SESF Approves $20,000 trash bin grant

Photo courtesy of Shirin Lotfi

On Feb. 27, the Student Environmental Sustainability Fund (SESF) approved a plan for $20,000.
The plan has to do with trash cans; Sustainability intern Shirin Lotfi, who wrote the plan, said, “I examined the campus; I ripped up trash cans, took pictures…I went to other schools and businesses, and figured out what BC could do better.”
Lotfi has worked for eight months on this project, investigating the flaws in BC trash and compost efficiency. “I identified problems and drafted solutions,” she explained. She would find places with a higher efficiency rate and investigate why they were doing better. One of the biggest issues she found was the trash can problem.
“We have too many cans, and they’re all different,” she said. The placement was disorganized and the outcome was inefficient.
So Lotfi took this problem and created a solution that involves fewer trash cans, better placement, signage on the new flip lids, and removing the aluminum bins altogether.
She began working on this project through her internship with Deric Gruen, the Sustainability Coordinator at BC. “He’s looking for interns all the time,” said Lotfi.  She worked for him for a quarter-long paid internship in Zero Waste Labeling. She was told to find a way to reduce waste, but the idea was to be hers with Gruen. “He’s the intern supervisor,” Lotfi explained. “That pretty much says it all.”
Gruen says that there will be three student positions opening soon for a whole year, with applications starting in May. He also recommends that interested students  check out the BC Sustainability website,
With the Zero Waste Labeling, she had to come up with a program idea, draft a plan, and present it to the SESF review committee, which is  made up of four students and two faculty, who are the chosen base on the nature of the plan.
The SESF meetings are open to the students as well and are labeled on the BC calendar. According to Lotfi, however, students don’t have a tendency of attending. “It really saddens me that no students are ever there. It’s your money; come see what they’re doing with it!”
The money that goes into the SESF comes from a $1 per credit charge on students, up to $10 per quarter. This minor fee provides funding for environmental projects across the campus. SESF is a student-run committee that meets once a month, and any students can attend  and bring their own ideas. SESF provides an opportunity for student to get funding for their ideas, for the students, from the students. Students are welcome and encouraged to attend these meetings.
“There are so many ways students can get involved on campus, it will blow your mind!” said Megan Phan, BC Environmental Representative. She mentioned things like the huge BC Earth Week Celebration coming up in April, the Bellevue Transit Master Plan, which is working on improving the metro service, and a volunteer opportunity for students.
“On April 9-14 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., we are looking for student volunteers who want to wear green capes and help educate students in the cafeteria about composting,” said Phan. “It’s always a blast!”
Lotfi, a political science major, got involved in all of this through her many internships. “Before long I began to keep in touch with Micheal Reese, the internship coordinator. He told me about a sustainability internship with Deric, and I threw myself into it because I didn’t know anything about it.” Her internship ended after last spring, but she decided to stay an extra six months in order to finish her project.
When she finally did complete her plan, she took it to the SESF meeting on Feb. 27, 2012, where it was presented, explained, and passed.
Around campus, evidence of the $20,000 grant will be evident immediately – metal bins removed, new signs, reorganization of bins, and new lids. Lotfi said, “This is huge!”