RecycleMania Wrap Up

     The eight-week period of RecycleMania has finally come to a close. Schools from all over the nation are tallying their recycling totals and comparing their ranks on the RecycleMania leaderboard. Here’s how Georgia College stacked up:

Total Diversion: 18.826%, rank 138/170

Diversion in 2017: 7.816%, rank 186/194

 

Per Capita Recycling: 6.046 pounds per capita, rank 164/228

Per Capita Recycling in 2017: 4.304 pounds per person, rank 214/248

 

Total Recycling: 50,574 pounds, rank 165/229

Total Recycling in 2017: 32,554 pounds, rank 177/215

 

Waste Minimization: 34.862 pounds per capita, rank 57/179

Waste Minimization in 2017: N/A

    All in all, Georgia College has increased its total diversion rate by 11.01%, and increased its total recycling by 18,020 pounds. The campus has seen a significant improvement over the results of last year; and we would like to thank all students, staff, and faculty who participated in this event! Georgia College is working continuously to promote green efforts around campus and encourage a more sustainable way of living, and RecycleMania has provided an engine with which to involve the entire campus in green efforts. We hope to see recycling efforts and campus involvement continue to grow in the future with the momentum gained through this year’s RecycleMania.

     As RecycleMania comes to a close, the Office of Sustainability prepares to kick off the 2018 Georgia College Earth Week beginning April 16th. This week will feature a myriad of events designed to incorporate students with sustainability efforts. Activities include garden and compost tours, the Symposium, and Earthfest. The Office of Sustainability would like to encourage all members of the Georgia College community to participate in these events and get involved with the sustainability efforts on campus now!

Halfway Through RecycleMania

     Four weeks in, RecycleMania rages on; and we are halfway through the season. Each competing college continues to vie for the top spot and contribute to a healthier Earth in the process. We have tracked our recycling rates from the beginning of the event alongside 141 other schools, and Georgia College began its first week in the season boasting a diversion rate of 34.12% and a recycling rate of 33.3%. These numbers have diminished over the course of the event to where they currently stand at 20.07% and 11.8%, respectively. While these numbers may not seem that impressive, by this time just last year, Georgia College had a recycling rate of only 7.5%. In addition, this year, Georgia College is recording and reporting the amount of food waste which is composted, which helps increase our total diversion rate. Georgia College currently stands at rank 110 out of 141 for our total diversion efforts.

     Georgia College has recycled a grand total of 28,245 pounds of material and composted 3,089 pounds of food waste by this point in the competition and stands at 3.67 pounds of material per person on the campus. At this time last year, the campus had only recycled 17,820 pounds of material: a difference of 10,425 pounds between this season and the last!

     Currently, Georgia College also claims a waste minimization ratio of 20.26 pounds per person. This statistic makes its debut for Georgia College in the 2018 season and will serve as a benchmark for the rest of the season as well as for future events.

     While these statistics may just seem like random numbers and percentages, the official RecycleMania report uses the EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM) to transpose these figures into more commonplace measurements, such as total carbon dioxide (in metric tons), amount of energy consumed by a household, and amount of carbon emissions from automobiles. By this point, the diversion efforts of Georgia College are equivalent to the removal of forty metric tons of carbon dioxide, eight cars off the road, or the energy consumption of three households.

     By the end of RecycleMania last season, Georgia College ranked 186 out of 190 with a final recycling rate of 7.816%. We are already soaring above that previous percentage, and this season promises the opportunity to build momentum in the community and send Georgia College well on its way to becoming an ever-greener campus.

Profiles in Sustainability – Julia Steele

     Born and raised in Lawrenceville, Georgia, Ms. Steele works as the Events Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability and has done so for nine months. Her mother hails from South Korea, and she initially taught Ms. Steele about the importance of sustainability. Ms. Steele comments, “From a young age, I learned to never waste food and would often salvage items from my neighbor’s trash on Tuesdays before the trash man would come for pickup.” Living in a war-torn environment, Ms. Steele’s mother could not afford to waste resources and inspired the same sentiment in her daughter. Ms. Steele originally declared her major in nursing, but after being dissuaded by the hospital environment, she decided to change it to environmental science with a minor in public health to help serve the environment and people’s health.

     Ms. Steele states, in regards to her position, that, “My main goal is to primarily educate students about the office’s initiatives through activities, games and guest speakers.” She works to organize events at Georgia College such as Campus Sustainability and Food Day, America’s Recycling Day, and the annual Sustainability Fee Program Symposium. Ms. Steele discusses how she most enjoys the outreach and collaboration she is able to take part in with other departments. Additionally, she states, “I enjoy teaching students about sustainability and learning how to translate scientific information into a diction that non-STEM majors can understand.” However, due to a lack of resources and amenities, the Office of Sustainability is restricted in its ability to fully facilitate composting or recycling. “Asking students to change their habits can be challenging,” Ms. Steele remarks, “[i]t’s difficult to show student the direct impact they have on the environment.” Still, the Office of Sustainability consists of a dedicated team willing to make all the impact that it can. Ms. Steele considers herself very fortunate to be working among such tenacious, hardworking individuals, “I am so grateful to surround myself with dedicated people in OoS [the Office of Sustainability]. Lori Strawder and Kristen Hitchcock are the two people I truly admire, . . . I also love working with motivated colleagues. Kierra Brown, Elizabeth Carroll, Toria Middleton, Lauren Barber, Ryan Agnew, and Jake Dietch are all so eager to make change and willing to help one another around the office.” With such a devoted group, Ms. Steele hopes that the office can see more student involvement as well as sustainability implemented in classroom projects in the future.

     Currently, Ms. Steele believes that the composting initiative is one of the most successful projects that Georgia College has seen. The project has built up steam under manager Jake Dietch, and the project continues to grow while educating students on the importance of recovering waste and replenishing soil with nutrients. Ms. Steele comments that, “We are producing so much compost, and I’d love to see Georgia College giving the compost to local farmers!” She believes this will strengthen ties between the campus and farmers within the area. She also explains how recycling rates at Georgia College continue to rise each year.

     Ms. Steele defines sustainability as, “[being] [M]indful of the human impact on ecosystems, fostering healthy living and acting locally in order to preserve our resources and maintain the integrity of the environment.” She is excited for the implementation of a Campus Kitchen at Georgia College, and she states, “I believe this will have a profound impact, since this is a collaborative project that includes sustainability, dining and the community.”  Ms. Steele also plans to incorporate more collaborative and interdisciplinary programs in order to reach a wider audience of students. For instance, Ms. Steele is currently working with the Art Department to host John Sabraw, a nationally acclaimed artist and environmentalist, at the Sustainability Fee Program symposium. Backed by an ever-growing network of interns and student volunteers, Ms. Steele is poised and ready to advance sustainability efforts at Georgia College and contribute to a global mindfulness of our impact on our world, “My family and friends can all be witnesses of my passion about the health of our environment and determination for future generations to have equal opportunities.”

 

Georgia Arbor Day Celebration at West Campus

You have probably heard of Arbor Day on many occasions, but have you ever stopped to think about the significance of this tradition or how we observe it on campus? The first official observance in the United States was held on April 10, 1872, in Nebraska; and it is now celebrated nationally on the last Friday in April. However, many states also hold their own observance to coincide with the prime planting dates in their regions, with Georgia holding its Arbor Day on the third Friday in February. Each Arbor Day presents an opportunity to reflect on and recognize the importance of maintaining healthy trees, which provide many benefits including food, oxygen, shade, energy conservation, soil erosion prevention, clean air and water, and many more.

Here at Georgia College, the Grounds Department, the Office of Sustainability, and the Earth Action Team teamed up on February 23 to celebrate Georgia Arbor Day. Five ginkgo trees were planted along the West Campus Entrance. This species was chosen due to the spectacular yellow color that the trees showcase in the fall, which will create a dramatic drive and view from the village apartments. The staff and students who participated were treated to a special demonstration of correct tree planting techniques by Seth Hawkins, certified arborist, community forester, and member of our campus tree committee. By using those techniques, the participants helped to ensure the survival of the five trees. Mr. Hawkins also allowed us to video his explanations, and you can learn how to successfully plant trees by watching Part 1 and Part 2.

Our Georgia Arbor Day celebration not only allows us to reflect on our state tree holiday but also kick off our National Arbor Day celebration. Each year, individuals and organizations on campus are invited to volunteer to plant trees in the weeks leading up to National Arbor Day, which will be held on April 27. We are proud that Georgia College is a Tree Campus USA, and we hope that you will join us in maintaining our tree canopy. Email Aaron Seay, grounds supervisor, or Kristen Hitchcock, Sustainability Coordinator, to schedule your tree planting.

 

 

 

RecycleMania Kick Off!

     Starting February 4th, the 2018 RecycleMania campaign has begun! Based in Washington D.C., RecycleMania is an eight-week-long event dedicated to promoting recycling efforts in college campuses across the United States and Canada. As stated by the organization itself, “Using fair and friendly competition, RecycleMania provides tools and opportunities that inspire, empower, and mobilize colleges and universities to benchmark and improve efforts to reduce or eliminate waste.” RecycleMania serves as a vehicle for increasing recycling and sustainability efforts nationwide. Georgia College will compete alongside countless schools, including Georgia State University, Auburn University, and even Harvard University, to boost our recycling rates. The school that races to the top of the scoreboard will receive international recognition, an award made of recyclable materials, and the honor of hosting the organization’s traveling trophy for a year.

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RecycleMania logo made from recycled tire rubber

On February 9th, Georgia College officially kicked off its participation in RecycleMania. Interns from the Office of Sustainability tabled outside of the Arts and Sciences building and provided pertinent recycling information in regards to what can and cannot be recycled at Georgia College, as well as a small game to discern what the campus can recycle. Participants in the game received a free water bottle. This is the first of many more recycling and RecycleMania based events to occur in the upcoming weeks.

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Office of Sustainability interns help kick off RecycleMania at Georgia College.

RecycleMania rates schools based off of three categories: total recycling per capita, smallest waste generation, and highest rates of recycling as a percentage of total generated waste. Scores are updated weekly and schools are ranked accordingly. Last year, Georgia College achieved recycling rates of 6-8%; and our goal this year is to surpass those percentages. Throughout this competition, the Office of Sustainability will be hosting a multitude of events in order to promote the campaign and raise our scores. Recycling is one of the Office of Sustainability’s chief sustainability programs, and we hope that RecycleMania increases the education of and participation in the recycling initiative.

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Informational poster of what can and cannot by recycled at Georgia College

Georgia College supports recycling of paper, cardboard, paperboard, and plastics #1 and #2 (Plastic products have a small number inside of a recycling symbol on the surface of the object). We encourage all students and staff to take part in this exciting event and help rocket Georgia College to the top of the scoreboard!

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Office of Sustainability Poster

Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions

As the new year begins, the Office of Sustainability encourages you to consider a sustainable New Year’s Resolution for 2018! Check out our previous blog post if you’re in need of some ideas! We also found some students on campus that have their own eco-friendly resolutions.

  • Our very own intern, Elizabeth, has resolved to stop using plastic straws for the new year. Instead, she carries stainless steel, reusable straws with her!
  • Another one of our interns, Ryan, has decided to stop using plastic bags. Instead, he brings his own reusable bags to the grocery store!
  • Our compost intern, Jake, aims to educate 200 people on sustainability and environmental practices in 2018!
  • Ashlie, a zero-waste advocate and intern, has given up bottled shampoo for 2018. Instead, she will be using Shampoo Bars from LUSH, which are packaging-free and last for over 80 washes!

Let us know if you’ve committed to a sustainable resolution, no matter how small! We will keep you updated on how well our interns stick to their resolutions!

5 Sustainable Resolutions for 2018

It’s hard to believe that we are already 8 days into the new year. By now, you may have already set a few resolutions for 2018. If you already have goals in hand, or if you are looking for some resolution inspiration, we have a few suggestions for ways you can live more sustainably in 2018.

  1. Skip the Straw. According to the 5 Gyres Institute, “plastic straws are one of the top polluters on our beaches.” You can help by stopping your use of plastic straws this year. Instead, carry a reusable or biodegrable straw with you.
  2. Ban the Bag. Another simple way to help reduce plastic pollution is by refusing plastic bags. Commit to carrying reusable shopping bags each time you visit a store in 2018 so that you can leave those plastic bags behind.
  3. Try Meatless Monday. You may have seen the #meatfreemonday or #meatlessmonday movement on social media. According to the team at Meatless Monday, there are multiple human and environmental health benefits of eating less meat, including minimizing your cancer risk and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. You don’t have to adapt to a full vegan lifestyle, however. Why not resolve to eliminate meat on just one day a week – Monday – during 2018?
  4. Carry a (Reusable) Cup. Although the percentage varies by factors such as age and gender, the average adult body is comprised of 60% water, which means staying hydrated during the day is vital to your health. Some of us also need a little caffeine boost in the morning. Before you head out for the day during 2018, be sure to grab a reusable bottle so that you don’t add disposal cups and plastic bottles to the landfill. There are even some collapsible options out there, like the Stojo, which may be easier to carry with that reusable straw and bag!
  5. Kill-A-Watt. During 2018, you can not only reduce your environmental footprint but also save money on your energy bill by resolving to use less electricity. Next time a bulb burns out, replace it with a more energy efficient LED bulb. If you have to replace any appliances this year, make sure to buy Energy Star rated models. Each day walk through your residence and unplug any electronics that aren’t in use, because they pull “vampire wattages” from the grid even when turned off.

These are just a few, simple resolutions you can adopt to reduce your environmental footprint in 2018. Pick your favorite and try it out. Even small changes, which are easier to stick to, can make a big impact.

Profiles in Sustainability – Kristen Hitchcock

 

     Kristen Hitchcock is the Sustainability Coordinator for Georgia College’s Office of Sustainability and has been since August 1, 2016. Hailing from Tennille, Georgia, Ms. Hitchcock was raised on her grandfather’s farm. She spent her childhood exploring the woodlands near her house, which helped to inspire within her a love of nature. Ms. Hitchcock would go on to earn an undergraduate degree in Applied Biology from Georgia Tech and eventually a Masters in Environmental Management from Duke University. Afterwards, Ms. Hitchcock moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to work as an environmental consultant for eight years. However, she would ultimately desire to move back closer to home and pursue a sustainability-related job, which was when her current position opened up at Georgia College. She feels very fortunate to be working so close to home, and many of her relatives, in her desired field. In her free time, Ms. Hitchcock enjoys outdoor-related activities, such as hiking and camping, as well as reading, music, and singing.

     Upon beginning her work with the Office of Sustainability, Ms. Hitchcock details how “one of the first things that I did was to increase our social media and educational outreach on campus, and I plan to continue and improve upon these efforts.” Ms. Hitchcock believes that continual sustainability education is paramount to build a “culture of sustainability” here on campus. She describes how “the job of a sustainability coordinator is to eventually put yourself out of a job because you are working towards making sustainability an effortless, normal part of your organization’s operations.” She strives to integrate sustainability into the campus in order to facilitate a more accessible, sustainable lifestyle. Furthermore, Ms. Hitchcock endeavours to improve data analysis on campus; she feels that a more accurate/efficient database of resource use is essential to improving our performance in regards to resource usage.

     Additionally, Ms. Hitchcock describes how she hopes to help “embed sustainability further into the culture of [the] campus, such that it becomes second nature for out students, staff and faculty to do things like reduce their waste, recycle, turn off lights, use bikes on campus, walk around town, and any number of easy, sustainable living practices.” She hopes to increase the visibility and influence of the Office of Sustainability so that sustainability culture may continue to develop. Ms. Hitchcock has already seen large growth in the Office of Sustainability during her time here; she states, “When I first started, students saw our table and didn’t know that we have an Office of Sustainability. Now, when I set up our table at events, I have students seek it out and start asking about internship opportunities or ideas they have for our campus. It has been really rewarding to know that I have been a part of this tremendous growth in such a short time.”

     Currently, there are a few major sustainability initiatives on campus. Ms. Hitchcock explains how the recycling program is “[o]ur biggest and most forward facing sustainability effort on campus.” Other efforts include the West Campus Garden, maintaining Georgia College’s Tree Campus USA certification, and the composting initiative. The compost initiative, especially, has flourished throughout this semester, and in a rather short amount of time, as Ms. Hitchcock states, “we have increased the amount of food waste that we collect, as well as general awareness about our compost project.” The campus recently received a grant to go towards the implementation of a Campus Kitchens program at Georgia College. Ms. Hitchcock hopes to use the Campus Kitchens program in congruence with the composting initiative in order to aid those who are food insecure in the community. She believes that the composting project and Campus Kitchens program “can be used to not only alleviate these problems [food insecurity and food waste] in our community but also teach our staff and students more about these two very important issues.”

     When asked what the term “sustainability” means to her, Ms. Hitchcock responded, “I use the definition of sustainability that has been adapted from the Brundtland report, which is ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.’ However, my personal caveat to this definition is that we really need to question what our needs truly are…at our current rate of consumption, we risk exceeding the carrying capacity of Earth.” Naturally, Ms. Hitchcock is extremely passionate about sustainability, but as she states, “not only am I passionate; I am also determined. Determined to ensure that Georgia College implements sound sustainability practices.” Ms. Hitchcock enjoys the dynamic nature of her job, as each new project requires a unique approach maintained with constant attention and analysis, and how ”[t]here is always something new to learn about sustainability.” Her goals for sustainability on campus are partially hampered by the limited space and resources in the Office of Sustainability, but with a dedicated, passionate staff and a boundless tenacity, Ms. Hitchcock is committed to the growth of sustainability on campus for the betterment of our world.

Celebrate the Holidays Sustainably!

Classes are ending soon, and the winter holiday season is kicking into gear. This time of year brings a lot of excitement, and bit of the stress as we try to juggle travel, parties, and gift exchanges. With everything going on, it can also be easy to overlook the environmental impact of these activities. However, there are a few simple ways that you still practice sustainability during your holidays.

  1. Send e-cards. Cards are often the first item on the to-do list for the holidays. After you have your holiday greeting list together, consider using electronic cards, instead of mailing paper ones. If you still love mailing out cards, buy ones that are printed on recycled paper or that have recycling reminder on them. You might even consider buying fair trade, handmade cards, such as those sold at Ten Thousand Villages.
  2. Give ethically sourced gifts. Speaking of Ten Thousand Villages, they and other merchants have options for fair trade and ethically sourced gifts.
  3. Buy local. You can also consider supporting small local businesses or artists. It takes a lot of energy and fuel to ship goods long distances around the holidays. When you buy local, you can help reduce these emissions while also supporting your local economy…and surprise your friends with unique gifts.
  4. Choose green wrapping. Once you have chosen your gifts, consider your wrapping carefully. Some wrapping paper cannot be recycled, due to the presence of components like foil or glitter. Check with your local municipality or recycling station and ask what types of wrapping paper are accepted in the waste stream and choose carefully. You can also let your creativity shine! Reuse materials such as newspaper. Put your gifts into reusable shopping bags. Take your worn-out clothing or towels, cut them, and tie them around packages; and here is a Craftsy link to get you started.
  5. Use less energy. The holiday decorations are a literal bright spot to the season, and sure to bring happiness to you and your neighbors. However, don’t let them lead to the post-holiday, high-utility bill blues. Use LED lights, which are more energy efficient, and time your lights carefully so that they aren’t burning 24/7. In addition to those two tips, the Department of Energy also suggests searching for rebates and using reflective decor.
  6. Say no to single use party supplies. If possible, try to supply your party guests with reusable dinnerware to avoid creating large amounts of plastic waste. If you are anticipating having a lot of leftovers, and don’t want to waste the food, encourage your guests to bring their tupperware so that they can take them home.
  7. Practice self care. The triple bottom line of sustainability is PEOPLE, planet, and profit. With so much to-do this season, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest. Go to a local park, because time in nature has been shown to reduce stress levels.

We want to wish everyone a happy holiday season and remind you to have fun and travel safely. These are just a few tips to help you “green” your celebrations. What are some of your ideas? Share them with us below.

America Recycles Day at Georgia College

 

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Front View of America Recycles Day at Georgia College.

On November 15th, The Office of Sustainability hosted its America Recycles Day event. America Recycles Day is a national initiative by the Keep America Beautiful organization focused around encouraging and inspiring people all over the nation to recycle effectively and help preserve the environment. The event was held at Georgia College in conjunction with Ethics Awareness Week, where students and faculty were encouraged to bring outdated important documents to shred. Not only did this encourage participants to practice safe handling of their information, but the shredded paper was also used to facilitate the development of food waste into compost here at Georgia College. To conclude the event, Office of Sustainability intern Ashlie Adamson offered a talk on a myriad of products designed to enable zero-waste living and the difference that zero-waste living can make in our community.

 

     One of the largest sustainability initiatives at Georgia College is the recycling program. Representatives of the Office of Sustainability served to educate students and faculty about what can and cannot be recycled on the campus. Recyclable items include paper, cardboard, and aluminum and steel cans, as well as plastics #1 and #2. Additionally, the event served to inform the campus about the benefits of recycling for the economy and the environment. Georgia has one of the largest markets for recyclable materials in the nation; roughly one-third of all plastic beverage containers that are recycled in North America end up recycled in Georgia, and over 120 business in Georgia use recycled materials to manufacture new goods, according to the Georgia Recycling Coalition. Novelis, one of the world’s largest aluminum recycling companies, has its headquarters in Atlanta. The event also described the impact of individual people recycling; recycling a single plastic soda bottle will save enough energy to power a T.V. for 1.5 hours, while recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to power a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.

     

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A guide to what can and cannot be recycled at Georgia College.

In addition, the event informed attendees of the benefits of composting. Composting has the potential to save money by reducing the need for fertilizers and mulch, as well as enriching the soil. The organic matter found in compost increases the soil’s ability to retain water, allowing people the ability to save money on their water bills. Composting also helps stabilize soil in areas prone to erosion, increasing plant growth and soil cover. Furthermore, composting helps reduce the total waste found in landfills. Compostable materials account for more than 30% of all waste thrown away within a year. The decision to compost can greatly increase the lifespan of landfills all throughout the nation and the world. Moreover, there are currently 34 official composting operations recognized in Georgia by the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and commercial composters provide roughly four times as many jobs as landfilling these materials creates, according to the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County. Meanwhile, Georgia College is continuing its composting initiative, which takes post-consumer food waste from the MAX and converts it into usable compost. Some of this compost is used for the Community Garden on West Campus.

 

     Georgia College’s America Recycles Day event saw support from the following clubs/organizations: the Environmental Science Club (gcenviroclub@gmail.com), the Office of Sustainability (sustaingc@gcsu.edu), the Earth Action Team (cameron.skinner@bobcats.gcsu.edu), and the Gardening Club (savannah.harrell@bobcats.gcsu.edu). Through this event, Georgia College hopes to educate students and faculty on the benefits of recycling and composting and to urge us all to participate in these initiatives through the college and in our own lives to help sustain our planet.

 

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The Office of Sustainability presents various information about and opportunities to recycle at Georgia College.