A group of ladies from a hostel (Desa, in USM lingo) came to see me, asking for some sponsorship for their 4-country tour (by train, plane). Travelling is good. It enlightens. In fact, a whole bunch of them went to Japan last year. They are really good at fund raising. So, naturally I asked what was the benefit from the Japan trip? Well, they have implemented the ideas at their hostels. They have carried out a lot of programmes. Recycling, composting, campaigns to eat at the canteen or bring own containers, organic farming, energy saving campaign. They want to make their hostel a model sustainable community of sorts. My next question was, have you succeeded in your effort to become sustainable? "Yes". Can I have a 2 page report? "Yes". Can I make a surprise visit to see for myself? "Yes, you are most welcome. After all you are head of Kampus Sejahtera".
So we gathered a group of students to do an "audit". Facebook, mass emailing - not much response. In the end, the personal touch by one of the students brought in about 7 or 8 volunteers.
And we visited the hostel lunch time today. The long story is that you can see they have tried hard. Posters are everywhere (especially on the tables). You can see the store for the recyclable items. The student volunteers thought it was a great idea to have recycling bins in all the pantries. There's lots of greenery in pots and they look lovely.
The farm looks a little sad. The flourescent lights in the canteen were all on. The LCD screen was "talking" to nobody. But the most depressing scene was at the canteen. Despite their best efforts, we saw brown paper and plastic sheets used to tapau food - this was extensive. One store used the polypropelene containers. I chatted with a few students. One girl in the queue was holding a plate with a plastic sheet on it. Are you from this hostel. "Yes". I went to another who had a packed lunch in a PP container with two plastic bags (drinks and some other liquid stuff). Are you from this hostel? "Yes". Don't they have a campaign not to use these containers? "Yes, but sometimes very inconvenient; forgot to bring". I met one girl who had brought along the GoFlex tupperware given to first year students last year. Good. But she was also enjoying sticks of chicken balls from two plastic bags.
If you didn't know, you would think this was just like any other hostel. The short answer - not there yet. Still a long way to go.
BTW, polystyrene comes in various forms. There's the famous polystyrene foam. And there's the hard polystyrene. Picture below was taken at the USM Museum function this morning, attended by the Governor. If you are ever not sure, just look for the chasing arrows with the number 6 on it. Or you should see "PS". Does it make any difference whether you use polystyrene foam or hard polystyrene? They both end up in the landfill.