Recycle Mania at Chatham

Chatham University is again in the struggle for international recognition as a leader in campus waste reduction.  Recycle Mania is a friendly competition between educational institutions.  The goal is to promote waste reduction and encourage students to think about where the products they use every day are going.  For eight weeks, progress is measured by the Chatham University Office of Sustainability.  Those weekly checkpoints are compared against institutions, nationally and internationally, to determine weekly winners.

In some ways the university is at a disadvantage.  Students, faculty and staff are so diligent in recycling and composting at Chatham that the baseline is already high.  Statistics are measured against that starting baseline.  Schools that do not regularly recycle often see huge spikes during the competition–spikes which begin to wane in April.  Chatham’s spike is less pronounced, meaning that our efforts are consistently good, getting even better during the event.  Compost-ready cups and on-site recyclable collection contribute to Chatham’s edge.

“RecycleMania can have a direct impact on participating campuses. Well over half of campuses surveyed in any given year report a noticeable increase in recycling that is attributable to the school’s participation. This fact is supported by results which show the overall recycling rate (recycling as a percentage of waste stream) for all schools combined typically increases from the first half of the competition to the second (in 2011, the rate increased 1.42% from 24.37% to 27.79%)”

We cannot get comfortable, though.  Last year, a social media engagement campaign was included in the benchmark competition.  Chatham’s constant uploads were crashing the system.  Some colleges and universities were posting direct, if a little aggressive, challenges directly at Chatham’s campaign.  The result: Chatham winning the competition.  In total, with a 66% recycling rate, the Cougars made it into the top 15.  This year aims to improve that number.  Student participation is necessary to bring those numbers up.

The Chatham University Office of Sustainability director, Mary Whitney believes that last year’s success can be replicated,

“Chatham students have an opportunity to prove that last year’s RecycleMania win was no fluke!  Remember to compost your cups lids and straws from Cafe Rachel!

What Can You Do:

  • BYO:  Bring your own containers.  Water bottles, thermoses and coffee cups all make a difference in waste recording.  Yes Chatham’s dining services offer compost-ready cups.  In the ecologically responsible long run, however, reusable containers will better help the environment.  If you must use a disposable water bottle make sure that it is recyclable.  Which leads us to…
  • Break it Down:  All recyclable materials will be measured.  In this competition, literally every ounce makes a difference.  Batteries, glass, cardboard, plastic:  if it can be recycled it should be recycled.
  • Donate:  Chatham University’s Office of Sustainability is proud of its Greenfund initiative.  Students and organizations on campus can apply yearly for a Greenfund award–which encourages green practices and initiatives in the campus community.  Dining services allow students to round up their meal costs to the nearest dollar.  The extra cents go to the Greenfund.
  • Stop the Suck:  “Vampire” electronics are any electronics which continue to draw power.  Sometimes electronics in their “stand by” mode continue to draw power.  If you can turn them off, we suggest that you do.  Bonus points if you can take the time to unplug!

For more information on the competition, and to check the weekly scores, visit the Recyclemania website.  For more specific Chatham information, follow the Chatham University Office of Sustainability facebook page and check their twitter updates @ChathamSustain.



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