CASTLETON — As a part of Castleton’s new Content Lab, students are helping Green Mountain Water Environment Association (GMWEA) design a series of helpful pamphlets teaching Vermonters about how everything they touch, eventually, ends up in the water.
“Aluminum cleaners, any kind of polish, oven cleaner, hair dyes, chemicals, herbicides, weed killers ... antifreeze, auto transmission fluid ... (even) paint,” said Daniel Hecht, executive director of GMWEA. “Our portion is to educate Vermont citizens as to what not to put in their wastewater ... (so) I proposed a publication of four brochures, each brochure would tell each person what not to flush.”
A grant, which amounted to $10,000 from the EPA to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission and the Lake Champlain Basin Program, would set up the distribution of free literature to 250 of Vermont’s towns, informing residents how to be more conscious of the things they toss out and what disasters they can turn into for municipal and private waste-water systems.
And the design contract went to Castleton University’s Content Lab, whose students designed, created and published the first round of brochures to be circulated around the state earlier this month, Hecht said.
“It’s a great way for them to develop their professional skills,” James Lambert, director of marketing and communications for Castleton University said of the Content Lab at Castleton. “It provides great opportunity for students to collaborate with local organizations (and gives them) valuable experience with real clients.”
After submitting some sketches of different materials for the brochure’s advice, students spent the second semester of 2019 and will spend the fall semester working on completing the brochures, many of which will be available at town clerks’ offices and departments of public works, if not sent directly to their homes, Hecht said.
The first volume of fliers is titled “Do Not Flush: Cloggers,” and lists more than a dozen different materials that are often flushed and end up clogging wastewater and septic systems, including “flushable” wipes, which never actually break down, Hecht said.
Also on the list, consumers will find tampons, facial tissues, cigarette butts, hair and dental floss, according to an online PDF of the brochure available on their website.
The brochure also explained the risk of clogs from FOGs — fats, oils and greases — and advises residents to wipe out their salad bowls with an absorbent and disposable towel before washing it.
The brochure also suggests helpful uses for bacon grease and deep-fry oil, including making soap, candles and even bird treats, rather than pouring the fat down the drain where it can create “fatbergs,” or massive mats, once it binds with “flushable” wipes, diapers, feminine hygeine products and other materials that do not ever break down in the wastewater system.
Hecht, who has a background in graphic design, said he could have tried creating a brochure himself, but creating more connections between Vermont’s college systems and companies that can provide references and perhaps a pathway forward serves to inform students of the opportunities open to them once they graduate.
In addition, Hecht said the students at Castleton had admirable design skills and knowledge of modern technologies to create an artistic and black-and-white-friendly design in case some town halls and clerks wanted to print out their own versions of the brochure, which will be free for residents to access.