellow groups during the Love Lockdown, were on display
in the College Center for roughly a week, emphasizing the importance of sustainability. Photo By: Vassar College Office of Sustainability

There’s no way to get around it—move-in is a mess. Overflowing trash bins, just like getting used to new bathrooms and finding out which of your hall mates are the loudest, is just one of the inevitabilities of moving into college. Fortunately, Vassar Sustainability had a green solution to deal with all the freshman detritus.

Last Thursday, fellow groups set up on the quad with some decidedly trashy sculptures. As part of the Love Lockdown orientation event, fellow groups were tasked with building art using only trash scavenged from their dorm, with just a few essentials, such as duct tape and gloves, provided by Vassar Sustainability.

Vassar Sustainability Coordinator and alumnus Alistair Hall ’11 organized the event in its inaugural year.

“As Vassar’s sustainability coordinator, I was the primary organizer of the event. Once we learned last spring that ‘Love Lockdown’ was going to happen again in August, the sustainability interns and I knew that this gave us an opportunity develop low-cost, easy to implement activities for House Teams,” wrote Hall in an emailed statement.

Love Lockdown, an orientation event that involves locking freshmen into their dorms in an attempt to emulate the hurricane related lock-in that the Class of 2015 experienced, was the main setting for the design process. Tempted with house points for the Brewer House Cup, fellow groups had 20 minutes to collect their materials from throughout the building, and then up to 1.5 hours to assemble their creations.

In addition to focusing on getting freshmen to think critically about sustainability, additional benefits came along with the event. According to student fellow Josh Pratt ’15, house pride was another focal point for the trash sculpture contest.

Wrote Pratt in an emailed statement, “It served the purpose of enhancing House Spirit. I think we had between 20 and 30 people working together on the model. It was good fun and everyone put in a good effort.”

But ultimately, the goal was to get people thinking about the impact they have on the environment. It is easy to take what happens to trash for granted—after all, for most students, there is little actual interaction with garbage after it is tossed in the bin. However, as Hall emphasized, just because students don’t have to deal with it does not mean trash just goes away.

“Each year, each dorm on average produces about 10 tons of garbage and an additional [approximately] three tons at move-in and move-out [and] we wanted to draw attention to the fact that stuff just doesn’t disappear after you’re done with it,” wrote Hall. He continued, “So we wanted to reconsider their relationship with ‘trash’ and what ‘trash’ really means.”

With the sculptures on display in the College Center after judging, Hall said he had high hopes for increasing the presence of sustainability on campus.

“It was great to have the entries displayed in the college center this past week. The dorms really went above and beyond what we expected of them,” wrote Hall.

He continued, “In coming up with potential toolkits for House Teams, we knew we wanted to do something different. There are so many lectures, presentations, and discussions during Orientation week that we knew that if we created another activity asking people to say ‘sit in a circle and discuss the environment,’ it would go over horribly.”

Environmentalism cropped up in other ways during freshmen orientation as well. According to Pratt, house team training this year included various events related to reducing waste, including a sustainability breakfast.

Ultimately, the first annual trash sculpture contest served its purpose in bringing sustainability to incoming freshmen, as well as the wider campus.

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