Contest Results Reveal Rise in Recycling

April 21, 2011

The results are in. After an intense, two-month effort to promote recycling at Mary Baldwin University, the numbers show that the campus community made great improvement compared to last year’s waste-reduction undertaking.

Recyclemania — an eight-week competition among more than 600 colleges and universities — yielded a 62 percent jump in Mary Baldwin’s recycling rate from the same period last year. Students, staff, and faculty recycled and composted 14,567 pounds of waste during the 2011 competition compared with 8,990 pounds in 2010.

2010 trash sort

Aimee Sanford ’11, student coordinator for the Mary Baldwin Green Team, has been helping Physical Plant and the Spencer Center record the college’s recycling statistics and promote Recyclemania on campus for the past two years. She credits this year’s success on the addition of mixed-paper recycling in all residence halls and academic buildings, composting food waste from the dining hall, and an overall rise in consciousness about reducing waste on campus.

“Recycling is a part of social responsibility,” Sanford said. “By recycling, you are saying that you care about your impact on the space you and others inhabit. When you recycle, you decrease the necessity of harvesting new raw materials, which is cost and energy intensive and depletes the quality of the environment and our natural resources.”

Sanford also highlighted the monetary effect associated with reducing waste.

“Even if this does not translate to the average college student, recycling still saves Mary Baldwin money. The college pays by the pound for waste it contributes to landfills,” Sanford said. “If some of the waste is diverted toward recycling centers, not only does the college not pay the landfill, it gets money back for some materials. This is money that could go toward financial aid and better equipment for students.”

Steve Grande, Mary Baldwin’s director of civic engagement, warned that if people do not cut back on waste now, they will pay for it in the future. Some will be moved to go green from the standpoint of their pocketbooks, he said, while others will get involved when they see a positive impact on the environment.

“We are already poisoning the planet because of our demand for consumption,” Grande said. “There are many things that we use one time and then get rid of it.”

Recycling on campus doesn’t end with Recyclemania, though. The Green Team, along with other waste-reduction activists on campus, will continue to encourage the Mary Baldwin community recycle and to minimize their consumption as much as possible.

“I think the biggest thing that students can do is to recycle everything that they can while they are on campus,” Sanford said. “The hardest part of this is probably just learning where and what they can recycle.”

To help with that effort, the Green Team and the Spencer Center have created a page within the Mary Baldwin website that provides useful recycling information.