Reduce, Reuse . . . Recyclemania!
You're never far from a recycling bin at Ithaca College. Every office trash can is paired with a blue paper bin, and academic building hallways provide ample places to recycle that soft-drink bottle and old flyer. But not everyone uses the bins as often as they should. To raise awareness, Ithaca College took part this spring in a nationwide contest for higher ed institutions.
Mark Darling '97, supervisor of IC's Resource and Environmental Management Program (REMP), learned about Recyclemania through the College and University Recycling Council. In the 10-week contest, founded by representatives of Ohio and Miami Universities, the percentage of recyclable materials from the total waste of each school was compared to the percentage at other institutions. Of the 29 schools participating this year, including MIT, Yale, Harvard, Binghamton, Northwest Missouri, and Villanova, Ithaca placed 10th, with a recycling rate of 28.93 percent.
Beth Gardiner '05, a history major with an environmental studies minor, was the student coordinator for the effort. With the help of REMP members, Gardiner got a closer look at the habits of college students by sorting through their garbage. During one week the group went through trash at the Towers, Terraces, Quads, Gardens, and Circles. They sorted the contents into piles of trash and recyclable paper, metal, plastic, and cardboard to see what students were tossing. Among the most commonly discarded items were food containers and paper.
Darling says students don't see these items as recyclable. "This is the 'Lunchables generation,' " he says. "It's a generation of convenience food in boxes that people just throw away. We try to educate people about choosing products with less packaging."
Those same pasta boxes and tin cans played a big part in the campuswide promotions effort for the contest. Gardiner and REMP created informational posters and an army of "EcoPeople," figures constructed of recyclable materials bearing recycling messages.
Although there was no change in the recycling rate from last year to this year, Darling says he believes recycling awareness has been raised. He also thinks students model how other people recycle. "There is always someone on each floor of a residence hall who is a good recycler," he says. "Sometimes that's the RA, sometimes it's another person. But if there is just one person, that can encourage others to recycle more."