By: Arielle Pompilius, Copy Editor
Every spring, more than 600 colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada compete to win a trophy made out of recycled trash.
The Recyclemania competition encourages students to reduce waste, recycle and become familiar with sustainability. Recylcemania began in 2001 as a friendly contest between Stacy Edmonds Wheeler of Miami University and Ed Newman of Ohio University and is now a permanent feature at schools across North America.
Recyclemania began at UNF in 2009, when Wheeler, then an adjunct professor, spearheaded the initiative.
“We were very lucky to have her,” said April Moore, program manager of the UNF Environmental Center. “She was ahead of her time on sustainability.”
The Recyclemania competition has nine categories, each of which require participating universities to collect, measure and record the total weight of recycled trash. UNF is enrolled in the Stephen K. Gaski Per Capita Classic, in which schools compete to collect the most paper, cardboard, bottles and cans.
In addition to the Per Capita Classic, UNF is also participating in the waste minimization category, which focuses on reducing the total amount of trash produced, including recycled trash, as opposed to trying to collect the largest amount of recycled trash. The waste minimization category also requires each participating school to agree to adopt three waste-reduction practices in addition to collecting and measuring waste.
As part of that requirement, the Environmental Center launched Garbage on the Green in 2007. Garbage on the Green is an annual waste audit and educational initiative aimed at teaching students, faculty and staff about how to reduce refuse through recycling and other green behaviors, Moore said. Garbage on the Green provides an educational component that encourages long-term environmental consciousness.
Since the beginning of the fiscal year, UNF has collected 257,186 pounds of recyclable material, including batteries, metal, tires, bottles, cans and papers, according to Moore. This effort has diverted 26.5 percent of the total waste collected from reaching a landfill. These steps, taken by students, faculty and staff campus wide, are establishing long-term environmentally conscious behaviors and making strides toward increasing sustainability.
The Osprey Villages won the 2011 inter-dormitory competition and is currently in the lead again this year. As of Feb. 21, the Villages has collected 118.5 pounds of material, the Osprey Landing has collected 97 pounds, the Osprey Cove has collected 82 pounds, the Osprey Crossings has collected 42 pounds and the Osprey Hall has collected 13.5 pounds.
Moore, supervisor for the group of student coordinators and volunteers of Recyclemania UNF, works to educate students about recycling and establish long-term, environmentally conscious behaviors.
Moore said one of the main reasons UNF participates in Recyclemania is to change behaviors.
Behavior change is a multifaceted process, which involves educating students about recycling, convincing them of its importance and teaching them how and what to recycle.
The UNF Physical Facilities Refuse and Recycling Department rose to the challenge last year and pledged to collect recycled materials from every office on campus. Refuse and Recycling has delivered recycling receptacles to the offices and makes a weekly recycling run to collect the waste, Moore said.
UNF adopted the final waste reduction initiative last year, when the Environmental Center began developing a recycling program within each of the dormitory houses. Currently, every residence hall, except for the Osprey Fountains, is participating in a friendly competition, hosted by the Environmental Center, to see which house can collect the most recycling, Moore said.
Recycling bins have been delivered to each participating dorm house and will be used to collect refuse for the Recyclemania competition. The total number of pounds of recycled material will be divided by the number of students living in each dorm.
The dorm house that collects the most recycled material per capita will win a pizza party and a showing of “No Impact Man,” a 2009 documentary about a Manhattan family that tries to live a year in the city making no net environmental impact.
UNF has made a commitment to recycling. UNF President John Delaney signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment Oct. 26, 2010, committing UNF to participate in Recyclemania every year.
Abdub Jirmo, a UNF international relations junior and student coordinator who oversees Recyclemania volunteers, uses the competition as a way to ingrain green thinking into students’ mindsets.
“It’s just to engage the student body living on campus, to give awareness on the importance of recycling, planting the ideas,” Jirmo said.
By presenting the topic of sustainability in the form of a competition, Jirmo hopes Recyclemania will foster environmentally friendly lifestyle changes.
Forrest Taylor, a UNF business management sophomore and student coordinator for Recyclemania, started volunteering after one of his professors offered his class extra credit. As a student coordinator, Taylor oversees volunteers as they pick up recycling from each of the dorm houses.
“It’s pretty cool, but some people are lazy, and they throw their garbage in with the recycling,” Taylor said.
Other students don’t know what to recycle, and they throw away items that UNF does not recycle, such as pizza boxes, Taylor said.
Taylor appreciates the need for increased sustainability efforts.
“We’re doing this for our great-great-great grandchildren,” Taylor said.
Email Arielle Pompilius at [email protected]