The Lehigh Eco-Reps hope to educate students and motivate them to recycle more than ever before during their third year participating in RecycleMania, which will be held from Feb. 1 to March 28.
Since 2001, colleges across the country have been participating in the RecycleMania competition, which encourages colleges to promote waste reduction activities. The program was brought to Lehigh in 2013 by the Eco-Reps, a peer-to-peer education program designed to promote sustainable living on campus.
“The competition is just like a fun way to draw attention to recycling, to promote recycling on campus, create some competition on campus and between schools and then to hopefully increase our recycling rates and make people more aware of recycling,” said Katie Klaniecki, Lehigh’s Sustainability Program Coordinator.
Last year, 461 colleges and universities participated in the RecycleMania competition.
“A lot of the big-name schools, like all the Ivies, participate and it’s really good for an elite school like Lehigh to really get involved and put our name on the list of participants,” said Eco-Reps coordinator Matt Moschella, ’15.
Lehigh collected 137,670 pounds of recycling during last year’s RecycleMania. This year, the Eco-Reps hope to surpass that amount.
“We have goals to minimize the amount of waste generated on campus, increase the amount that’s going to recycling and then also to make students, staff and faculty more aware of the waste they generate and then how to properly dispose of it,” said Klaniecki, citing both metric and awareness goals for this year’s competition.
Of the RecycleMania’s nine categories, the two which the Eco-Reps are focusing on are raising the school’s total recycling rate and ranking higher in the “Per Capita” category, measured in pounds per student.
Last year, Lehigh collected nearly 17 pounds of recycling per student. The main goal this year is to increase the total tonnage of recycling generated during the competition.
Kristiana Barr, ’16, an Eco-Reps coordinator, said that programs like RecycleMania are a good way to make students more aware and educated about recycling on campus.
The Eco-Reps hosted a RecycleMania Green Game at the Lehigh vs. Army basketball game on Feb. 4 in order to advertise the competition.
“We set up a table right at the entrance to Stabler…interacting with everybody as they came into the stadium and making them aware,” Moschella said.
In addition to promoting the competition, the Eco-Reps tried to increase the recycle rate for the game and decrease the amount of waste generated. They collected 459 pounds of total waste, over a third of which was recycled.
The Eco-Reps also often use social media as a way to engage the Lehigh community in the competition.
During the “Caught Green Handed” campaign, which will be held from Feb. 9 to Feb. 13, the Eco-Reps and Sustainability staff will go around campus photographing students recycling and will post those photos to Facebook.
“We’ll be identifying people caught recycling or doing waste-friendly behaviors like drinking out of a reusable coffee mug, having a reusable water bottle,” Klaniecki said.
Students will also be able to take their own photos and upload them to the hashtag #lehighrecycles.
“That’s one of our more successful campaigns because students will see that their friends or people that they recognize are recycling,” said Eco-Reps coordinator Tori Yu, ’16.
The Eco-Reps will also be hosting a “Trashion Show” on March 18 at 7 p.m. at STEPS.
“Students are able to design their own fashionable outfits, made out of things that would otherwise be trash,” Yu said. “People design their own cool costumes or outfits and often bring their friends.”
In addition to events organized by the Eco-Reps, there various ways students can adopt sustainable behaviors and become aware of what is and isn’t recyclable.
Yu mentioned a common misconception that disposable coffee cups and food containers are recyclable. Moschella also added that plastic film, such as wrappers and plastic bags, can’t go in the recycling bins — they must go in specified plastic film bins around campus.
“Using a reusable coffee mug, like when (students) get coffee from Saxby’s or Johnny’s or on campus, they all will serve you coffee at a discount if you bring your own mug,” Klaniecki said.
She added that there is also a reusable dish-ware program on campus that allows groups hosting events to check out free reusable plates, bowls, cups and utensils from the dining halls in order to reduce waste.
Barr thinks that participating in RecycleMania is a good opportunity to educate students about adopting more sustainable behaviors.
“You don’t even have to be an Eco Rep to promote sustainable behavior amongst your peers,” she said.