The SAVE Wiki

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What is SAVE?

SAVE stands for Share A Vital Earth. Our primary goal is to promote environmental conservation and awareness at MIT and in the surrounding community. It consists primarily of undergraduates, and its actions include participatory events, perpetual actions (like promoting recycling), and maintenance of an email list. Traditionally, meetings were at 9:00 or 10:00 on Thursday nights in 1-246, announced to the email list, and open to everyone. Officers were not really elected but agreed upon by consensus. SAVE is an ASA-recognized group.

Of course SAVE can become anything its leaders want it to be. We have at times tried to promote bigger action, for instance by tabling for the Jumpstart Ford Campaign to urge automakers to employ cleaner technology. But we’ve never been terribly successful at that. There’s also room for SAVE to help encourage more environmentally friendly practices in MIT’s administrative ends; I’d like to see more done in greening campus dining, and one very important problem that needs tackling is dorm recycling.

SAVE also helps by being a student connection for other MIT environmental groups. Our most productive relationships are with Students for Global Sustainability, the Environmental Programs Office, the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment, and the Working Group Recycling Committee; we often share projects with other student groups, too. Below are previous events organized by SAVE.

Reg Day Header-page notebook sales

a picture of some header-page notebooks
Header-page notebooks are bound from Athena header pages. Network printers automatically print a header page with the student’s username for each document, a policy that can waste a tremendous amount of paper. (There is a way to change your settings to avoid printing header pages!) SAVE collects header pages and other scrap paper and binds them into notebooks, then sells them as a way of raising awareness about paper conservation. SAVE used to install cardboard boxes—called Cluster Pets—in Athena clusters, labeled “put your header pages here.”

How to make notebooks
  • Collect header pages from cluster pets; this probably isn’t enough to make many notebooks, so we used other scrap paper from the recycling bins. It’s actually not necessary to have cluster pets if you just want to raid recycling bins.
  • Sort the paper: recycle any personal documents (emails, transcripts) and double-sided documents; make sure all the paper faces the same way. You can also create whole notebooks of “graph paper” using the grid-pattern header pages and “music notebooks” from staff-lined header pages.
  • Make arrangements with the people at Copytech in Building 13. It’s against their usual policy to allow customers to use their book-binding equipment, but if you remind them that they’ve made an exception for SAVE in years past, they may let you. They’re very nice. Typically they charge SAVE for the plastic spines, and clear plastic front covers, and cardstock back covers, but there’s no charge for using the machines. Usually they let us in for an hour or two at the end of the day.
  • Make front covers: photocopy the front cover design onto colored paper.
  • Make stacks of paper (~80 pages each) and stack them with the necessary covers.
  • Bind notebooks: someone at Copytech will show you how. This involves two machines: one for punching holes in the side of the pages, and one for putting on the binding. If you have lots of volunteers, you can have one at each machine, and a few others sorting and stacking pages at the same time.

  • funding is needed for: binding materials, ~$0.50 per notebook? But by selling the notebooks we earn it back, with a profit
  • groups to work with: Copytech

Selling the books

Usually $1 each on Reg day in Lobby 10 and at any other events where SAVE has representation. While you sell the notebooks, take the opportunity to tell them about setup save, the program (written by former SAVE members) that helps you save paper when using network printing. Just type setup save at the Athena prompt, and follow the directions to eliminate your header pages and print double-sided.

Charles River restoration

The Charles River Conservancy regularly has groups of volunteers come to do maintenance work along the river--usually things like picking up trash, trimming bushes, planting flowers, erosion control, etc. To make a SAVE outing of it, contact the CRC volunteer coordinator (I think it’s Eric Moss now, edm(at) to ask when they need people. Then advertise and get people to sign up, so that you can tell the CRC how many people to expect. It may help to work together with another MIT group to boost the number of participants. Figure out a way to get everyone there—send them directions or meet at MIT and walk together. The CRC usually provides all the necessary equipment and also T-shirts for volunteers. It’s nice if SAVE can provide lunch or at least snacks.

The Charles River Conservancy also organizes the annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup in April. It helps to sign up very early for this, because volunteer spots fill up quickly.

Free plant handouts on America Recycles Day

Free plants is one of the best and most popular things about SAVE. We do it on November 15 as a way of celebrating America Recycles Day, to encourage people to think green. It's also a regular attraction on Earth Day. Here’s how it works:


Reserve a booth in Lobby 10 (or the Student Center). Advertise. Recruit volunteers—usually 1-hour shifts between 10:00am and 4:00pm. Buy lots of soil (we often run out, and plant owners sometimes return asking for just soil), pots (small peat pots or plastic cups), and plants and rooting hormone if necessary. Mother plants should last from year to year if well cared-for. Make sure to use varieties that root easily from cuttings, such as pothos, jade plant, spider plant, goldfish plant. We usually go to Mahoney's Garden Center; they're very very helpful and knowledgeable there. There are also often people who will lend you their houseplants, too; include a request for that kind of help when publicizing the event and see what turns up!

To distribute free plants

Ask your customer what kind of plant he or she wants. Take a cutting of a plant, dip it in rooting hormone (optional), put it in a pot full of soil, water, and give away. The plant really will grow—we’ve had great success stories. You may find many people returning to ask just for more soil because the plants they got last time need transplanting. Plants are also a good incentive to get people to, for instance, fill out a survey or sign up for something. We usually give 100-200 plants per day.

Waste Awareness Day

Get people to carry all the trash they generate with them in a garbage bag for 24 hours, just to raise awareness of garbage. Provide something like a gift certificate for ice cream as an incentive. Set up a location (a booth in a public place) where people can sign up and receive their trash bags on day 1. On day 2 they return to weigh their trash, answer a survey about their experiences, and receive their participation prizes. Sloan Environmental Club did this once in fall 2003, and we followed suit in spring 2004 in conjunction with Earth Day.

  • funding is needed for: participation prizes, such as gift certificates for ice cream (or have them donated)
  • groups to work with: MIT Facilities Department (for trash bags, possibly a bathroom scale). contact Kevin Healy at recycling(at)
  • you can find an old poster from waste awareness day here

IAP movie night

Also a great tradition. During IAP, we would have a double feature film showing Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax followed by a feature-length environmentally-themed movie (such as included Princess Mononoake or Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams). Accompanied by cookies (including vegan cookies) and milk (including alternative soy- and grain-based milks). Possibly followed by discussion. Makes a good platform for advertising other SAVE activities.
This was discontinued in 2005 because of ASA’s crackdown on unlicensed public movie showings. There must be some way to deal with the new regulations.

  • funding needed for: refreshments, movie rentals
  • groups to work with: any other interested environmental groups or film clubs; anyone who can get us permission to show a movie publicly
  • Here is an old poster from an IAP movie night.

IAP “Living Lightly Seminar”

A casual get-together to talk about everyday ways to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle, while baking and then eating a dessert. We did this once. Arrange for a kitchen (we used the ESG kitchen; a dorm kitchen would work well, too). Publicize. Find a recipe for an easy dish to make and bring locally-grown and organic ingredients (we made apple crisp), as well as something to snack on. Invite people to share their ideas; we talked about things like what an ecological footprint means, organic and vegetarian eating, small ways to minimize energy and water usage, etc.

  • funding needed for: ingredients, snacks
  • groups to work with: whoever can provide a kitchen
  • Here's an old poster from the seminar.

Earth Day

The biggest project of the year! An outdoor festival that brings together all the MIT groups (and some from outside) that have the slightest connection to environmentalism, along with food, music, and general partying to attract everyone from the MIT community. This absolutely necessitates lots of help from everyone else, and very early planning: pick a date and reserve Kresge Oval as soon as you can! For details, see the Earth Day at MIT page.

Organic Iron Chef

One of the Earth Week activities; a fabulous success. A cooking competition among teams to create a winning meal with sustainable ingredients in a limited amount of time. For details, see the specific Organic Iron Chef page.

Stuff-Fest: a stuff-collection drive in dorms as students are packing and moving out

Cooperation with EPO and Facilities is essential before approaching student volunteers.

  • Pick a charity: we used to donate stuff to CASPAR; In 2005 it was Planet Aid
  • Pick a date: In 2005, we collected Monday-Sunday during finals week, designated Monday-Wednesday afterward for sorting, and Thursday-Friday after that for pickup from dorms and delivery to the charity
  • Find a student volunteer for each dorm on campus; each student is responsible for running the event in his or her dorm. Get agreement from house managers, too.
  • In each dorm: designate a collection site and put boxes or a table there. Publicize to dorm members by poster and email. Allow stuff to accumulate. At the end of the collection period, sort the stuff as needed, put in garbage bags, and leave in a place where it can be easily picked up by the collection truck.
  • Facilities and EPO people pick up the stuff and deliver it to the charity

This activity moves easily by itself in some dorms, not so much in others. Location of the collection site is crucial. Sorting can take a long time, so make sure you get people to help you. Unfortunately, Facilities can’t pick up from FSILGs, only dorms.

  • funding needed for: nearly nothing
  • groups to work with: Justin Adams (jwadams(at), Steve Lanou (slanou(at), the EPO, Facilities, DormCon (to get the word out), MIT Women’s League (they get some clothes too, and help with sorting), house managers

For this project, it's important to have publicity materials that you can disseminate easily to dorm representatives; you can do this easily by sending general publicity emails and by putting posters online.

  • Here's a general-use poster from 2005.
  • This is an example of an email that you can use for contacting people in your dorm.
  • Toh Ne Win was the person who really got Stuff Fest running. He wrote up an info sheet and an FAQ sheet. They're a little outdated, but still express the general principles.

Email list currently has 226 members. It’s a mailman list; anyone who wants to subscribe can simply email, send back the confirmation email, and it happens automatically. I am currently the administrator. I let through only announcements about events on campus that are of interest to the general environmental community; we have sometimes gotten mailings from Social Justice Cooperative and Pugwash that may be interesting to the kind of people who make up’s membership, but I don’t allow them through unless they have relevance to environmentalism. I also sometimes forward relevant off-campus items such as scholarships and conferences. Never anything political. The mailing list is also a great way to advertise for volunteers for a SAVE project. The moderator interface is at: The list gets a whole lot of spam. There’s an easy way to delete everything in the mailbox if you don’t want to approve any of it—directions are here: