Environmental Column

 

 

Cassidy Holahan

Colgate only recycles 14 percent of recyclable materials disposed of on campus. This semester, student organizations are determined to not only increase recycling, but also change the way the student body thinks about trash, energy use and sustainability. February will mark the start of two environmental initiatives on campus: the school-wide annual RecycleMania campaign and the Eco-Olympics, a “green” competition between first-year dorms.

From February 6 to April 2, 603 schools across the nation will par­ticipate in RecycleMania: a competition focused on minimizing waste and promoting recycling. Weekly data about the school’s weighed re­cyclables and trash will determine Colgate’s placement among all par­ticipating schools. Sophomore and Colgate’s Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Taylor, who helped organize RecycleMania at Colgate, says she hopes the school can increase their recycling rate from 14 percent last year to 20 percent this year.

The winner last year was California State University, who held a recycling rate of 72 percent.

“Recycling is a huge issue at Colgate, especially considering our recycling waste rate from last year,” Taylor said.

Taylor also noted that Colgate has come a long way, especially with the distribution of recycling bins this year.

“It’s important for our generation to realize the benefits of recycling. Changing our habits now to become more conscious consumers and recyclers will help preserve the world’s limited resources,” Taylor said.

RecycleMania events will include signing a “Recycling Pledge” in the O’Connor Campus Center (the Coop) all week, a waste audit and many green lectures and events in the future in hopes of elevating Colgate’s recycling ranking.

Incorporated with RecycleMania is a new campus initiative, Eco-Olym­pics, a competition between first-year dorms to reduce waste and energy use, increase recycling and promote sustainability. From February 7 to 28, all seven of the first-year dorms will be competing for both weekly prizes and overall Eco-Olympic champion. Each dorm is now sub-metered, and energy use will be measured to determine the dorm with the least per capita energy usage per week.

The weekly and overall winners of the Eco-Olympics will be determined by these energy audits, as well as a waste audit and attendance at “green” events throughout the three weeks. The trash audit, which will be done in conjunction with RecycleMania, will measure the amount of recyclable materials that were thrown in the trash, as well as the overall waste on one randomly selected floor of each dormitory. In addition, points will be given to each dorm when a member of that living space attends any of the Eco- Olympic events. These will include an eco-trivia night at Donavon’s Pub, a three-part documentary shown every Thursday, and an eco-scavenger hunt coordinated with Colgate’s student club Green Gates. Attendance points will also be awarded individually, and the students with the most points will be rewarded with gift baskets donated from local businesses.

Senior Meghan Kiernan, who is heading RecycleMania this year, says that the program focuses on first-years because she hopes they can affect Colgate’s green initiatives the most.

“The first-years can have the biggest impact on Colgate because they have all four years ahead of them,” Kiernal said. “Our goal is to bring them up in a culture where recycling and sustainability are the norm, so they can follow up these ideas in their years at Colgate.”

Eco-Olympics aims to make recycling and energy conservation a standard at Colgate, and hopes the initiative of wining dorm-wide treats and prizes throughout the Olympics will kick start that process.

“Recycling isn’t new age stuff, but we’re trying to bring it onto cam­pus as the cultural norm,” Kiernal said. “Sustainability is something that’s up-and-coming. It’s all-encompassing – there are lots of differ­ent avenues of sustainability to explore and it’s a way to get the most people together to create the most change.”

Although the Class of 2014 seems to demonstrate overall support for recycling, some unrest did arise from the distribution of individual recycling bins to each first-year dorm room.

“I think that the campus has made good attempts to help make recycling more convenient, however, the recycling bins take up too much room in our small dorms, making it really inconvenient. They should focus more on having recycling bins outside of buildings,” first-year and Curtis resident Juliana Schilsky said.

“I think the Eco-Olympics are a great idea,” first-year Alex Coffin said. “It gives students a fun incentive to recycle.”

Kiernal said she hopes that the Eco-Olympics will become a long-standing tradition at Colgate.

“Colgate has made leaps and bounds in terms of sustainability, but there’s still a long way to go, and there’s always more ways to improve,” Kiernal said.