Aqua-Waste Practicum Project Overview

November 11th, 2021

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Pictured (from left to right): Kevin Truong, Tyler Norris, Abby Douglas, Peter Kareiva, Adrianna Schwaiger, Haley Gunther, Jasleen Kahlon, Brooke Jacobs, and Skyler Seamons. 


Hello all and welcome to our blog!

We are the 2021-2022 Aqua-waste team, a group of nine seniors at UCLA majoring in Environmental Science who are passionate about environmental consulting, waste management and reduction, and sustainable event planning. Our senior capstone project is focused on helping the Aquarium of the Pacific with their event waste management and scope 3 emissions calculations. 

 

The overarching objectives of our project include: 

1) Auditing waste at events in order to find and implement affordable, sustainable swaps 

2) Calculating scope 3 emissions and developing a tool for future calculations

3) Creating a sustainable event planning guide

4) Implementing best practices for diverting and reducing food waste based on California and Long Beach legislation. 

 

So far, we have done a waste audit for one event at the Aquarium, at which we observed guests’ waste disposal behavior and weighed different categories of waste at the end of the night. This gave us baseline data that we can use to make recommendations such as improvements to waste bin signage and placement, serving materials and utensils, and supervision of guests’ waste disposal practices. We will then do follow-up audits to check the efficacy of these changes––diverting waste from landfills. People often assume that “sustainable” means “expensive” when it comes to events, but we hope to demonstrate that we can reduce waste while also maintaining or improving the Aquarium’s bottom line. For example, we are doing research on eco-friendly (ideally compostable) and affordable foodware for events. The recent Omicron surge has had an impact on the ability to hold events at the Aquarium, but we are optimistic that the upcoming months will provide an opportunity for events to be held safely and many more waste audits to be conducted. 

 

We are also working on calculating scope 3 emissions for the Aquarium, which includes employee commute, business travel, and visitor commute. This is an area of emissions that is often overlooked and arguably the hardest to change, but it is also a very important part of any establishment or organization’s footprint. Our goal is to perform scope 3 audits for events and create software that can be used for future calculations, so that the Aquarium can track reductions.

 

The Team! (pictured below)

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Pictured (from left to right): Haley Gunther, Abby Douglas, Kevin Truong, Tyler Norris, Skyler Seamons, Adrianna Schwaiger, Brooke Jacobs, Cora Fahringer.