Have you seen the used pieces of cardboard hanging on bulletin boards around campus? They are not a prank or garbage. These makeshift ads are for Recycle Mania, an event hosted by the Office of Sustainability.
This event is part of a national competition between 300 colleges to see who can reduce the amount of waste sent to a landfill. It lasts the entire month of both February and March, like March Madness but for recycling instead of basketball. The Office of Sustainability staff are entering data about the campus’ recycling on a weekly basis.
“We are hoping [Recycle Mania] will get students to think about where they are putting their waste and sorting it correctly,” Student Waste Coordinator Madeline Troyer said. “We want them to know they can have an impact on campus. A lot of students think our recycling just gets put in the trash. Some of it does because there is so much contamination that it’s not worth it, but if students sort correctly, then eventually we can recycle more.”
Each week of the competition has a different theme to encourage different aspects of sustainability. Themes include reduce, reuse, recycle, recover, reclaim, rethink, and refill.
The Office of Sustainability has planned various activities to educate students and encourage them to participate. In March, students will have the opportunity to plant a succulent in soil from the campus compost pile. There will also be a social media competition involving students bringing their own mug to get coffee.
“I think waste is a good introduction to sustainability—that’s what got me interested in sustainability,” said Troyer. “I think it’s a huge problem in our society, as we have a throw-away society with an ‘only use once mentality.’ It’s something you can tangibly change and see changing, and people can do more than they think they can.”