Sustainability task force to focus on university waste

The task force’s first meeting will be held next week.

Two years ago, Temple’s first composting program debuted in the Student Center to combat food waste and help students be more sustainable in their dining experiences.

Reducing food waste is one of the potential issues Temple Student Government’s newest task force will examine during its first monthly meeting Oct. 18.

Aaron Weckstein, a junior environmental studies major and TSG’s director of grounds and sustainability, is leading the task force.

He said it’s based on the accessibility task force, which is focused on getting specific points on campus fixed immediately for students with disabilities. But “this one is more kind of getting student input on the most pressing sustainability issues on campus,” he said.

Students were able to express interest and give feedback through an online form. Their suggestions included adding more recycling bins on Main Campus and using unbleached paper towels and environmentally friendly soap in bathrooms.

Jai Singletary, TSG’s vice president of external affairs said the task force’s first meeting next week will be to discuss its initial goals and issues.

“[The task force is] designed to foster student engagement outside TSG,” he said. “We don’t want to act as a body that implements policy without suggestions.”

The task force will select a few issues, discuss possibilities for change and draft a presentation to take to the Board of Trustees.

Weckstein said food waste was one of the primary concerns that came up during the feedback period. He added that he hopes to work with Sodexo to reduce waste.

“With the contract being up, Sodexo is trying to improve their image, at least I hope, because there’s been a lot of feedback from people,” Weckstein said. “I really want to help them make a change.”

Kathleen Grady, the director of sustainability at Temple, will also hire a company to conduct waste audits — which analyzes the facility’s waste stream — to help assess what changes need to be made.

Suggestions like the option to bring utensils rather than use disposable plastic ones at select dine-in locations on campus are also being reviewed by the administration, Singletary said.

Weckstein said he hopes the task force will involve students in collaborating and working across disciplines instead of “sticking with the people you know.”

Outreach included speaking to environment-focused classes in the General Education Program and organizations like Students for Environmental Action and Net Impact.

“I’m a little concerned about making sure we get a cohesive message across,” Weckstein said. “We’ll have a lot of voices and that can be hard to manage those if we have a hundred people in the committee and everyone has a different idea.”

Singletary said the group is starting out small, with nine active members.

“If we did have a lot of students, that’s great but as far as communication and participation, it’s not guaranteed everyone would participate even though they’re there,” he said.

A small group means students can “engage in active discussion” Singeltary added.

The task force has the potential to start a “culture shift,” Weckstein said.

“I love being able to see something take shape,” he said. “It’s about letting the community know that we care about sustainability and it’s not just a buzzword.”

Lian Parsons can be reached at

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