Emerson College’s growing green community is increasing eco-friendly advocacy. Piano Row features the third floor Living Green learning community, and the dining hall has banished trays to reduce dishwater.
Now, Earth Emerson — the college’s largest group of eco-activists — is encouraging students to recycle more by participating for the first time in “Recyclemania,” a nationwide contest.
The eight-week competition requires students to record the amounts of recycling and trash collected on campus, which is ranked in various categories on a per capita basis. The numbers are compared to hundreds of peer institutions across the United States and Canada.
Erin Moriarty, the co-president of Earth Emerson, said she felt that participating in this competition was a good introduction to educating students to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
“I don’t really think the recycling system here is too well known or widely used,” said the junior marketing communication major. “There aren’t a lot of classrooms that have little blue bins in them, and people are unsure of what [trash] goes where.”
Besides tracking trash and waste, Recyclemania rallies campuses to do more for the environment. Moriarty explained that there will be information tables and events, such as a craft-making program using recyclable materials.
Earth Emerson is also encouraging other student organizations to get involved and is backed up by President Pelton’s Sustainability Committee and the Living Green Learning Community.
Emma-Jean Weinstein, resident assistant for the Living Green floor in Piano Row and former Beacon contributor, explained that while the floor isn’t entirely involved with Recyclemania, they want to spread the same message.
“I think it’s crucial to educate people about the importance of living green in their everyday lives,” said the junior visual and media arts major. “We have to do more than say ‘recycle.’ We must illustrate exactly why those actions make an impact, otherwise it’s wasted advice.”
Emerson has already made strides toward becoming a greener campus. According to Moriarty, the campus is already under the president’s climate commitment, an agreement where the campus must continue to meet certain green standards. She also explained that Emerson’s newer buildings are certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) agency.
In comparison to other schools, Emerson is stacking up in the recycling competition. Recyclemania’s website lists Emerson’s current greenhouse gas reductions as 10 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of two vehicles’ annual emissions. Emerson was at 14.83 metric tons before Recyclemania started.
Heading into the second week, Emerson’s current recycling rate is 19.51 percent, with the lowest rate held by St. John’s University in New York at 3.88 percent.
Jonathan Satriale, the advisor for Earth Emerson, said he believes Emerson is a strong contender for recycling and greener policies. He said he felt that participating in Recyclemania was only going to reinforce the fact that students and faculty are doing a good job.
“I don’t think Emerson has any problems with recycling or waste management,” said Satriale, who is also a member of the sustainability committee. “[We’ll probably find that we’re doing well] because we are a compact campus which gives us many advantages.”
Satriale also explained how the campus’s location reduces Emerson’s carbon footprint.
“We don’t have shuttle buses or cars, most people commute, they use public transportation, and to get to one end of campus to the other you just walk,” he said.
But while substantive efforts have been made, some students are not happy with the so-called “green initiatives.” The plastic-bottle reduction program — an effort to reduce the amount of plastic on campus by eliminating the sale of water bottles — in particular, raised concerns.
Matt Durham, a student member of the sustainability committee and a Beacon columnist, said he made an effort to get the bottle movement started. He said he wants people to voice their concerns, so problems can be turned into solutions.
“Through hearsay, I’ve heard people complaining about the lack of bottled water in the Max and the C-Store,” said the senior writing, literature, and publishing major. “Those are issues we are trying to address so that people will have access to resources across campus. Raising our awareness needs to be a big part to address these concerns.”
According to Erinn Pascal, a sophomore writing, literature, and publishing major, reducing plastic bottles in the Max has been difficult. She said in supporting the green initiative, she suggested that dining facilities install individual water tabs on the fountain machines, but has yet to see a change.
“I’m very embittered by this ordeal,” said Pascal. “For the most part, I think Emerson is doing exactly what it should be, and that’s being green. However, not selling water bottles and [not compensating for the change] is a little too far.”
Moriarty said most frustration comes from lack of education and convenience rather than the Recyclemania or plastic bottle programs.
“I don’t know anyone who is specifically against recycling and whatnot, but if it’s made easier then there will be less complaints,” she said. “It’s just the beginning of this process, and things should be better.”
Satriale stressed that the point of the “competition” is not to win but to learn. He said the goal is for students to see the numbers as a starting point for future endeavors.
“It’s not anything hardcore, and it really is just to ‘unearth’ the data about how well and how much we recycle,” said Satriale. “It’s not about winning or prizes but rather knowing how well you recycle and stack up to other schools, so if you want to make changes or improvements, you’ve got some kind of baseline to compare it to.”
Moriarty said she felt Recyclemania is a “nice introduction” to motivate individuals to exercise greener activities.
“We need to be conscientious, care, and think about the greater good,” said Moriarty. “We wouldn’t be here without a healthy, happy planet. We have to live more carefully.”