GV sets high standards for recycling, sustainability


GVL / Meghan Landgren

Amy McNeel, Associate Editor

The average human produces over four pounds of garbage per day, according to Grand Valley State University’s Office of Sustainability Practices. But with sustainability being one of GVSU’s core values, there is a campus-wide emphasis on keeping the university, the community and the Earth clean.

One of the many ways GVSU practices sustainability is through an emphasis on recycling, composting and diverting waste from the landfill.

“Last fiscal year, so July 2018 to June 2019, we recycled 1.1 million pounds of items,” said GVSU Operations Supervisor Janet Aubil.

These high numbers are reached through a campus-wide effort, which starts in the Transitions program for GVSU freshmen and transfer students.

“We just try to promote (recycling) as much as possible,” Aubil said. “We start the freshmen out in their Transitions classes and we go through recycling programs on campus and how they can help us recycle.”

Along with education through Transitions, GVSU hosts Zero Waste Football Games and Recyclemania to build awareness on sustainability practices. Recyclemania is a nation-wide competition that spans the length of eight weeks each spring.

“Last year’s Recyclemania, which I’m hoping to beat… We came in second among the Michigan schools for diverting items from the trash, from the landfill,” Aubil said. “Basically, we were very conscious about making sure we recycled or composted. We came in second between all the Michigan schools, which was good. In composting we were fifth, so we need to do a little bit better in our compost area.”

Lakers can help GVSU’s endeavors in sustainability by being more aware and taking more time to understand what is and isn’t recyclable.

“I understand people are in a rush and on a schedule, and they don’t take the time to look at what they are throwing away and they just toss it in whatever bin is closest to them,” Aubil said. “We are getting people who are throwing what they think are recyclable items into the bins, and they are not, and it’s creating a problem down at the Kent County Recycling Center. We are trying to figure a way out to monitor this as best we can.”

Aubil said a majority of misplaced trash is found in GVSU’s busier buildings or food service buildings. However, a majority of items provided in food service buildings around campus are compostable, including utensils, bowls and cups. A more in-depth list of recyclable and compostable items can be found at the Office of Sustainability Practices’ website.

Although GVSU is a sustainability leader in higher education, Aubil said it’s an ongoing process with a long way to go.

“I would love to be a zero waste campus someday,” Aubil said. “It’s going to take a lot of work, but that would be the ultimate goal. Another goal would be to make it more of a normal lifestyle — not a chore to recycle, but just everybody would automatically recycle.”