Responsible Recycling

One of the first and most forward-facing sustainability initiatives the public will notice about your organization will be your recycling program. Many factors must work together in order for your efforts to be successful. A vendor to collect the materials, easily recognizable and accessible recycling receptacles, and committed staff are just a few components of a successful recycling program. Another component is outreach and education to make your users aware of what they can recycle, as well as why they should. In the Georgia College Office of Sustainability, we constantly seek avenues on campus to teach our staff and students about recycling, which is why, as part of our Earth Week festivities, I presented one of our Times Talks on campus on April 19, 2017. This presentation, titled “Responsible Recycling: How Can I Improve Our Recycling Rates And Avoid Unintended Environmental Burdens,” was focused on two articles published in the New York Times.

In the first article, Gadget Mountain Rising in Asia Threatens Health, Environment – by the Associated Press, the authors explored some of the results of the Regional E-Waste Monitor for East and Southeast Asia. E-waste, also called electronic or electrical waste, is any end-of-life equipment dependent on electrical currents or electromagnetic fields to function and the associated components. According to this report, e-waste has increased 62.7% from 2010 to 2015 in the 12 locations studied (China, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Phillipines). Reasons for this increase include rising incomes in Asia, a growing youth population, frequent replacement of gadgets, and the illegal global waste trade which shifts e-waste to countries with fewer regulations. When handled and discarded improperly, e-waste has the potential to expose humans and the environment to various chemicals such as lead, mercury, copper, dioxins/furans, brominated flame retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls, and chromium/chromium VI. At sufficient doses, some of these chemicals may be detrimental to human and environmental health.

In the second article, Germany Gleefully Leads List of World’s Top Recyclers – by Melissa Eddy, the author described Germany’s successful recycling efforts. She explained that Germany recycles 65% of their waste, according to Environment at a Glance 2015 published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Several factors contribute to the success of their recycling efforts. Collection bins are ubiquitous, color-coded, and clearly labeled in multiple languages. There are some regulatory mandates; for example, composting has been required in German communities since 2015. In addition, a certain level of social pressure drives people to place their waste and recycling into the appropriate bins.

Recycling has many benefits including reducing waste amounts sent to landfills, conserving natural resources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating jobs, and saving energy and money. At Georgia College, we recognize these benefits and work hard to increase our recycling rates. We also recognize the need to properly dispose of our waste to protect human and environmental health. For example, we recycle our e-waste with vendors who adhere to the R2 Standard, a voluntary certification administered by the Sustainable Electronics Recycling International and designed to promote and assess responsible practices. Recycling is one of our primary sustainability initiatives and through constant education and improvements, we can achieve high recycling rates like Germany while avoiding environmental burdens encountered in some areas in Asia.

2017 Dodge the Dump

The final week of classes are an exciting and busy time at Georgia College, especially for our students. They are conquering their finals, signing up for summer classes, lining up jobs, and, of-course, moving out of their dorm rooms. Unfortunately, the move-out process generates a lot of waste; and not all of it is trash. Dodge the Dump was created in the Spring of 2017 to divert gently used items from the waste bins on campus and into the hands of people within the Milledgeville community who need them.

Fig. 1. 2017 Dodge the Dump Flyers.

Dodge the Dump is a collaborative campaign planned by members of the Offices of Sustainability, Housing, Operations and Maintenance, and Fraternity and Sorority Life as well as the GIVE Center. Starting on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, cardboard bins were placed inside the Central Campus residence halls for students to donate food, cleaning supplies, and clothing and miscellaneous items. On Thursday, May 4, and Friday, May 5, donation stations were set up at the same residence halls. These stations were staffed by volunteers who encouraged students to donate, and not dump, their items and provided students with a location to place larger items such as furniture, in addition to other donations.

Fig. 2. Some of the items collected at Parkhurst Hall.

Fig. 3. Donated items being collected by a local non-profit.

The full impact of Dodge the Dump is still being tallied; but, based on early indicators, the 2017 effort was successful. At least 310 items, including futons, cleaning supplies, food, refrigerators, microwaves, lamps, and clothes, were donated. The items were picked up by Milledgeville Cares, the Life Enrichment Center, Comfort Farms/Stag Vets Inc., the Milledgeville Community Garden Association, and the Salvation Army to be used within the Milledgeville community. Members of these organizations so far have explained that the “experience was wonderful,” that “the event went extremely well,” and that the donations will “help those in dire need in our community.”

Dodge the Dump was a worthwhile, but large, undertaking requiring extensive planning and volunteer assistance. It is hoped that future efforts can be expanded to more locations on campus; and we already have many ideas to make future efforts run more smoothly and successfully. If you are interested in helping or have any questions about Dodge the Dump, please contact sustaingc@gcsu.edu.

Earth Week Snapchat Takeover

In honor of Earth Week 2017, the Office of Sustainability took over the Georgia College Snapchat (@georgiacollege). Throughout the week, followers were able to virtually meet the staff of the Office of Sustainability, tour the composting site and West Campus Garden, and learn what can and cannot be recycled on campus. The Snapchat was updated to show all of the festivities throughout the week! In case you missed it, you can watch the stories here on our YouTube channel.

Narrow Ridge: An Alternative Spring Break Experience

In March of 2015, a group of four from Georgia College participated in the Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center Alternative Spring Break program. While there, they were joined by students from the University of Tennessee and the University of Connecticut. Due to their positive feedback, Chief Sustainability Officer Lori Strawder, student Ashlie Adamson, and I returned this year to experience sustainable living practices in action firsthand. We left campus on March 19 and returned on March 24, having gained new insights and partnerships in sustainability practices.

Situated on 500 acres in Washburn, Tennessee, the Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center is a non-profit organization which was established in 1991 “to study, teach and demonstrate sustainability with solar powered rental facilities and homes” and which is “dedicated to providing experiential learning of Earth Literacy based on the cornerstones of spirituality, sustainability and community.” Although Narrow Ridge has a community of welcoming individuals from various backgrounds, its programs are led by founder and on-site volunteer Bill Nickle (Fig. 1), director Mitzi Wood-Von Mizener, and co-operations managers Jason Von Mizener and Martha Pierce.

Fig. 1. Founder Bill Nickle explaining natural history in the 120-acre wilderness area of Narrow Ridge.

The Alternative Spring Break is one of many programs, such as music gatherings, vision fasts, film nights, and seasonal celebrations, offered by Narrow Ridge. However, during Alternative Spring Break, students are provided a week-long opportunity to “take advantage of the opportunities for retreat, restoration and recreation offered by [the] beautiful natural setting while also delving into environmental issues and engaging in service learning projects such as organic gardening, conservation projects and eco-construction projects.” Students open to bypassing more traditional spring break activities are treated to exquisite vegetarian meals, comfortable lodging (Fig. 2), tours of community members’ homes, and immersion in a serene natural setting. They return home with greater awareness of sustainability and environmental concepts. Narrow Ridge, in turn, benefits from the on-site projects completed by students and by the new friendships formed. Indeed, Mr. Nickle explained to us that he expected to learn from us as much as we learned from him during our week together.

 

 

 

 

 

Fig. 2. The Strawbale Lodge, where we stayed during our week at Narrow Ridge.

Being a group of three, and not joined by other college groups, we were unique in being the smallest group Narrow Ridge has hosted for Alternative Spring Break to date. While our small size allowed us greater flexibility in our schedule, our experience was no less valuable, with the staff and residents ensuring that our week was filled with opportunities for tours and learning. During the week, we heard the history of Narrow Ridge and their permaculture practices, witnessed various sustainable design practices in the facilities, visited their natural burial preserve and wildflower memorial garden, walked through their labyrinth, consumed edible plants, learned about the succession and natural history of land set aside as wilderness by Narrow Ridge (Fig.1 & Fig. 3), participated in a community Spring equinox celebration, and built two garden beds (Fig. 4), among so many other wonderful activities.

Fig. 3. During our hike, student Ashlie Adamson enjoying a quick climb up a rock formation, called the sacred stones by Narrow Ridge community members.

By immersing ourselves in the natural and built environment at Narrow Ridge, the ease with which people can adopt sustainable living practices became clear. As student Ashlie Adamson (Fig. 3) explains, “The biggest thing that I took away from it all is that people who are utilizing things like composting toilets, passive solar technology, solar panels, etc. are not extreme or radical people. Everyone we met…simply had a lot of concern for the state of the environment and the world that we live in. Living a sustainable lifestyle is not as hard as some might think.” She also put together a short video showcasing the trip.

Having now completed two wildly successful and trans-formative trips to Narrow Ridge, we in the Office of Sustainability hope to continue to offer this as an Alternative Spring Break option for our students in the future. Lori Strawder has been the primary champion, organizing these trips and ensuring their success. Regarding the appeal of Narrow Ridge, she explains, “The Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center offers visitors a sense of what a true community should be. For GC students, I feel it is important to give them this glimpse of how life could be. Living and learning to live off-the-grid and sustainably is only part of the journey. Students get to experience how a community can work together to support each other, networking, sharing ideas as well as ways in which to work with nature and take advantage of the resources it has available. To clarify, that is taking advantage of the natural resources in a responsible way. Students learn that taking care of the environment is just as, if not, more important than, taking care of your neighbor. Additionally, Narrow Ridge is designed to be all inclusive, all races, nationalities, color, gender, religion. As long as members of the community are committed to being sustainability-minded and environmental stewards, all are welcome! This is an exemplary example of community and I am grateful to have had and welcome more opportunities to share this experience with more GC students!” If you are interested, or know someone who may be, please email us at sustaingc@gcsu.edu. We would love to tell you more about this opportunity and add you to next year’s attendance list.

Fig. 4. During our stay, we built a new garden bed for the Narrow Ridge community garden.

Certificate in Sustainability at Georgia College

On March 21st, 2017, the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia approved the Certificate in Sustainability at Georgia College.  This interdisciplinary certificate will be managed in the Department of Philosophy and Liberal Studies, in the College of Arts and Sciences, but it includes course offerings from three of the university’s colleges.  The program must be combined with an existing degree from across the institution.

Justification for Sustainability Certificate.

sustainability_spheres

The motivation for the certificate is to provide a pathway for undergraduate students to achieve competence in the three E’s of sustainability: Ecology, Economics, and Ethics.  After taking an introductory class in sustainability as a sophomore, the students will complete three core-level classes and three advanced courses, spread out among many departmental selections.  To complete the certificate, each student will demonstrate their capabilities through a senior capstone class in interdisciplinary studies, or some related field, to be mentored by a faculty member trained in sustainability.

This certificate would support the goals of the GC Sustainability Council to “encourage the attitudes, choices and habits that support sustainability at the institutional and personal level in the Georgia College community and connect civic responsibility to learning experiences, both inside and outside the classroom through community service, education and outreach.”

Requirements for Completion.

The initial offering of IDST 2050: Sustainability is scheduled for Spring semester 2018.  The certificate is designed for students interested in pursuing graduate students or careers in the many fields of sustainability.  For more information, please contact the Department of Philosophy and Liberal Studies, 325 Terrell Hall, (478) 445-5221.

RecycleMania: One Month In

RecycleMania is in full swing. You may be asking yourself, what have we been up to?

We tracked our recycling! For Georgia College, based on our initial assumptions, the average cumulative recycling rate is 7.5%. Our weekly recycling rates have ranged from between 6.9 and 8.3%! You can also see what our recycling means in terms of the amount of CO2 equivalent that was saved, and energy to power cars and households on our scoreboard. To calculate this recycling rate, we estimate how full our campus dumpsters are on a daily basis. Half of these dumpsters (three trash bins and two recycling bins) are at the depot, where much of our campus trash and recycling is taken. We record these estimates in a spreadsheet, and each week use the total waste that has gone through the bins to estimate the weight. These estimates will be verified and updated at the end of RecycleMania when we take into account the real weights from our trash and recycling bills.

We recycled at Zeta Mother Daughter Day! On R25, you can now request to have recycling at any event on campus. The sorority Zeta Tau Alpha took advantage of this and recycled their gallon-size beverage containers at the event. The Office of Sustainability was there to set up and take down recycling bins.

We caught students green handed! Caught green handed is an initiative to reward students, faculty, and staff for participating in sustainable practices. We “caught” people using reusable water bottles, thermoses, riding bikes, and reusable grocery bags. Our prize is a jar opener, which is made out of recycled tires and which can double as a coaster, frisbee, fan, or whatever you want it to be.

Lauren and Joey

Lauren and Joey were caught green handed today! Reusable water bottles are a great way to stay hydrated and promote sustainability!

Meg        Rebecca

Meg and Rebeca sure know how to work hard and stay green with their reusable water bottles!

Check back with us and the RecycleMania Scoreboard to see how Georgia College ranks at the end of the competition!

Bobcats Work Green

Sustainable development was defined by the Brundtland Report in 1987 as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” A commonly accepted definition of sustainability – “the ability to meet the needs of the present without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” – was developed from this. Many sustainability practitioners use the triple bottom line framework (people, planet, profit) to plan and measure their sustainability initiatives. As indicated by these broad definitions, sustainability is a large practice area requiring input from a wide variety of stakeholders. This is particularly true on a college campus, like Georgia College (GC), where many projects, including recycling, composting, and gardening, must be coordinated.

In order to engage more stakeholders at GC, the Office of Sustainable has designed a new program called Bobcats Work Green. This is a partnership program which all GC departments and offices can enter into voluntarily. The goals of the program are to foster a culture of sustainability on the GC campus; teach students, faculty, and staff about sustainability best practices; and create stakeholders who will continually spread sound sustainability practices throughout campus. By joining this program, Bobcats Work Green partners will be empowered to implement useful sustainability tips into their daily routine and assist the broader sustainability initiatives on campus. All interested GC groups can become a partner by completing the following steps:

  1. Contact the Office of Sustainability (sustaingc@gcsu.edu) to indicate your interest in becoming a partner.
  2. Designate a Green Bobcat Liaison, a member of the office to be the point person for all sustainability efforts.
  3. Schedule an initial walk through with Office of Sustainability representatives to showcase your office workflow and needs.
  4. Attend a presentation by the Office of Sustainability designed to educate the office members about sustainability (both in general and on campus) as well as sound sustainability practices to be implemented into their daily routines.
  5. Sign the GC sustainability pledge.
  6. Implement the sustainability action items contained within the Bobcats Work Green guidance document.
  7. Advertise and publicize your participation in the program.

Georgia College has proven to be a sustainability leader among its peers. The Green Initiative and Sustainability Council were established in 2009, showing a commitment to environmental stewardship. Since that time, GC has engaged and/or implemented multiple other sustainability-related stakeholders and projects, including the Office of Sustainability, the West Campus Garden, a composting operation, LED light conversions, LEED certification for two buildings, and installation of low-flow fixtures, among many others. For these efforts to succeed and grow, sustainability must be embedded into the culture of our campus, with ever more stakeholders becoming engaged and participating; and the Bobcats Work Green program is one more tool to help these efforts succeed.