It’s the Little Things that Count
With Earth Day coming up on April 22, it seems like an appropriate time to think about our own personal environmental impact and how we can improve some of these issues on campus.
In one of my classes this semester, we are working on a project to create change in an area that we care about, or a problem or issue that needs addressing. My group is focusing our efforts on recycling and the environment, and as part of this project we wanted to see how we could improve the existing recycling initiatives on campus.
According to the United States 2008 Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) fact sheet, Americans generated some 250 million tons of trash but only recycled or composted 83 million tons of it, a 33.3 percent recycling rate. The amount of recycling has increased in the past few years, but so has the amount of waste: between 1980 and 2008 the amount of waste per day went from 3.66 pounds to 4.50 pounds per person.
It’s a problem that could be fixed with relative ease if more careful steps were taken to recycle. The fact sheet reports that 55 to 65 percent of the total MSW generation is residential, which means that households are creating the majority of the waste that is thrown out instead of being recycled or reused.
This past September, the townhouses installed Tomra recycling machines to encourage students to recycle. The bribe was that, in exchange for recycling cans and water bottles, students would receive receipts to cash in for use on their StagCard.
The issue, however, is that the bins don’t often work—the bins can only hold a certain number of bottles, and when they are full and waiting to be emptied, students cannot recycle.
Granted, there are big blue recycling bins right outside the laundry room (where the Tomra bins are located), but students are lazy. I know this from personal experience. And I would much prefer to have a small blue recycling bin on my porch, like the townhouses had last year. While I understand that this might not be totally cost-effective, given that drunken students steal the bins and, if the bins are empty, wind tends to blow them halfway across the townhouse block, they’re more efficient.
But regardless of whether the university is willing to shell out a few extra dollars, there are still easy ways to make changes on campus, and all it takes is a simple phone call.
We found that with just a few e-mails (and a phone call or two), we could have an impact on recycling in some of the academic buildings. We were told that recycling bins for paper could be installed in the first floor of Canisius, as well as small recycling bins in all of the rooms in the School of Nursing.
The upcoming Earth Day provides us with another opportunity to inform students about our environmental impact and how simple it is to make a positive change. In order to continue with our goals of creating awareness and in celebration of Earth Day itself, my group will be setting up a table in the BCC. We plan to encourage students to recycle and provide them with more information about Earth Day, recycling and the environment. Because every little thing we can do counts.