For the fourth year in a row, Colorado College is participating in the Recyclemania Tournament, a national competition that measures the sustainability of the school’s waste disposal systems. The so-called pre-season, or collection of data for analysis, has been taking place over the last two weeks.
“Colorado College, like most college campuses, has a huge waste problem,” said Lily Biggar, the Office of Sustainability intern who is coordinating the event. “Students here love to brand themselves as environmentalists, but this competition actually tells us how we compare to other schools.”
Over the last few years of competition, Coloardo College’s results have certainly improved. In 2013, the college’s recycling rate was 38 percent, and last year the rate was close to 52 percent.
Last year, the college rated first for composting the most food service organics. However, Biggar thinks that the school can still improve. “The aim should really be to be a zero waste campus,” said Biggar.
Biggar, sophomore Sierra Melton, and the Eco-RA program have been essential in the organization and execution of this event. The Eco-RA program is a recently created program that is run through the Office of Sustainability. The program allows Resident Advisors (RAs) who are passionate about environmentalism to incorporate sustainability into residential life programs.
Additionally, Office of Sustainability intern Annabelle O’Neill has coordinated a “plastic-free week” as part of the Recyclemania campaign. Her idea involves the advertisement of existing policies that reward students for bringing their own dishware to on campus eateries.
At Colorado Coffee and Chas, students receive a discount for bringing their own mug, and at the Preserve, students earn a discount for bringing their own plate. Although the policy has always existed, there has been very little advertisement for the program in the last few years.
“Bon Appétit has been instrumental in helping us identify areas in which we can reduce dining waste, and we’ve got Sodexo to thank for measuring our waste during the competition,” said Biggar.
An important element of the campaign to do well in Recyclemania and increase waste diversion in general is the creation of new signage in Benji’s and Rastalls that instructs customers on how to properly dispose of their waste, which was often a point of confusion in the past.
“We are making a huge effort to enhance promotion this year and are hoping that waste posters we put up in Rastalls and Benji’s trash bins this fall will help students feel confident in what they can and cannot recycle and compost,” said Biggar.
If the college wins in any waste category, it will be publicized on the Recyclemania website and through a press release. Although Recyclemania is a competition, the real goal, according to the organization, is to: “inspire, empower, and mobilize colleges and universities to benchmark and improve efforts to reduce or eliminate waste.”
Recyclemania is sponsored by the Alcoa Foundation, the Coca-Cola Company, Rubbermaid, and CyclePoint, and works with Keep America Beautiful, U.S. EPA WasteWise, the College and University Recycling Coalition, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Food Recovery Network.