Red Raider Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Story and Photos by Tracee Murph
Most people have heard of the three Rs to save the planet: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. In 2007, one College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources student brought this slogan to Texas Tech University. Axum Teferra, a senior at the time, majoring in environmental conservation of natural resources, came up with the idea to employ a recycling program on campus as a class project.
While taking a class toward her major, Teferra was assigned to come up with an environmental issue and create a solution proposal for it. During her PowerPoint presentation of the project, her professor engaged in her ideas and suggested she present it to Tech for actual consideration.
She said she didn’t know where to start, so she got together with a classmate who was in the Student Government Association. Suzette Matthews, SGA internal vice president, passed the idea along to the graduate and professional affairs vice president Scott Gorenc.
Gorenc liked her idea and set up a meeting with Teferra, the Tech physical plant, and himself. The physical plant staff was open to the idea and began a recycling route on the majority of campus, picking up recyclable materials.
By September of that year, recycling bins for paper materials were placed in all the academic buildings on campus. After being collected by physical plant employees, recyclable paper was then taken to storage. Once the storage bins filled up with paper, they were picked up and purchased by a recycling center.
The initial plan excluded residence halls, cafeterias, the Student Union Building and athletic event centers, but due to its success and student drive, the program has expanded to include those places, as well.
Several departments around campus worked to make the program more visible and accessible to students, faculty and staff in order to help decrease the amount of materials taken to landfills. University Student Housing purchased 25 recycling stations with different labeled slots for plastics, paper and aluminum for each of the residence hall lobbies and individual floors. There are also bins in the student union.
The university student housing and hospitality departments are working on other areas to encourage green living, as well. The focus is on making Tech a more sustainable campus, which will conserve money and energy and create a better environment for students.
Everything from the Green Seal certified paint on the walls, to the door mats made from recycled rubber, and plastic drink bottles are designed for sustainability. Automatic flush toilets and water faucets, paper-towel dispensers, and even toilet paper dispensers replaced traditional ones in the bathrooms to meet the goal of reducing the use of resources.
Plastic laundry detergent containers can be recycled in special bins in the laundry rooms of each residence hall. Hospitality services has partnered with a local biodiesel company to recycle the grease from frying foods and turn it into something useful, as well.
As students moved into the dorms for the fall 2009 semester they started their college careers off green by recycling over 12 tons of cardboard. A company called Green Queens removed the campus cardboard and took it to Hurley Packaging to be made into egg crates.
As the concept of going green becomes even more popular and widespread, Tech’s recycling program will likely expand. There is a cardboard baler and compactor at Murray Hall, and Student Housing has hopes for Tech’s own recycling center on campus some day.
Top 8 tips for going green
1. First things first, a little R & R & R.
Reducing the amount that we consume, and shifting our consumption to well-designed products and services, is the first step.
2. Know what you can and can’t recycle.
Read up on the recycling rules for your area and make sure you don’t send anything in that can’t be processed. Each city has its own specifics, so try to follow those guidelines as best you can.
3. Buy recycled.
The essence of recycling is the cyclical movement of materials through the system. Look for the recycling symbol on the paper, glass and plastic products you buy.
4. Encourage an artist.
If you know someone interested in making art from recycled materials, offer to provide supplies.
5. Recycle your water.
Buy a rain barrel and water your lawn and garden with stored rain water.
6. Recycle your greenery.
Composting is one of the simplest and most effective recycling methods. Both your garden cuttings and your green kitchen waste can go into an outdoor or indoor composter.
7. Recycle your robots.
Electronics recycling is becoming more common in many urban areas, battery recycling is everywhere and there are a number of non-profit organizations that will take computer parts and turn them into working computers for others.
8. If you don’t love something, let it go.
Lots of charities welcome your donations. Give away clothes that don’t fit, the boxes you used in your last house move, or scented soaps that don’t appeal to your sensibilities.