A Quest to Save the Planet
I often feel desperate. I feel desperate at how little is actually being done by way of climate action, sustainability and conservation. One area of frustration for me occurs at my school. There are recycle bins in every classroom, dorm room and hallway. But there is a common belief that the school does not actually recycle, primarily because trash and recycling are often collected together in the same pile. I decided to inquire at the appropriate office why this was the practice and came to find that the school attempts to recycle but most recycling bins are full of contaminated recycling content. People don’t know what items are actually recyclable or simply don’t care to.
I realized there was an opportunity to leverage my position as a resident assistant and help bring recycling into the consciousness of students. With a quick google session, I was able to put together a list of non-recyclable items, as well as the proper way to prep and sort recyclable waste into an infographic. I then checked to confirm that if I were to collect recycling appropriately, that the facilities department would recycle them. I was given assurance that the university does recycle if collected appropriately. I called the program “The Quest to Save the Planet” and sent out the infographic to my residents. It runs in 3-week increments and every week, I collect recycling from students. The individual or group with the highest count of recycling at the end of 3 weeks, gets a $50 gift card value of their choice. I hold on to the 3-week collection in clear plastic bags and share them in emails with residents to provide a visual of the amount of waste generated. Then they are taken by American Waste for Recycling. More importantly, I encourage residents to understand that even with the incentive to generate more recycling waste, they ought to make a conscious effort to reduce their waste in general.
Currently, participation averages about 40 individuals weekly and in a month, I have collected over 2000 items, e.g. bottles, glasses, cardboard. Fortunately, I see increasing participation every week and hope to inculcate the proper ways of recycling in students, which they can take with them after they leave school. More importantly, they are sharing that they are more aware of what items they are discarding and making a conscious effort to reuse. This for me is the ultimate goal; to get people to reuse and reduce the waste generated overall.
Franklin Ramsay is a resident assistant and college student.