2021 Sustainable Solutions Challenge underway

March 16, 2021
Nearly 60 students from various disciplines across the University are participating.

The second annual Sustainable Solutions Challenge at the Robins School of Business is underway. Nearly 60 students from various disciplines across the University are participating.

The 2021 Sustainable Solutions Challenge focuses on the increased quantities of single-use food packaging going to landfills in response to new safety protocols due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This challenge enables the campus community to make a direct and positive impact on the environment through slight changes in everyday acts such as eating and disposing of food,” said Rachel Perry, ’21, one of the students helping to spearhead the effort. “This composting challenge empowers us to recognize the profound impact each individual can have and how our actions extend beyond ourselves, trickling through the campus web.”

Dining Services and the Office for Sustainability are in the process of implementing a campus-wide composting strategy, including compostable food packaging, across campus retail locations. The 2021 Sustainable Solutions Challenge will complement this initiative by providing participating teams the opportunity to design a solution aimed at increasing participation in the proper disposal of compostable packaging.

The team with the winning proposal will be awarded $500 per team member and are invited to work on the implementation of their solution. 

Joyce van der Laan Smith, associate dean for undergraduate business programs, designed the challenge in collaboration with the Department of Sustainability and other disciplines across campus. 

“My goal is for the challenge to be equal parts educational and problem solving. I hope participants consider how their individual actions impact sustainability, both at the University of Richmond and beyond,” van der Laan Smith said. 

The 2020 Sustainable Solutions Challenge charged students with finding a way to eliminate single-use plastic bottles on University of Richmond’s campus. The winning team, comprised of Perry, Emily George, ’20, Ana Salitan-Alvarez, ’20, and Jack Bergstrom, ’21, suggested a three-pronged approach. 

“Our solution aims to gradually phase out single-use plastic bottles, encouraging students to purchase multi-use aluminum water bottles, or utilize reusable bottles,” the team wrote in its proposal. “Our three recommendations for change include implementing a contractual program with Fill It Forward, installing Dasani PureFill water stations around campus, and decreasing shelf space of Dasani single-use plastic bottles at campus retailers, replacing the space with increased stock of PathWater aluminum bottles.”

The Sustainable Solutions Challenge concludes in April. The winners will be announced after final presentations. But van der Laan Smith hopes the commitment to sustainability will not end there.

“My hope is that challenge participants will continue composting after they leave the university. That would be the true success,” van der Laan Smith said.

For more information on the challenge, and how you can be part of sustainable solutions for the University of Richmond, click here.