GV tackles waste issues with RecyleMania

courtesy / recyclemania.org

courtesy / recyclemania.org

Rachel Matuszewski

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From Feb. 4 through March 30, Grand Valley State University will compete in RecycleMania, a nationwide competition challenging all colleges and universities to bring awareness to recycling. 

“Recycling (should be a) part of your life, it’s not just a one-time thing,” said Waste Management Leader of Campus Sustainability Janet Aubil. 

The competition is divided up into three different divisions: waste minimization, composting and recycling.

GVSU will compete against other schools including Harvard, Stanford, University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Ohio State University. Last year, GVSU took eighth place in the competition, recycling 4 million pounds of materials. 

Aubil said she hopes to improve this year, but the shift in student participation from year to year holds no promises. 

“It’s hard because I’m getting different students (and) almost reteaching everybody sometimes,” Aubil said. “But we try to go for better (than) the year before.”

Aubil credits part of her success to the Office of Sustainability, the Student Environment Coalition, food services and housing for reaching out to students. The collaboration makes the competition an all-hands-on-deck movement.

“The office of sustainability is a big help,” Aubil said. “They help me out with their grad students and they’re more connected with all these student groups than I am. I get it started, work with them, and they branch out and hope we can branch out into the whole campus. The food service people help us a lot with composting. All the housing and living centers get involved and try to get the word out to the kids. We try to get everyone else to help us in recycling.”

The Student Environment Coalition volunteers at all home zero-waste football games. After informing students and fans where to put their containers, trash, recyclables and compostable material is weighed in hopes that the environmental friendly options will outweigh the trash. 

As the accumulation of waste continues to affect wildlife and the oceans, Aubil says recycling has become a necessity.

There are many ways on campus students can get involved in the competition. Pay attention to the labels on trash bins to see what materials are recyclable and compostable. Items such as bowls and plastic silverware are compostable.

“I know people are busy and students are running from class to class and they just see a container and throw their item in the container, but if they take just two more seconds to see which container to throw it in, it would be a really big help,” Aubil said. 

Aubil plans to hand out her designed reusable grocery bags, but students can also do small things to help. Coffee in the Kirkhof Center will cost $1 when students bring their own cup. Refilling reusable water bottles at the drinking fountains will save on plastic bottle waste. 

“To use things like (reusable grocery bags) and to actually show that you’re using them, (like) when you take the bus to Meijer to get your groceries, you’re coming back on campus with these bags versus plastic bags,” Aubil said. “When you’re sitting at the dining table in the food service area and people get up to (put things) in the trash, speak up and say, ‘That’s compostable.’ Don’t be shy about it.” 

Aubil’s ultimate goal for GVSU would be to become so sustainable that there would be no need for a garbage truck on campus — only recycling. 

“We are a teaching facility and that’s just what we try to do with recycling,” Aubil said.