Sustainability monster does not want your garbage
By John Buday
November 26, 2018
A monster has appeared from the depths of the Blue Wall Cafe, and it hungers for more responsible waste management.
The sculpture, which was put on display last month, was designed by University of Massachusetts sophomore Leif Lindholm. Composed of to-go containers on the outside and a plywood and aluminum skeleton, the design bested nine competitors in a contest posed by UMass Dining Auxiliary Enterprises.
Lindholm, an industrial engineering major, worked on the project over a three-week span in mid-August. Starting with a rough paper sketch, he created a 3D model using the Vectorworks program.
“I did have to alter my initial design in a few places to increase the strength,” Lindholm said. “Originally, the surface of the water was going to be built out of wire mesh, but the wire I had available wouldn’t have supported itself… I wouldn’t say that was too great of a challenge, as after I made the change to the design, building it went pretty smoothly.”
The sculpture depicts UMass mascot Sam the Minuteman in a sailboat fending off monstrous tentacles amidst rising waters, made of to-go containers. Lindholm said the water indicates rising sea levels, one of the main consequences of global warming.
“For the design itself, I wanted to represent the imminent – the immediacy of the danger of irresponsible waste management,” Lindholm said. “So that’s why I showed rising sea levels, complemented by some sort of monster.”
The use of to-go containers refers to the waste created by students who use to-go containers inside the cafe rather than as a means of transporting food elsewhere. Marlene Navarro, assistant manager of marketing and communications for UMass Dining Auxiliary Enterprises, recommended using the chinaware provided at Blue Wall if students planned on eating at the cafe.
“It’s really more of an awareness message,” Navarro said. “And ideally, we want the students to know that they do have the option to take it to go, but if you’re going to come in and sit down, we request you choose the materials that are for indoors.”
Director of Retail Services and Campus Center Van Sullivan came up with the original idea of the “trash monster” and its predecessors while coordinating with sustainability students, who reached out to him with in an effort to reduce dependence on to-go cups.
Each year, requests for new monster proposals are posted online and students typically have three to six months to build and submit their creations. However, Navarro added that her team tries to be flexible, and that the timeline mostly “depends on the student’s schedule.”
UMass Dining Auxiliary Enterprises also encourages students to embrace other sustainable, cleaner practices. Kathy Wicks, the director of UMass Dining Sustainability, suggested coffee drinkers try taking their own mug with them to coffee shops. Paying attention to labels on receptacles and tracking where a given container is headed were also proposed as strategies to prevent materials from going to landfills.
“Then talk to friends about what you’re doing and what they can do,” Wicks added. “so that it’s a conversation and people are intentionally engaging with it.”
The sustainability team also regularly hosts events meant to keep the conversation going. Both Wicks and Navarro cited an upcoming effort on Nov. 27; all four campus dining commons will feature food created from alternative farming practices that release less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
UMass Dining named the event “Diet For A Cooler Planet,” which will run from 5-8 p.m. In addition to food and discussion, Hampshire Dining Commons will also have a free screening of the documentary “Inhabit,” which features local sustainable farming celebrities.
Lindholm expects his trash monster will last between a year and a half to two years in its new home, about the average lifespan of its predecessor. Before that time comes, Lindholm hopes to have a new creation to win the next contest.
John Buday can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.