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Opinion

Recycle Mania Tournament currently underway

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February 21, 2013

Although “Reduce” is the most critical of the three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), it can be challenging to reduce paper use, especially on campus. Remarkably, as I look through binders, my Geography Map Design class simply has two pages of handwritten notes – no hard copy syllabus, draft maps or worksheets. Our professor designed the class around paper reduction. All assignments, quizzes and documents are made available or submitted via Desire to Learn (D2L). Not only does this alleviate campus waste, it is more economically sustainable by decreasing the amount of color print copies generated by the Geographic Information Science Lab (GIS) printers.

Are you in a class that could be reworked to reduce the consumption of paper or other resources? Is your class stellar in reducing consumption? Email me your ideas or let me know if you’ve got my Map Design class beat in sustainable practices.

Did you know we are almost three weeks into the Recycle Mania Tournament? Mark Klapatch, one of two custodial supervisors for our academic buildings, was one of the first people to contact me after my initial article, where I asked for your input on campus sustainability issues.

Recycle Mania is a competition engaging over 200 colleges and universities across the nation to increase awareness and efforts around recycling on campus. UW-River Falls has participated in Recycle Mania since 2007. Our waste and recycling service provider sends Klapatch weekly reports that he then submits for our ranking amongst other schools.

Our rankings are based on school population size, rate of recycling versus waste disposal, and total pounds of material recycled during the competition. In the ‘Grand Champion’ category, we are currently ranked 75 out of 208 schools based on a 37 percent recycling rate. We have a little over five weeks to improve on that, which is plenty of time.

Klapatch estimates that in 2012 we recycled roughly 210 tons of material. This is up from 2011’s count of 188.94 tons. Last year we ranked fourth out of the competing UW schools. UW-Milwaukee, UW-Oshkosh and UW-Platteville beat our recycling rate by no more than 6 percent. This year, I would like to be able to say UWRF ranked first amongst the UW schools. Visit recyclemaniacs.org to track our progress.

You might have noticed Klapatch’s staff tabling to promote Recycle Mania in the University Center this past Thursday, Feb. 21. To enter their raffle for ‘eco-swag’ they had students fill out a questionnaire about improving recycling on campus.

If you didn’t get a chance to air your voice, email me. How might recycling on campus be made more convenient? Have you noticed a certain building or room that is lacking adequate recycling containers or signage? Are you familiar with what we can recycle on campus? I will feature responses in my biweekly column.

Recycle Mania ends March 30, just as Spring Break comes to a close. I challenge you to familiarize yourself with the recycling containers in the campus buildings you use most. When I asked Klapatch what recyclables he sees placed inappropriately in waste containers, his definitive response was paper and soft drink cans. Some recycling materials are ambiguous: Can we recycle food-soiled paper? Can we recycle plastics numbered one through seven? But it should be pretty evident most paper products and cans are recyclable. I think we are doing well on campus as a whole, especially thanks to initiatives by staff and faculty. But, as students, we have room to step it up and make a statement about our commitment to our campus pride as leaders in sustainability.

Here is a list of upcoming sustainability events:
MOSES Organic Farming Conference (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service), Feb. 21 – 23 in La Crosse, Wis.
It may be too late to attend the conference, but they are a unique and excellent Midwest resource especially for young farmers looking for support, funding and education. Check them out at http://www.mosesorganic.org.
Third Annual Traditional and Green Skills Event from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on March 2, 2013, at Prairie Farm High School, $10/adult. Workshops that caught my eye include: “Homemade Beer,” “Building an Electric Motorcycle,” and “Lip Balm and Salves.”
To feature your sustainability events (two weeks notice), ideas, successes stories, gripes, etc., email: molly.breitmun@my.uwrf.edu.

Molly Breitmün is a non-traditional student majoring in conservation with a minor in GIS. Her interest in campus sustainability was fostered by becoming an undergraduate fellow for the St. Croix Institute for Sustainable Community Development as well as by her peers in the Student Alliance for Local and Sustainable Agriculture.