In the past few years at Emerson College, trays were banished from the dining hall and bottled water was outlawed at eateries on campus, all in an effort to reduce the school’s energy footprint. This year, the message from the college’s most environmentally conscious organizations is clear: Recycle more.
Kaela Holmes, a junior journalism major and co-president of Earth Emerson, said that Recyclemania, an annual competition with participation from colleges in the U.S. and Canada, is coming to campus Feb. 4 through the end of March.
The event ranks schools based on a point system in categories like paper, cardboard, electronics, food waste, and cans/bottles, on a per capita basis.
Holmes said that the point of the event is to raise awareness about recycling, including specifics about where to recycle and what types of things are recycleable.
“I think our student body would be more than willing to recycle, but so many of them don’t know how to,” she said, pointing out the seemingly confusing piles of recycling, trash, and compost in the dining hall.
According to Holmes, Emerson participated in the initiative for the first time last year to try and improve the college’s sustainability, but faced difficulties in getting the project started.
Recyclemania’s official website shows that Emerson College came in 229 out of 275 total schools last spring. Holmes said the reason for the low ranking was because they made the assumption that students already knew how to recycle properly. As it turned out, many materials weren’t recycled that could have been. Holmes also cited the lack of publicity about the event as another explanation.
“We didn’t quite advertise it enough and we didn’t get the results we wanted,” Holmes said
This year, Holmes said the organization didn’t know if they were up for the challenge again, but had a change of heart once people showed more interest.
“Erin [Moriarty, the other co-president of Earth Emerson] and I weren’t even sure if we wanted to do it again this year,” Holmes said. “But quite a few staff members and administrators came forward to discuss it with us.”
Among the faculty that got involved with Recyclemania this time around is Jon Honea, a scientist-in-residence who teaches an Energy and Sustainability course this semester. Honea is also on the Sustainability Committee, which he said is a mixture of students, professors, and administration working toward reducing the college’s material and energy footprint.
Honea said that last year, Recyclemania was solely the work of Earth Emerson and its advisor Jonathan Satriale.
“Their main objective was just to get a foot in the door and then expand our participation in future years,” Honea said. “And that’s exactly what’s happened.”
According to Honea, now Earth Emerson is working with the Sustainability Committee, Emerson Peace and Social Justice, the Office of Creative Services, and the Office of Service Learning and Community Action to improve the results of this year’s Recyclemania.
Dylan Manderlink, a junior IDIP major and president of Emerson Peace and Social Justice, said that a goal for Recyclemania this year was not only to improve on last year, but to help give Emerson a positive reputation when it comes to clean energy.
Manderlink said if Emerson won or ranked high this year, we would be known as a college that was serious about sustainability.
“I think it would be a great representation of students’ involvement and passion for being environmentally and socially conscious,” Manderlink said.
In terms of advertising for the event, Manderlink that publicity could raise a possible issue.
“Most events on campus get attention by posting fliers,” she said. “However, we can’t promote being environmentally conscious on fliers while doing so is not actually environmentally conscious. Most of our advertising has to be digital.”
However, Honea said that some of the methods they are using to engage the campus this time include possible competitions between dorms or during a basketball game.
“At least one of the basketball games, is going to have a competition,” Honea said, “Something like ‘Who can throw the most recyclable cans through the hoop’ sort of thing, and the winner will get a prize.”
Additionally, Manderlink said both student organizations will be setting up a table outside of the dining hall.
“This will give an opportunity for students to reach out to us if they have any questions and also follow up with any information regarding how they can contribute,” Manderlink said.
Honea said he hopes that spreading information about sustainability will encourage students to get involved. Some facts could get the Emerson community to care more, like the cost of getting rid of garbage, he said.
“[Waste is] either going in the recycling bin or the trash bin, but trash is more expensive,” Honea said. “It doesn’t cost as much to get rid of recycling, so your tuition is paying for all that extra cost of not recycling.”
Honea said he is excited about the school’s future in sustainability, and that this year’s Recyclemania is just the first step.
“Next year we’ll do even more,” he said. “Reducing our material and energy footprint, however, is about more than recycling. We need to think about turning off our computers, unplugging things. We have all sorts of impacts on our environment that we aren’t aware of.”