Sustainability at Emory’s Hatchery: An Interview with Rizky Etika

Interview with Rizky Etika by Alexandra Ridley

Good afternoon, Rizky! You’ve introduced yourself as the program coordinator at The Hatchery. What exactly does this job entail?

As the program coordinator, I’m one of the student-facing people at The Hatchery. My job includes facilitating the two tracks at The Hatchery: the incubator and the skills builder. My job does include a lot of paperwork, but I also get to coach students, connect them to professionals, and assist the partners we work with to teach courses at The Hatchery.


That sounds exciting! I’ve also heard that you’re helping to implement the ban on plastic cup offerings. What has your role been in this, and who spearheaded this initiative?

Ending the use of plastic cups is something I’ve requested from The Hatchery’s leadership team for a while. I personally use a reusable bottle and I know many of our students have them. I think there’s been a bit of hesitation in implementing this idea since leadership wanted things to be as easy as possible for the students here so we can attract as many students as we can to The Hatchery. But The Hatchery has now been around for four years, and we’ve been very successful in attracting students to use our space, so our priorities are now beginning to evolve.

One thing that really inspired us to make this change was seeing our partners’ commitment to sustainability. For example, they had signs saying, ‘please support us in being eco-friendly’ or ‘bring your own cup’, so we knew placing a ban on plastic cups was possible as a space that offered the same entrepreneurial initiatives as our students. Recently, my colleague Saya Guscott (our administrative assistant) and I decided to tally up how much it would cost to purchase the plastic cups we offer to our students. When we presented the data to leadership, we learned it was a significant amount. So, the leadership team allowed me to do a pilot over the summer to phase out plastic cups. It really started with me making cute posters and getting leadership’s approval to post these on our screens and our socials. We chose this date (May 15th) because it’s after finals, so the change shouldn’t come as a surprise to students at a critical time.


Have you heard any student feedback about this change yet? How have they responded so far?

So far, everything I’ve heard has been positive. Some students have responded to me via Instagram, or even just told me in person. They’re very eco-conscious students. I’m sure there may be some people that might get annoyed by it, but no one has said anything negative to us yet. I think it’s also important to note that our team provides normal cups that people can just wash after use, and we also provide students doing the incubator and summer accelerator courses with their own reusable bottles that they can use.


That’s so pleasing to hear! I’ve also heard that The Hatchery is looking to become Green Office Certified. What has this process entailed so far?

My colleague Saya and I have been looking over the OSI’s Green Office checklist, and the rest of our team has seen it as well. We’ve realized that The Hatchery already complies with many of the items on the OSI’s checklist, since we have the benefit of being an office that was built very recently. For example, we already use automatic lights, we have timers on all our IT equipment, so it goes to sleep if it’s not being used, and our door is only automatic when it needs to be. We also don’t really print things out, so everything is electronic. So, we already fulfill many of the requirements, and as for the things we haven’t implemented yet, I think this will be a relatively easy process.


So, if you don’t mind revealing The Hatchery’s secrets, what requirements are you still looking to fulfill?

I don’t think we’ve been officially trained in some of the requirements regarding social justice, and I don’t think our team has officially undergone any environmentally friendly training either, but we would like to! I think the OSI’s requirement is that more than half of our team must undergo these trainings. That must be more difficult in larger offices, but there’s only five of us, so it’s definitely doable!


That’s very good to know! And outside of ceasing plastic cup usage and becoming Green Office Certified, are there any other sustainability changes you’re hoping to see at the Hatchery?

One thing I have noticed is that a lot of students get confused about whether to put food containers and cutlery into the plastic waste bin versus the compost bin. This especially takes place when The Hatchery hosts events. For example, when event coordinators order catering from Emory, we receive compostable cutlery and food containers. But, if the event coordinators order from companies such as Panera, this food automatically comes with cutlery and containers that are plastic. This likely causes confusion because I think Emory students are now so used to compostable containers, that they assume the situation is the same everywhere, so they throw the single-use plastic containers into the compost bins. I think we need increased awareness of how to differentiate between the two types, and that’s one of the things I’d like to work on.


Thank you for your input. That’s very helpful for the OSI to know and we’ll definitely see how we can improve this situation. Perhaps we can organize a waste-sorting Q+A event for students at The Hatchery or help convince event coordinators to use catering services that use compostable containers and cutlery!

Yes, I think that would be great! I actually used to be a student at Emory, and I was there when the different types of bins were first introduced. At the time, there was a lot of waste-sorting education, but I think there might be less emphasis on this now. Do you know how much waste-sorting education current Emory students get nowadays?


At the moment, students receive waste sorting training through orientation events, which we’re gearing up for right now. Additionally, the OSI is working with Plastic Free Emory and the Office of Undergraduate Education to develop a sustainability app for this Fall’s incoming freshman and transfer students. There is a waste section with waste sorting information in the app and it will be mandatory for incoming students to look at. I would also emphasize that students can learn about Emory’s Zero Waste policy and apply to be Zero Waste Ambassadors. I would really recommend this for students.

That’s really good to know. I’m glad the OSI is prioritizing proper waste-sorting education as this is an issue I’d like for students to be more cognisant about.


And now for my final question! Tell me a little bit about yourself outside of your job. Has sustainability played a big part in your life?

I’m an Atlanta native and I grew up around here. Then, my family and I moved to Kennesaw when I was young. I enjoy hiking, reading, movies, music, and I like to volunteer as much as I can. For example, I volunteer for art groups in the city and for a pet shelter. With regards to sustainability, I’ve always been very cognizant of sustainability growing up, especially from learning about the rainforest when I was young, and from learning about climate change, which is one of the issues I’m very concerned about. At home, we recycle and compost as much as we can. There are definitely areas in which we could be more sustainable, but we try to be as conscious as possible.


Well, that’s been so exciting to hear about! Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview. I’ve personally learned a lot, and I think this will provide a lot of insight for other Emory offices looking to improve their sustainability. You’ve also highlighted some issues that are definitely useful for the OSI to know about, so we’re very grateful to have interviewed you.  

Thank you! I’m glad to have helped!

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