Talking trash brought big win to Baldwin Wallace University in the 11th annual national RecycleMania competition. After eight weeks of collecting empty pop cans, plastic water bottles, corrugated cardboard, glass and newspapers, BW took first place in Ohio in the Grand Champion Competition Division and placed 24th nationally, this past April.
This is the first year that Baldwin Wallace participated in the friendly recycling competition between college campuses across the nation, and according Robin Gagnow, Director of Residence Life and Student Conduct, the sustainability committee is ecstatic to have done so well.
“BW does a lot of wonderful things in the areas of sustainability,” Gagnow said. “We never thought of BW as on the forefront, but during this competition we realized we are doing the same things as other schools, plus we finished as one of the top schools in Ohio and in the top 25 of the country.”
Gagnow and sustainability interns, Samantha Husted and Sarah Kane '11, enlisted the help of Steve Crone, Rick Washington and Greg Paradis from Aramark Custodial Services, who helped tally the RecycleMania results. Weekly, the recyclables collected from residence halls and academic buildings across campus were weighed and tracked. These numbers were then compared against the data collected from rival campuses -- making the competition interesting.
By the end of RecycleMania, 91 million pounds of recyclable and organic materials were recovered from 630 colleges and universities, nationally.
BW’s sustainability team found getting the word out to campus about the College’s involvement in the contest as the biggest challenge to the event. To help promote RecycleMania, resident assistants designed bulletin boards in the residence halls, and Gagnow spoke to groups of students encouraging the development of good recycling habits. Campus-wide emails were also delivered. But what challenged the team most was getting more students to choose to place their items in the recycling containers rather than a garbage can.
“In order to get all of the students to recycle, we had to make recycling convenient,” Husted said. “We did this by putting out more recycling bins and by putting them in spots that were more accessible.”
Gagnow said they assembled 20 additional hexagonal recycling containers to distribute in different lounges around campus to encourage recycling.
“If the students had to go out of their way to recycle, fewer students would recycle,” Husted said. “But when the recycling containers were clearly marked and put in convenient spots, the students would recycle instead of throwing recyclables into the trash.”
A positive experience that Husted remembers from the contest involved a friend of hers at an intramural soccer game off campus.
“My friend had an empty water bottle and couldn’t find a recycle bin to throw it away,” Husted said. “She decided just take it back to campus and recycle it there.”
This action showed Husted that by putting all of this emphasis on recycling is making BW students care and be aware.
Next year, BW plans to open up the competition to the entire campus, including academic and non-academic buildings. Gagnow also would like to enter additional categories in RecycleMania and include dining services as well as weighing shredded paper. The sustainability team is hoping to inspire students to keep improving and to help BW move up the list nationally with incentives like prizes, parties and free food to reward them for their recycling efforts.
“Because this was BW’s first year in the competition, I was surprised that we won,” Husted said. “I didn’t think that we would have done that well. It showed me that BW is an environmentally conscious campus and I am very proud.”