I once was told that recycling isn’t all there is to sustainability.

Okay, while I agree, I have learned that recycling is a vital component to the success of sustainability, especially on a college campus.

In February 2011, I started working back at my alma mater as their second sustainability coordinator. My background includes seven years of experience working at the county landfill, teaching the public about recycling in South Carolina. Not an easy task, but definitely a worthy challenge. My first goal was to strengthen the recycling program.

Sustainability is more than just the environment, it also includes aspects of social and economic factors. However, I believe that if you start anywhere in sustainability, you should start with recycling first. The reason why recycling should be one of the first things to achieve in sustainability is because it is something everyone recognizes.

How To Easily Make Recycling Successful:

1) Visible Recycling – you can’t achieve successful recycling if you can’t find the recycling bin. Make recycling visible to the campus community.

2) Location, Location, Location – picking the right spot for recycling can make all the difference in contamination levels. Recycling is an easy visible positive promotion of sustainability – pick locations that will specifically be seen by visitors to your campus.

3) Administration Support – make sure your upper administration recycles because they are important representation of your campus and when they toss a recyclable into the trash someone will notice and remember.

4) Know Your Trash – know what types of trash are on your campus and know where your trash is generated. Capture recycling volume and  know your largest event producers, such as move-in days, move-out days, sporting events and campus events. Not only will you capture a lot of recyclables, but it will be visible to your campus community.

5) Campus Allies – make friends in recycling, especially in the grounds staff, housing staff, custodial staff, athletics, and student activities. These areas of your campus will provide the ins, the outs and a genuine support for recycling, if you take care of them. You scratch their back, they scratch yours.

At the end of the day, do what you can. Recycling is not achieved overnight and it definitely is not an item to check off the list when it is completed. Recycling will never be complete, when people continue to be consumers. Make sure that you put the infrastructure into place for the potential growth of recycling, it will evolve just as your campus does, you just have to keep up. Also, practice your due-diligence and answer the question, ‘does it really get recycled?’ and you will earn great respect knowing your end markets.

Recycling is not the only area of focus in sustainability, but it is the beginning and the cornerstone of a great program. Successful recycling can lead to other potential concepts, ideas, and programs in sustainability. It can bring the campus together for a green event, rally students to collect recyclables at a tailgate for a big sports game and foster a contest between departments. Recycling is more than tossing a plastic bottle into a bin, it is the start of a movement in sustainability for our future community.

the author

Originally from Virginia, Jennifer C. Sellers is passionate about sustainability and conservation in South Carolina and throughout the world. She earned her BA in English from Coastal Carolina University and her MAS in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver. She is a university sustainability coordinator that implements programs and teaches people about going green and being sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @MyGreenGlasses

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