A spotlight is focused on campus recycling and composting through March 27 as Dartmouth participates in the intercollegiate contest called RecycleMania. More than 550 colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada, and Qatar are competing this year to see who can recycle the most.
“Our goal is simple,” says Marissa Knodel ’09, the sustainability program specialist at Dartmouth. “We want to reduce waste on our campus by 40 percent, and we want our RecycleMania stats to improve.” Dartmouth currently diverts about 30 percent of its trash from the landfill by recycling glass, mixed paper, aluminum cans, cardboard, plastic, food waste (compost), and universal waste (items like light bulbs and batteries).
Pictured are (l-r) Gary Hall of FO&M, Ting Kang of Thayer School, Marissa Knodel ’09, Lin Bo ’13, Lynn Coffran of FO&M, and Stephanie Gardner ’10 (photo illustration by Joseph Mehling ’69 and Jermaine Johnson)
RecycleMania, administered by the National Recycling Coalition, helps boost recycling awareness. The competition includes the entire campus, including Dartmouth Medical School, the Thayer School of Engineering, and the Tuck School of Business. There are strict rules, including guidelines for weighing and measuring the recycled material, and awards are presented in a variety of categories. Dartmouth has participated in RecycleMania for at least seven years.
This year, Dartmouth has entered the competition division, which includes the “Per Capita Classic,” “Gorilla Prize,” and “Waste Minimization” categories. Dartmouth will also report weights for each recycled material: paper, corrugated cardboard, paper/aluminum, glass, and food service organics (compost).
Last year, Dartmouth placed 72nd out of 293 institutions in the “Per Capita” category, which is a measure of cumulative recyclables in pound per person. Knodel says that last year Dartmouth recycled 62.75 pounds per person during RecycleMania, and she hopes to do better this year.
Knodel, who works in the Sustainability Initiative Office at Dartmouth, is working closely with a variety of students and staff on this campus wide project. One key partner is Gary Hill, the director of custodial and recycling services with Dartmouth’s Department of Facilities Operations and Maintenance. Knodel and Hill want to get back to basics when it comes to recycling. “People are still throwing away items that can be recycled or composted,” says Hill. “We have to keep saying that our efforts are worthwhile. Don’t get lazy and throw things in the wrong bin.”
A trash audit of several locations on campus, conducted by the student Environmental Conservation Organization, in November 2009 found that approximately 70-75 percent of trash collected was either recyclable or compostable.
Lin Bo, a member of the Class of 2013 and the RecycleMania intern, says, “Hopefully, through the RecycleMania competition, the Dartmouth campus will develop a stronger culture of recycling so we continue to reduce waste even after the competition ends. Through the competition, I hope that people will learn what is recyclable and what is not. For example, pizza boxes are recyclable if they have food stains on them, but are not recyclable if they have actual food in them. Above all, I wish that people would understand that recycling is terribly, terribly important.”
Stephanie Gardner, a member of the Class of 2010 and the leader of the student group ECO (Environmental Conservation Organization), says, “I’m hoping that students become more connected to and understand their part within the material flows at Dartmouth. It’s really easy to just toss a bottle or can into a trash can and forget about it. We are hoping to encourage students to be responsible stewards of the resources we use everyday and take for granted.”
During this year’s RecycleMania, educational posters around campus, weekly waste minimization and recycling tips delivered via email, and a new RecycleMania Facebook page will help keep the Dartmouth community informed about how and where to recycle, and how Dartmouth is doing in the competition. Plans are also underway for an informal Trashion Show, where students create and display outfits made from trash, movie screenings, and a reusable water bottle campaign. A new Greek Recycling Initiative is also underway, with funding from the proceeds of the 2009 Sustainable Move-In Sale.
RecycleMania also contributes to Dartmouth’s institutional commitment to sustainability, recycling, and waste minimization. In September 2008, the institution pledged to reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30 percent by the year 2030.