The University of Tulsa is six weeks into Recyclemania, an eight-week recycling competition, involving colleges from around the country.
In Recyclemania, schools are tasked with weighing their recycled and composted waste each week for eight weeks. The results from different schools are compared in various categories, including pounds of recycling per person, total weight of recyclables, and most improved school.
Jason Grunin, President of the Sustainability Committee, thinks that the program works because it takes advantage of existing rivalries with other schools. “Students want to be competitive,” he said. “[Recyclemania] was formed to allow colleges and universities to compete against each other in terms of recycling.” He also pointed out that the competition took place during March Madness, when many students are already feeling competitive.
The competition has been running in some form since 2001, and the University of Tulsa has been participating since 2006.
TU’s Sustainability Committee has been doing outreach to students over the course of Recyclemania. “We try to do something each week, something focused on recycling that we don’t do throughout the rest of the year, just to get people to be a part of it,” said Bobi Deere, the Graduate Assistant for Sustainability on the Sustainability Committee.
Among other things, the Committee has set up tables in Allen Chapman to allow students to pledge to recycle more, gave out information about their Terracycling program, and set up an e-waste and medication disposal event.
As of week six, in terms of recycling per person, TU is currently in the 168th place, out of 257 schools. It most recently reported 5.04 pounds of recycling per person, well above the 0.69 pounds per person from the first week of the competition.
Despite TU being in the middle of the pack in terms of ranking, it’s still significantly below the top universities in terms of recycling per capita. The top school, Loyola Marymount University, reports 48.995 pounds of recycling per person, and the median amount for week six is 6.942 pounds per person. TU would need to produce over 10,000 pounds of recycling to hit this median.
Grunin thinks that TU’s relatively low performance is largely because students aren’t getting involved in sustainability efforts. “If you look at other schools, you have student groups that really want to take over and do videos and do class challenges.” he said. ”We frankly haven’t had the student interest.”
Deere sees that lack of involvement impacting other sustainability efforts. “[The Terracyling program] is not widely known, even though we put out the information as much as we can,” she said.
“If the students don’t want it, it’s not going to happen,” said Grunin. “The student voice is the most powerful voice.”
Information on Recyclemania, as well as TU’s ranking, can be found at http://recyclemaniacs.org.