Don’t Be Trashy- Join the Green side

U Recycling Ambassadors get a scalable look inside waste recycling.

U Recycling Ambassadors get a scalable look inside waste recycling.

By Sarah Martinez, Student Sustainability Ambassador

It’s time for RecycleMania and time to put that old phrase you learned as a kid—Reduce, Reuse, Recycle—into action.

RecycleMania is a friendly 8-week competition between colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada that helps motivate students, staff, and faculty to increase recycling efforts. Schools are ranked according to who recycled the most on a per capita basis, which school had the highest recycling rate as a percent of total waste and lastly, which schools generate the least amount of trash and recycling combined. Goals of the competition include:

  • Motivate the campus community to reduce waste and to increase recycling;
  • Focus attention on campus recycling needs;
  • Help organizations measure and benchmark recycling efforts over time;
  • Have fun!

To accomplish these goals, in past years schools across the country have created some impressive ideas. For example, Stanford took a creative spin on the famous song “All About that Bass” and reimagined it as “All About No Waste.” They recruited a talented student to sing the rewritten lyrics with a no-waste spin and created a music video that reached nearly 200,000 views on YouTube. Central New Mexico Community College invented the concept of “Mount Trashmore.” which was a massive on-campus waste audit. More than 100 students sifted through two days worth of trash to demonstrate to students just how much recyclable material is thrown into garbage cans every day. (Pretty gross but über effective!)

So what’s the University of Utah doing? Taking the lead, the Sustainability Office recently recruited its first group of volunteers to fan out across campus to teach others about recycling. These Recycling Ambassadors attended a class and visited Rocky Mountain Recycling to learn more about the U’s recycling system. Look for them around campus throughout the RecycleMania competition to learn more about recycling and receive a free stainless steel water bottle (while supplies last).

“Recycling is one of the most visible ways for the campus to engage in sustainable behaviors,” says Myron Willson, deputy chief sustainability officer. “By taking action, students and employees can help reduce the environmental impacts of waste and lessen the huge cost of transporting it to landfills that are quickly filling up.”

The University of Utah has participated in this tournament since 2007. Despite its tenure, it is impossible for the University to compete for top honors without composting, says Willson, but through education and engagement, the campus can improve the collection of plastics, aluminum, and paper.

My hope is this challenge can raise awareness about the alarming high amount of recyclables I see in garbage cans across the university. Let’s use RecycleMania as an opportunity to gain some recognition and potentially to expand our recycling efforts here on the Utah campus.RM_logo_2016_lowres

Sarah Martinez is a student sustainability ambassador for the Sustainability Office.

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