MiPlanet, the class of 2021’s sustainability MiCo, challenged students in Hyderabad to live zero waste for a week. The more than 30 students who signed up for the challenge did their best to reduce and track what they threw away from February 25 – March 1.

At the beginning of the challenge, the MiPlanet team — led by Anna Yuryeva, Bianca Banks, and Tessa Owens — shared some of the many online guides to going zero waste. But they also addressed Hyderabad-specific topics by creating four videos sharing tips on reducing waste at the local grocery store, in residence hall apartments, in the bathroom, and out in the city.

Yuryeva discussed reusable produce bags in MiPlanet’s zero waste grocery shopping video.

Many of the challenge participants succeeded in finding little ways to reduce their waste, like buying reusable produce bags, though few to none were able to actually eliminate waste for the week.  Overall, the MiPlanet organizers wanted to raise awareness about environmental issues within the community. While many Minerva students have taken at least some steps towards reducing their waste, others may not see sustainability as a top priority.

“People have told me that just one person changing their lifestyle isn’t going to do anything,” Yuryeva said. “They don’t always understand the activism and awareness aspect of what we’re doing.”

For the MiPlanet leaders, it is especially important for Minerva students to think about sustainability because many aspects of their “digital nomad” lifestyle are inherently damaging to the environment. Flying internationally at the start of each semester, not to mention students who travel more over breaks, adds up to a huge carbon footprint. Banks added that sustainability should be even more relevant for Minerva in light of its mission statement: “nurturing critical wisdom for the sake of the world.”

Owens also noted the incredible amount of items left behind after each semester. “I’ve seen plastic organizers thrown away, entire bedding sets, and items that were used to decorate rooms for only a short few months,” she said. “It all accumulates to a gigantic pile of trash that we dump into our surrounding environment when we leave, jet-setting far away from everything we’ve discarded into the local community.”

Banks demonstrating a reusable cotton pad in MiPlanet’s zero waste personal care video.

The MiPlanet team plans to keep working to improve sustainability within Minerva by organizing a zero waste week in each future rotation city. They are especially hopeful that the challenge will be even more successful in Berlin, where sustainable living is more feasible compared to packaging-heavy Seoul and Hyderabad. MiPlanet is also planning talks and co-curriculars to keep discussing environmental issues.

“Thinking about things is always where it starts,” Yuryeva said. “I don’t expect people to go out of their way to get rid of their waste, but watching one of the videos could make someone think about sustainability more. As more information comes their way, they’ll be more receptive towards it and hopefully make changes.”