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Talking Trash with Chonsa

The Center for Sustainability has a new Waste Diversion Intern, and she’s ready to talk trash.

As an environmental science major, ultimate frisbee captain, student ambassador, and past Search Retreat leader, Chonsa Schmidt '18 knows it can be hard to divert waste because we tend to be busy and often don't physically see where it ends up, but "just because you're done with it, doesn't mean it goes away!" Chonsa's solution? "Best way to reduce waste is to just use less of it!"

Chonsa’s job at the Center is to help SCU reach its goal of zero waste by 2020. Although she admits that this goal can “sometimes sound daunting,” she believes that its difficulty is “what makes accomplishing it that much more impressive.” Chonsa stresses that zero-waste is not only an important environmental goal, but also important for community-building. She believes that a common goal like zero-waste can create a positive feedback loop within a community, creating a support system that in turn makes it easier for people to sort their waste.

If you’re having trouble imagining what a zero-waste community looks like, it means empty or no landfill bins. Currently, Santa Clara University has a 59% diversion rate, meaning that 59% of our waste is correctly composted or recycled instead of discarded into the landfill.

Hopefully, this rate is about to increase dramatically with all University Villas residents receiving personal compost pails in their kitchens. This is also thanks to Chonsa and her partner Kim Grandi’s SLURP project last spring. Now a sustainability intern, Chonsa is setting a higher goal of getting compost pails to all the “people that live in suites with kitchens on campus…[because composting] is such an easy way to decrease the amount [of waste] going to the landfill.” She’s also excited to be promoting the Center for Sustainability’s Share Shelf, a resource located in the Shapell Lounge where anyone can pick up or donate school and office supplies for free. “Any way you can not buy brand new things is reducing waste, but you can still get things that are new-to-you,” says Chonsa.

She also urges students to “take advantage of the sustainability resources on campus.” Events like Waste Characterizations make it easy for the SCU community to get involved and learn about composting and recycling correctly so they can go zero waste in their own lives. If you have ideas to make waste diversion better on campus, feel free to email her at and join the next waste characterization on November 14th from 4-6 PM on the outdoor Malley basketball courts to help gather data about our zero-waste progress!