Nowadays undergraduates in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's (UKM) campus in Bangi bring their own food containers to buy food at the cafeteria in their respective residential colleges.
They have literally done away with the familiar white polystyrene boxes that is said to contain the carcinogenic substance, Bisphenol A (BPA).
The change from the old ways is part of the campaign undertaken by UKM to encourage undergraduates adopt an environmental friendly and sustainable lifestyle.
This is among the efforts taken by UKM to help them appreciate the well-being of the environment in developing a sustainable campus.
They have been handed out a comprehensive guidebook on sustainable living that covered various aspects - reduce waste, reuse and recycle, conserve water and the sustainable management of the forest. They have even taken the oath to live as sustainable consumers.
ZERO WASTE CAMPUS
In emerging as a completely sustainable campus by 2020, UKM has outlined numerous activities for the campus community that not only benefits the campus and its students but in the bigger picture help the world achieve universal sustainability.
Among UKM's emphasis is making recycling a way of life.
However, in the Malaysian context, recycling has yet to be a way of life with the country's recycling percentage at 5 percent compared with nations like Switzerland (52 percent), Austria (50 percent), Germany (48 percent), the Netherlands (46 percent), Norway (40 percent) and Sweden (34 percent).
In inculcating the recycling culture, UKM is pioneering the research on solid waste disposal and reducing the waste that ends up in landfills through the Zero Waste Campus programme.
Senior Lecturer/Research Fellow at UKM's Environment and Development Institute (LESTARI), Dr Rahmah Elfitri noted that the campaign encouraged students to recycle by segregating the waste into five categories - paper, plastic, glass, tetra pack and metal.
"Each undergraduate is given a note book to record the recycle material sent to the Recycling Centre (PKS) and the student can collect the payment on Tuesdays," she said.
In segregating and recycling the waste, UKM has established cooperation with Alam Flora since 2009.
Dr Rahmah said the project covered a number of research areas relating to waste segregation, recycling, making compost, educating and creating awareness, dwelling into the laws, and monitoring the waste bin and garbage truck.
"So far, the students have been showing good enthusiasm. Apart from being paid for the waste sent for recycling, they also stand to win prizes if their recycling quantity exceeds 10 kg. This is to further encourage their participation in their campaign," she said.
THE RECYCLING CENTRE
To facilitate the solid waste management, UKM has set up the Recycling Centre that incorporates the sustainable elements and it is the first zero-energy recycling centre in the country.
Located adjacent to Dataran Panggung Seni, this small 20 feet by 10 feet centre boasts for great efficiency in the use of energy and water, and the surrounding landscape is nourished with the compost made from the waste .
Designed by Senior Researcher Dr Azimin Mohd Tazilan from the Engineering Faculty's Architecture Department, the recycling centre costing RM60,000 uses photovoltaic solar panel that can generate up to 200 watts of electricity.
This amount of power is enough to run a ceiling fan, three lights, a 32 inch LCD television and a DVD player installed in the centre.
The recyclable waste is segregated behind the centre.
"Previously, with the cooperation of Alam Flora, we go out to collect the waste to recycle. However, with this centre in operation now, the students themselves can send the recyclable items any time and Alam Flora collects them later," she said.
The one week orientation programme is meant to familiarlise students with life on campus but this time UKM extended the duration to one month for the 2,800 students under the 2011/2012 intake. This is to facilitate additional activities to expose them to sustainable living.
Dr Rahmah said the sustainable activities that were held include contest to develop mini recycling centres at the 12 residential colleges with the emphasis on creativity and innovation.
One of the activities is the use of non-polystyrene food containers.
"Effective Sept 2011, the university stipulated that all cafeterias within UKM should replace polystyrene food containers with biodegradable ones," she said.
Campus dwellers have been encouraged to learn on water and energy conservation and upload or download sustainable activities of their colleges through Facebook.
"All this activities will be evaluated and the college that adopts the best sustainability approach is to be rewarded. This is one of the ways to create awareness on why it is important to preserve the environment.
"UKM will soon be enlisting actress Maya Karin in its crusade to maintain a sustainable campus environment," she said.