Recyclemania

By Shasta Webb

It’s easy to forget to recycle. Sometimes, if a recycling bin isn’t within short walking distance, we just toss paper or plastic bottles into the regular trash. But in this day and age of increased environmental pollution, recycling is more important than ever. Though generally thought of as a “green” campus, Macalester could better its recycling rates and minimize regular waste. This is where Cara Weggler ’10 and Annie Harold ’12 come in. Since 2001, universities and colleges across the country have participated in recycling competitions with support from Recyclemania, and organization devoted to minimizing waste and upping recycling on college campuses. Last year Recyclemania was brought to Macalester with help from Harold, the campus’ Recycling Communication Coordinator, who has continued the competition this year. Her job, though “vague” in description, involves improving recycling on the Mac campus, as well as promoting sustainability. Recyclemania is just one of the many outlets she has used in her job.

Last year Recyclemania was relatively unknown across the Macalester campus. In an attempt to save paper, Harold decided not to use posters to advertise, which made it difficult to spread word about the competition. In 2009, Macalester placed high in the competition, but Harold and Weggler hope to improve Mac’s national ranking. This year, organizers of Recyclemania have again chosen to only advertise electronically via the Daily Piper. Though more people are aware of the competition this semester, Harold hopes that awareness will increase in the coming years.

The competition, which began Wednesday, March 24, and continues through Sunday, March 28, focuses primarily on freshmen dorms. At the end of the competition period, the pounds of recycling and trash will be calculated and then divided among residents of the dorms. The “per capita” pounds of recycling will be ranked nationally. To see results, log on to recyclemania.org.

In an attempt to make Macalester more sustainable, Harold has her eyes set on more than short-term recycling competitions. She believes that though some students are certainly passionate about sustainability, a large portion of Mac students is not. In her opinion, there exists a large gap between Macalester students interested in environmental studies and those interested in social work. “You can’t divide the two,” Harold explained, hoping that in the coming years, more students will realize that the two fields are interlinked.

Harold explained that aggressive, “mean” tactics haven’t been working to increase sustainability, and that positive, friendly methods might work better. This attitude prompted her to begin the “caught green-handed” campaign, in which Harold randomly rewards people on campus when she sees them recycle correctly.

In Harold’s opinion, friendly competitions combined with and small-scale reward systems can contribute to a large-scale change in attitude toward sustainability. Weggler, who shares the same goals as Harold, has devoted much of her time to Recyclemania and other sustainability projects related to waste.

As an Environmental Studies major, Weggler interned with Eureka Recycling, and had brought back some of Eureka’s minimal waste knowledge. In order to move towards a more sustainable campus, Mac students need to first rethink, then reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Making real progress in the area of sustainability is a long-term and complicated project, but Harold and Weggler, and plenty of students before them have contributed to changing perspectives. Starting small with events such as Recyclemania will eventually have lasting impacts.