University of Calgary

Trash talk

Submitted by tdroden on Fri, 01/20/2012 - 11:16.

Trash talk

Project increased recycling in residence
By Anna Nowaczyk

Jason Coles and Kelsey Hamill helped residence students embrace recycling. (Photo by Riley Brandt)Jason Coles and Kelsey Hamill helped residence students embrace recycling. (Photo by Riley Brandt)

Dismayed by the quantity of recyclable goods, especially paper, being thrown in the garbage by students in residence, the then Residence Students’ Association representatives Jason Coles and Kelsey Hamill challenged their fellow roomies to change their ways.

Through a survey, they found that residents weren’t recycling because there was a general lack of knowledge about recycling and awareness of where the centralized recycling bins were located. Coles and Hamill partnered with the Residence Students Association and Residence Services to start a paper recycling pilot project in Kananaskis Hall.

The result was a profound impact on recycling habits and awareness among students.

“We created a friendly competition to see who could recycle the most. Students were really excited about the project and we saw an immediate increase in recycling,” says Hamill.

In fact, the project was so successful that the Residence Students’ Association funded bins for every room using the Alumni Trust Fund, and Residence Services donated 12 transfer bins and provided ongoing support from maintenance staff to empty the bins. Recycling bins are now located in every room unit with transfer bins available on each floor of dormitory-style residences—with hopes to see the program expand to also include transfer bins on each floor of apartment-style residences.

Although making recycling convenient was important, Coles and Hamill maintain that education and training of student leaders to disseminate information were key contributors to the success of their project.

“We’ve worked to create an environment where recycling is valued for students. We hope they’ll continue to recycle as they move on to new residences and teach their friends about the importance,” says Coles. “This is a big step in helping the university reach its goal to become a net zero waste campus.”

Both Coles and Hamill were recognized for their project at the Impact! Youth Conference for Sustainability Leadership, held in Guelph, Ont. in September of last year.

Last summer the University of Calgary proudly accepted a silver rating under the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). STARS is a new North American rating system for campus sustainability encompassing the areas of education and research, campus operations, and planning, administration and engagement. The university is one of 289 North American universities to date to achieve a STARS rating, and the first of the Canadian U15 to achieve a rating.

Last fall 130 students joined the Sustainability Street Team. Working with the Office of Sustainability, these students dedicate as many volunteer hours as they can to help implement campus-wide sustainability initiatives. Their efforts are eligible for recognition on the Co-Curricular Record. Last year the Sustainability Street Team helped to receive, label and roll out over 250 new recycling bins, collect over 2,000 responses to a survey evaluating sustainable commuting programs and services on campus, and raise awareness about the idle-free program.