Junior John Bielak, head of the Off-Campus Recycling Initiative

Eric Coulter

Junior John Bielak, head of the Off-Campus Recycling Initiative

Molly Waite

For most Grand Valley State University students living off-campus, recycling is not as easy as separating plastic, paper, and glass into separate bins. A group of students enrolled in the environmental studies capstone course, Environmental Problem-Solving, found that the majority of living facilities around the GVSU campus do not have recycling programs and chose to focus on this environmental issue for their class project.

“Our goal is to get recycling programs started in some of the apartment complexes near campus,” said junior John Bielak, an occupational safety and health management major. “Currently, one-two of seven of the nearby complexes have recycling available to residents. Our best effort would be to start petition of the residents in those complexes, to get the word out and gain some public support, and then try to approach the property managers and let them know why we, as students, feel that it would be good for Grand Valley as a whole to have recycling programs in the off-campus complexes.”

Bielak is one of five students working on this project. Other group members are junior Timmy Luongo, a general business major; senior Emily Kuhlman, a hospitality and tourism management major; senior Zach Christian-Rotramel, a geography major; and Randi Conklin, who was unavailable for comment.

“Our initiative was started to spread the idea of recycling to students at Grand Valley who don’t have a convenient way of doing so,” said Christian-Rotramel. “We all feel it is important, as well as the university, to be sustainable and take care of the environment around us. Starting a project like this is just our small part in cleaning up our planet and making it better for future generations.”

Kuhlman added that environmentally friendly practices are expected of businesses in today’s society, and offering recycling to residents shows that apartment complex care about the planet and the well-being of those who live them.

The group will take petitions around to the residents of these complexes this week.

“We want to hit the ground running when we get back from Spring Break and really build some strong support,” Bielak said.

ENS 401 is team-taught by Kelly Parker, professor of philosophy, and Jodee Hunt, associate professor of Biology. Both Parker and Hunt are pleased with the group’s project and have high expectations.

“The idea of the project is to pick something new – a new public action that hadn’t previously existed,” Parker said. “When they came up with this idea, my first reaction was, ‘You mean they’re not recycling in the off-campus apartments?’ But I think this is a great project. There is a real need, and hopefully it will prove to be doable, working with the apartment management. We’d like to see a comprehensive program in the apartment complexes that is comparable to what we already have in place on campus.”

Parker added, so far, the residents of the off-campus apartments have given positive feedback to the idea.

As the initiative is just getting started, Luongo stressed the importance of establishing the recycling programs around GVSU.

“The amount of trash we create is constantly increasing, and our landfills are filling up,” Luongo said. “Reducing our waste through recycling can reduce pollution, habitat destruction and the amount of energy used to make products, thus reducing financial expenditure in the economy. With Grand Valley being the largest population hub in Allendale, we believe that recycling for all of the students living in the apartments surrounding campus could seriously reduce the strain on local waste management.

These programs will also enhance Grand Valley’s image as well as the individual apartment complexes. Recycling is an easy and important way to provide for a more sustainable future, and I feel that we have a duty to implement these programs.”

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