Feb 09, 2017

A Minimal Waste Conference: Tuck BSC 2017

Catherien Boysen T'18Catherine Boysen T’18 (right) is spearheading an effort to make this year’s Business & Society Conference a “minimal waste conference.” I sat down with her recently to talk about her goals, why she’s inspired, and the impact she hopes her initiative will have.

Carole Gaudet, Center for Business, Government & Society


Tell me about the changes you’d like to see at this year’s BSC.

Because of the content of BSC, I think it’s a good starting place for people to learn about minimizing waste, and seeing what’s possible. We’ve got three main goals:

  1. To reduce waste at the conference.
  2. To teach people about the waste we create, and proper sorting of waste, whenever we get together in large groups
  3. To take those learnings campus-wide, at Tuck and Dartmouth, for long-term changes

Sounds great! What got you interested in reducing waste at conferences, in particular?

I participated in a leadership program in Maine which brought together people from all across the state. Our goal was addressing economic development, and how to provide leaders with tools to improve problems in the state. Over the course of one day-long gathering, we generated so much waste, from tiny Styrofoam cups to 6 oz. water bottles, that there weren’t enough garbage and recycling bins to handle it all. You couldn’t ignore it, but most people were ignoring it. We were gathered together to address the state’s problems, but we couldn’t even see this thing that was right in front of us. It was as if we just assumed that this was a cost of getting together.

I ended up working with that group to make sure the next events were done more responsibly. I challenged everyone to bring their own coffee mugs and water bottles, and to go back to their companies and see if they could bring similar measures to their workplaces.

Everyone was willing to hear it, and people were able to make little changes in their companies pretty easily. But, for some reason, it took me saying something to encourage it.

You’ve been working with the BSC marketing team to create messaging around your initiative. What tactics will you use to reach your goals at BSC?

We’ve got several tactics:

  1. Encouraging everyone to bring their own water bottles and coffee mugs. We’ll have some limited alternatives available—we’re still working that out.
  2. Considering swapping out paper products for re-usable plates and silverware. We’ll examine the tradeoffs connected with that choice.
  3. Conducting a waste audit to examine how much trash, recycling and compost we’re producing—even when we’re trying to reduce.
  4. Educating people about what items can go where. Things can become contaminated if there’s even a little bit of mixing of trash, recycling and compost. When that happens, the recycling isn’t re-sorted, and Dartmouth gets charged. We want people to understand the impact that’s created when things aren’t sorted properly. 
  5. Partnering with Casella Waste Systems, the company that handles waste and recycling at Dartmouth. They are helping us make signs for the trash, recycling, and compost bins to help with the education process

I love the idea of this leading to a new sort of certification at Dartmouth and Tuck. Tell me about that.

We’re hoping that what comes out of this work will be a handful of requirements that all conferences will have to meet, in order to be considered an official “Minimal Waste Conference.” I’ll work with the Dartmouth Sustainability Initiative to tweak our recommendations, so that these standards can be used by other campus groups. At Tuck, we’ll be able to create better signage to show people what goes where. Most people have a desire to do the little things they can do, but we don’t make it easy for them. There aren’t enough recycling bins, trash bins, and infrastructure to make it easy, which is all people really need.

I’m excited about how this might impact staff at Tuck, by demonstrating that this is possible for all of our conferences. How about you—what is your hoped-for long-term impact?

I can’t walk into a new company and not be aware of these issues. Wherever I end up post Tuck, I think this will be a part of my role and legacy—to challenge organizations to take a thoughtful look at their footprint. And I hope every one of my classmates does the same thing, wherever they end up. That’s a great ripple effect. If that becomes Tuck’s reputation, that’s a huge long-term win.

Now, more than ever, the world yearns for a special kind of leader—one who is humble, empathetic, and who possesses the wisdom and smart judgment to address social challenges and better the world of business. In a world facing many challenges, the wise leader is one who rises to the occasion to make a difference.

We hope that you will continue the conversation with us at the 15th annual Business and Society Conference, which will explore these questions and examine the importance of wise leadership in a rapidly changing business landscape. Registration is now open.


The Center for Business, Government & Society is focused on meeting the evolving complexities facing business leaders in today’s global economy. In the context of globalization and technological advancement, business success increasingly depends on reconciling the interests of its immediate stakeholders with the broader, deeply intertwined interests of both governments and society. Business leaders adept at navigating these many interests will be better equipped and empowered to help build a more sustainable global economy.