by Sarah Elsesser and Joanna Tavares
From the hospital to the dining facilities, different departments across Stony Brook University have started their RecycleMania endeavors.
The kickoff to the competition was held on Feb. 1, 2015, and continues until March 28, 2015.
RecycleMania is an international competition where different colleges and universities compete against each other to see who can recycle the most in different categories. At the end of the eight weeks, the RecycleMania board, which is comprised of sustainability managers from different participating universities, decides the category winners and list the overall results.
Last year alone, the 461 colleges and universities involved collectively recycled and composted 89 million pounds of waste. According to the RecycleMania website, this prevented the release of 126,597 metric tons of CO2E into the atmosphere.
“As a result of participating in RecycleMania, Stony Brook University has brought positive attention to the importance of recycling and has mitigated impact on the natural environment,” James O’Connor, director of Sustainability and Transportation Operations, said.
To achieve the broader goal of a greener university, several departments are coming together to educate the campus community in their own ways.
One of the departments involved is the Office of Sustainability, which leads efforts in overall recycling opportunities around campus. Its ongoing goal is to curb e-waste, which is anything electronic—computers, batteries, phones, etc.—in order to defend their two-time title as the biggest e-waste recycler in New York State.
“Our goal for the 2015 RecycleMania is to recycle the highest quality of e-waste in the nation, finish first in the Gorilla category in New York State, and improve upon our waste minimization figures since 2014,” O’Connor said.
The “Gorilla” category ranks colleges and universities based on the amount of recycled bottles, cans, cardboard and papers. Last year Stony Brook recycled 119,277 pounds in the category.
These goals for the department may not be new, but it hopes to achieve them through innovative, paperless mediums.
”Our Office of Sustainability and Department of Recycling and Resource Management have been focused on increasing promotions of the event using electronic (non-paper) mediums and continuous communications with university offices and student groups,” O’Connor said.
Besides just promoting RecycleMania through electronic means, the Office of Sustainability has also scheduled “Sustainability Outreach Days,” where there will be events that promote sustainability efforts like RecycleMania. The next two outreach dates are March 9 and March 23.
“The competition serves as a good barometer of where we stand with recycling,” Gregory Monaco, sustainability coordinator, said. “We have done well in the past few years. Now we are competing against ourselves. We want to [be] better. We want to improve ourselves every year.”
Like the Office of Sustainability, the Department of Recycling & Resource Management is looking to spread awareness and create ways to promote the 4 “Rs”: reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink.
“What we’re really trying to get people to do is use reusable items like bags, bottles, silverware and reusable cups,” Henry Mooney, student outreach coordinator for the Department of Recycling & Resource Management, said. “But for those who are not using reusable stuff often, were trying to get people to put things in the right place, like bottles, mixed paper, and especially electronic waste.”
The department is taking a grassroots effort to use student outreach coordinators to highlight RecycleMania through presentations at hall council meetings and events, like the kickoff to the competition. Part of being a student outreach coordinator is to educate and promote recycling.
“I send emails, go to hall councils to give presentations and other forms of public speaking,” Mooney said. “In fact, last week we just recorded some PSAs with the school’s radio station, and they’ve been playing them, and we got an email from a student asking more about it.”
The dining facilities, through the Faculty Student Association, are also taking strides towards a more green community. In the past, the FSA has worked closely with the local farmers to reduce the university’s carbon footprint and continues to do so this year.
“Campus Dining supports the preservation of the American family farm, reducing the carbon footprint of our supply chain, and giving back to local communities,” Carly Shephard, Campus Dining’s marketing manager, said. “Food that is grown closer to campus has fewer transportation emissions associated with it, is fresher and supports local farmers.”
In addition, FSA takes waste from campus dining and uses a composter in Roth Quad to turn it into mulch. The university then reuses the mulch to plant the flowers that are grown in the on-campus greenhouse.
“The benefit of [a composting vessel] is that it reduces the amount of material sent to landfills, thereby reducing the use of fossil fuels, and the carbon footprint of the campus,” Angela Agnello, director of marketing and communications for FSA, said. “So, the impact that the University community’s food waste would have on global warming is reduced as well.”
Even the Stony Brook University Hospital is involved. The hospital takes the competition a step further to compete amongst its own departments.
“Goals for RecycleMania include motivating staff to increase recycling efforts and reduce waste generation, as well as decreasing the university and hospital’s carbon footprint to positively impact the environment,” Carol Gomes, chief operating officer, said on the hospital’s CEO blog.
There is a consensus throughout the university that the main goal is not to win a competition, but to rather educate the community to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
“We feel positive action is the best catalyst for change,” Constantine Bournias, public relations officer of the Stony Brook Environmental Club, said. “Change begins on the individual level, and everyone can make a difference.”