Reducing Society's Impact on the Earth Starts With You and Your Campus Community; KSU Students Hold Their Administration Accountable
By Gentell Esters, Kentucky State University Green Society
When trying to focus on studying, a social life, homework, and a plethora of other things, it can sometimes become hard for students to be consciously aware of how their actions impact their surroundings. Students sometimes don’t realize that the simplest thing, like buying reusable plastic plate rather than single-use paper plates, can immediately affect the world around them. Some of the things you as a student can do in your own life to increase environmental sustainability include turning the faucet off when you’re not using the water, unplugging electronics that are not in use, recycling, reporting leaky faucets, and washing full loads of clothes. The list literally goes on and on.
Recycling is an easy step you can take to reduce your environmental impact. Since the earth’s population is increasing exponentially, our waste is increasing in the same manner. According to the World Bank, countries generate 1.3 billion tons of waste each year and the United States of America is the leading trash generator at 624,700 metric tons per day. Our universities should be leaders in the recycling effort but not all institutions have efficient recycling programs, if they even have recycling programs. A challenge to campus recycling programs is that most people don’t know what is recyclable and what isn’t. Another challenge is that staff and custodians aren’t always aware of what to recycle and how they should go about putting recyclables in the appropriate receptacle.
One of the ways students can educate their campus about recycling is to host a recycling forum that presents the campus community with information about what is recyclable and the positive impact recycling has on our communities. Dumpster diving, which doesn’t always have to involve people literally “diving in the dumpster”, is a very hands-on approach to educating the campus. Physically taking trash out of a recycling bin and placing it in the trash can and vice versa can help people understand what is and is not appropriate to recycle. Hopefully, in the next few years all Kentucky higher education institutions will have the proper knowledge and resources to create and maintain a well-developed recycling program.
KSU Green Society's Recycling Campaign - By Ian Ries
So, two years ago, in 2014, KSU Green Society members approached the president of Kentucky State University to ask for a proper recycling program after noticing there weren't any consistent bins or any noticeable effort. Some offices made their own, but there wasn't really a system. He referred us to a College of Agriculture staff member who expressed the same concern and told us to make a plan, and he would get behind it. So we did some investigating and found out that facilities wasn't even taking what little recyclables we had to the proper dumpsters.
Over the next year and half, we got the school to pay for around 300 new recycling bins for all of campus, met with Republic Services to review the waste services contract, and met with facilities and housekeeping staff to get things moving. We made flyers and stickers and worked on educating the campus. Last summer, that president resigned. Through all of that the facilities leadership changed completely and we had to start over there. About that time our current interim president came aboard and we met with him and he has been very supportive. We also had a firm meeting with the new facilities manager, who is also the chief of police, who was, understandably, mostly oblivious but we started out firm and put pressure on him and so far it seems to be going okay. What we really need to work on now is general campus education.
A lot of our recycling campaign happened under our previous president, Dr. Raymond Burse, who basically said he didn’t have the time for organizing a recycling program but that he would support whatever the students put together. So KSU Green Society members, along with the staff member who is now our club advisor, arranged all the meetings and got the College of Agriculture to buy the bins, etc. We actually spent half a day, got up at 5:00 a.m. and placed every single bin around campus... in the rain. Haha. We did everything and the administration just let us run with it.
Facilities management is now taking care of recycling along with trash, but we continue to monitor their work. That's their job anyway. That was the most frustrating thing. Doing all of this when they are paid to do it.
The Young Kentuckian is a blog of the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition where youth share their work and ideas for Kentucky's bright future.
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