A Greener Society: The EUS Paves the Way Through Price Incentive Mechanisms

Side view of the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, the home of UBC Sustainability. (UBC photo)

Side view of the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, the home of UBC Sustainability. (UBC photo)

How often do event organizers design a sustainable layout plan for your event, nor incentivize clients as a space vender in a contractual agreement toward a zero-waste event management?

Well, the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) is leading the way to greener events through the implementation of a recommended waste management policy regulation, designed through a study conducted by the First Year Engineering Group of the Policy Analysis and Evaluation Class of the UBC School of Public Policy and Global Affairs.

Research conducted by this group at the Engineering Undergraduate Center (EUC), under UBC’s Social Ecological Environmental Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) program, has revealed that no special priority is given at the event planning phase toward sustainable waste management; nor were any waste management standards set in the contractual agreement to rent out the ESC space for events.

In 2014, however, UBC launched an ambitious waste reduction target which aimed at achieving 80 percent diversion of waste from landfill sites by the year 2020. If this target is to be achieved, then critical attention should be given to the waste management plans toward the hundreds of events hosted on campus annually, be it student parties, public lectures, conferences or sporting events.

The EUS feels optimistic about helping achieve these goals. Based on the recommendations by the policy group, seeing that cups are the most discarded, their approach is to introduce reusable cups and provide recycling and compost bins to encourage sustainable action. This will result in recycled plates and decorations, composted food scraps, and reduced cup wastage. The survey based on the study indicates that 81 percent of event organizers are willing to take this direction.

The EUS will also insist on submission of a waste management plan from event organizers one week prior to hosting events which will include the number of expected participants, the type of food and drinks to be served, and the quantity and type of preferred serving dishes, plates, and flatware.

The option to use disposable materials accrues more surcharges than the use of recyclable materials, while reusable materials attract subsidies.

Thirdly, they will insist that event organizers provide a waste management responsibility alert as part of their invitations for attendees and they will have the responsibility to provide proper waste disposal signage during events in the ESC.

EUS has also committed to providing the recommended waste receptacles and bins—at least one set for every enclosed space, and a waste management volunteer if events have more than 200 attendees.

To show greater commitment for this, the EUS is adding a price incentive policy to the existing contractual agreement to motivate all parties to change their patterns of behaviour in term of waste management for events.

The pricing incentives mechanism works as follows: if each of the waste management regulations are fulfilled as listed, an amount between $20–$50 would be granted to event organizers as a subsidy, while failure to achieve any one of them would result in a higher surcharge.

Through these means, the EUS will fulfill the objective of SEEDS which aims at coordinating student, faculty, staff, and community research projects on sustainability initiatives while using the University as an experimental ground on which projects are piloted and, if successful, be replicated in the larger society.

Solomon Atta is a Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs student at the University of British Colombia. He has five years of professional experience as a Budget Analyst for the Local Government Service of Ghana. He is interested in policies that focus on resources, energy and sustainability.