This past Sunday, students filled the Student Activities Building, eager to learn more about the University’s South Asian community and its affiliated organizations on Grounds. The room was soon filled with music, laughter, celebration and lots of food — all served with eco-friendly dinner materials.
The India Student Association hosted its second wide-scale zero waste event on Sept. 1, which aimed to promote a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. At an event with over 250 attendees, all dinner materials were either compostable or recyclable. ISA remains one of the only cultural organizations to host a sustainable event.
As the largest cultural organization on Grounds, ISA hosts some of the biggest events with a community of over 400 members. In previous years, ISA would use styrofoam cups and plastic plates to serve drinks and food at events. Board members became aware of the amount of waste this produced and decided to establish zero-waste events. This new initiative started with last year’s zero-waste India Day event and has continued since.
In 2018, ISA was nominated for the Sustainability Award by Studco for its zero-waste annual India Day celebration and constant efforts to be an environmentally-friendly cultural organization. India Day, which took place at the Martin Luther King Performing Arts Center last year, had an estimated attendance of 1,000 people from all over the Charlottesville community. While ISA did not win the award, its board members had the opportunity to hear from other organizations about their efforts to reduce waste.
“It was great exposure for us, and we felt rewarded for what we did,” said Shivani Saboo, president of ISA and fourth-year Engineering.
Saboo reached out to the University’s Student Council Sustainability Committee, which offered to cover the cost of compostable dinner materials for this year’s zero-waste general body meeting. The total cost for all the provided dinner materials amounted to $200. With the help of the Committee, Saboo was able to hire a composting service company to provide eco-friendly dinner materials. Several composting stations were set up at the event, complete with compost, trash and recycling bins. In addition, an ISA member monitored each station to prevent any contamination.
As their second zero-waste event, members of ISA felt the event went a lot smoother since they had a better grasp on how to manage the various stations. While this event was much smaller than India Day, it was a more intimate experience for attendees. Incoming first-years had the opportunity to learn more about the University’s South Asian community and interact with members from a wide range of organizations.
“At India Day, it is on a stage, but here we are standing in front of people and get to connect with people on a more personal level,” Saboo said.
Similar to previous ISA general body meetings, the zero-waste event was open to all University students. This year, ISA hopes to work with other organizations to get more students involved. They are currently working to involve the Pakistani, Muslim and Sikh Student Associations in more ISA events, which has not been done in the past.
“We want to be more representative of our members’ background[s] because everyone is really diverse,” said Divya Shan, third-year College student and ISA service chair.
Throughout the evening, Indian dance teams such as the U.Va. HooRaas, Virginia Di Shaan, Jazba and Sharaara put on a variety of performances. Additionally, members of the executive board used this time as an opportunity to announce ISA’s goals, future events and student initiatives for the year. ISA’s partner organizations, which include the Hera Initiative, East Coast Showdown and Asha for Education, also set up stands around the room so interested students could learn more about each organization and their efforts on Grounds.
While ISA members hope to attract incoming first-years, attendees ranged from first- to fourth- years interested in the University’s South Asian organizations.
“I wanted to get an idea of what ISA is all about, and this general meeting did a great job of that,” first-year College student Sahithi Mankala said.