RecycleMania 2008, a nation-wide competition designed to entice college campuses to recycle more, kicked off this Monday at UR with an event at Danforth Dining Hall. Grassroots promoted the debut by sponsoring a raffle, passing out free stickers and testing diners’ knowledge with a quiz on sustainability.

This is the second year that the University will be participating in the competition, measuring the weight of recyclables weekly until April 5, when the contest ends.

Once more, Grassroots is at the forefront of this campaign, with the hope that it will raise awareness about sustainability.

Grassroots member and Take Five student Carl Adair stressed the importance of RecycleMania at UR.

“It is the most recent event in the past seven or eight years of students lobbying administrators with a passion about making this institution more sustainable,” he said.

There are essentially three steps that contribute to recycling. Students have the initial responsibility to actually put recyclable material in the proper bins. Building service workers must then ensure that all trash and recyclables are taken outside to the curb or the loading dock. From there, Waste Management, a company contracted by the University, properly disposes of everything.

Grassroots uses RecycleMania as a means to get more students to recognize the value of reducing waste and choosing to recycle. During RecycleMania 2007, Grassroots only measured recycled materials from residence halls. For 10 weeks, Grassroots members recorded the weight of recycled goods in the kitchens and then again at the curb or loading dock.

The overall trend showed that as the months went on, students did recycle more, with the exception of during spring break. However, this study also revealed a significant difference between the two measurements that were taken.

Adair emphasized that, despite this discrepancy, a specific party is not at fault.

“We do not want to perpetuate a misleading idea that Facilities does not recycle and thus students should not put any effort into it,” he said. “Rather, it shows both students and Facilities have a lot of room for improvement.”

Special Events Manager of Facilities Dave Butterbaugh commented that these next few months of RecycleMania are a significant time for Facilities.

“We want to know what we are putting out, and we now have weekly management meetings with our staff to educate them on how important this is,” he said.

Butterbaugh also noted that Facilities has taken new steps this year by investing in compactors and communicating with Waste Management.

“We’ve done some things behind the scenes to try and get good measurements. With the compactors, we can separate materials, compress it and take it to a weigh station to get a true measure,” he said. “Waste Management also gets a rough measurement from the front loaders, and they send us monthly reports.”

Grassroots Co-President and sophomore Dan Grenell also highlighted another difference: this year, recycled materials will be measured in dining halls, as well as residence halls.

Grenell commented on the goals for RecycleMania 2008.

“We obviously want to improve upon last year’s figures,” he said. “We also have the [University] Council [on Environmental Sustainability] in mind. We are pushing for all 25 of those goals.”

In November 2007, the University’s Sustainability Task Force, a group formed at the request of UR President Seligman, released a report that outlined 25 initiatives that would engender a more sustainable campus. These proposals are currently under the review of the University Council on Sustainability.

Adair recognized the significance of the report and commended Seligman for his decision to pursue the idea of a green university.

“It has the potential to be one of President Seligman’s most public statements,” he said. “The student body is ready to go there, but we need the institutional support and initiative to follow through on the vision.”

The Chair of Sustainability Task Force and Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance Ronald Paprocki noted that student campaigns for a sustainable campus played a role in the University’s decision to make the report a priority.

“Task Force members were well aware of the programs and were encouraged by activities such as RecycleMania,” Paprocki said. “This program helped underscore for us the benefits of having organized recycling programs on campus, but it also served as a visible example of student interest in sustainability, which was encouraging to us.”

Already, some initiatives are underway. Staff Development Coordinator of Facilities Judy Clay had been asked, in addition to her current obligations, to take on the responsibilities of the would-be UR Recycling Coordinator. Although this position has yet to be approved by the Board of Trustees, it was one such initiative listed in the report and also an express goal of Grassroots for RecycleMania 2007. Clay noted that while the position is not official or full-time, she excited to take on these new duties, citing how important sustainability is.

“This is no longer a flavor of the month,” she said. “People look to the University to set the stage and establish goals, and this [position] just impacts so much.”

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