Even in the middle of winter, Lehigh students are seeing green as RecycleMania, a competition between colleges that promotes greener campuses, will take place on campus from Feb. 5 to April 1.
The universities participating in the competition are scored in categories that include how much is recycled per capita, the best recycling rate as a percentage of total waste and least amount of trash generated.
Clubs such as Eco-Reps, Lehigh After Dark, and Engineers without Borders among others will sponsor events to help Lehigh reach its overall goal of becoming a greener campus. Events will include: the Trashion Show, in which participants create outfits entirely out of recycled materials, the Used Athletic Shoe Collection and the Plastic Bag Swap.
In addition to these events, students are encouraged to bring their reusable mugs to any of Lehigh’s dining locations for a discount on coffee. The program offers students a brewed coffee of any size for $.99 when they bring their mug to any of the participating locations.
Emily Ryan, ’18, and a team of classmates researched last year’s reusable mug initiative for her Politics of the Environment class. She researched student awareness of the benefits of using a reusable mug during RecycleMania and determined the impact of the program. Together with her group members, Ryan held an event during the last week of the fall semester and talked to students about the discount options and gave out free reusable mugs.
“83.87 percent of students who responded did not know about this discount option,” Ryan said, “and 70.97 percent of students who responded are highly likely or somewhat likely to use this discount option.”
Ryan said the goal of her research was to discuss paper cup and plastic waste and increase awareness for the benefits of reusable mugs and water bottles, which will reduce waste overall.
For Katharine Targett, the sustainability program manager, the overall goal of RecycleMania is to encourage the faculty and students to reduce waste and promote a greener lifestyle.
Targett said that the goals of RecycleMania directly align with the goals of the sustainability plan for 2020, which include waste reduction and increased recycling. She said the office is looking forward to a culture shift on campus and the opportunity to make people aware of ways they can be more sustainable.
Lehigh’s sustainability plan, adopted last May, is a long-term plan to become more environmentally sustainable. Lehigh hopes to reduce their waste consumption by 10 percent and increase their recycling by 10 percent as compared to the 2012 data of waste and recycling.
For Andrew Goldman, ’19, the activism chair for Green Action, sustainability hasn’t gained enough interest on college campuses.
“When it comes to sustainability, there is not as much conversation as there needs to be,” Goldman said. “In order to find solutions and facilitate solutions that we already found, you need to facilitate conversations and talk to as many people as you can.”
Goldman said green initiatives are important and incentivizing things like discounts are the way to be doing it. He said students can increase their own environmental awareness by doing small actions such as bringing their own reusable bag while shopping, utilizing the refillable water bottle stations instead of plastic bottles and sorting out proper trash and recyclables when throwing out waste.
Lehigh has been participating in RecycleMania for five years and has offered the reusable mug promotion every year, and was most recently ranked 163 out of the 207 schools competing in the event. Targett said she hopes this year will see increased involvement and participation.