Article Originally Published by Shelby Stevens on North Texas Daily
Every year, UNT participates in the RecycleMania Tournament against other universities in the U.S. and Canada. The 2020 tournament runs from February 2 until March 28. During RecycleMania, students and faculty participate in weekly events such as Campus Litter Cleanups and tours of recycling facilities.
This year, the We Mean Green Fund (WMGF) is hosting a new event, the Plastic Bag Recycling Competition. Students and faculty will compete to see who can recycle the most plastic bags, with the students broken into groups by classification (including grad students). Emily Bilcik, project coordinator for the We Mean Green Fund Initiative, said this event is important because plastic bags are difficult to recycle and it is a positive way to educate people about the environmental dangers of plastic.
“RecycleMania presents an opportunity for the UNT community to really learn what it means to be sustainable,” Bilcik said. “Through our RecycleMania events, we’re empowering students, staff and faculty to make even the smallest changes in their lives by sharing ideas and educating them about easy, sustainable alternatives to every-day actions that might produce waste.”
The WMGF has been actively working to make UNT a more sustainable campus. RecycleMania is one of many projects supported by the Environmental Service Fee, which all students pay each fall and spring semester. Those funds are allocated to different sustainability projects throughout campus each year by the student-led We Mean Green Fund Committee.
The annual event began with the Zero Waste Picnic, which taught participants about the importance of eliminating waste. Future RecycleMania events include the UNT Merch Swap on February 26, where faculty and students can donate or exchange their gently used UNT merchandise to prevent them from reaching the landfill. The Bike Repair Fair on March 5 will be hosted by the UNT Transportation Services, local bike shops, and the UNT Police Department. Bike repair tips will be provided to prevent students from throwing out their old bikes. The event will feature a Big Wheel Race and an opportunity to learn about UNT’s bike share program.
In addition to campus cleanups and events, RecycleMania hosts recycling tours of facilities in Denton and on the UNT campus. These recycling tours are important for students to see what happens after their items are thrown into the recycle bin. The Denton facility tour on February 18 was led by Vanessa Ellison, the education coordinator for the City of Denton Sustainability.
“Hopefully, once students see the process, they better understand why it’s important to minimize waste primarily and find ways to incorporate reuse into their lifestyle,” Ellison said. “It is also a way to encourage students to use their voice and purchasing power to change the way that items are packaged. Packaging creates so much waste and often isn’t recyclable. This tour provokes though and plants the see of behavior change.”
Ellison will also host the #WasteJarUNT Challenge on March 16. Participants will take on the challenge of tracking their trash in a glass jar so they can observe their habits and learn from them. They will learn what they can and cannot recycle. Those who cannot make it to the event can still challenge themselves and post their experience on social media using the tag #WasteJarUNT.
The final event during RecycleMania is Recycle Right on March 26 at the Library Mall. This event will show participants the impact of waste that is thrown into the wrong bin. Students will have the opportunity to ask questions about recycling and learn how to prevent contamination.
The WMGF partnered with Keep Denton Beautiful (KDB), an organization dedicated to engaging with the community and maintaining a clean environment. Together, they hosted a cleanup project around the UNT campus. Although KDB is not directly involved with UNT’s sustainability programs, the UNT community volunteers with them throughout the year. Through RecycleMania, students are learning to develop sustainable personal habits.
“Students can refuse single-use options and opt for something reusable such as a water bottle instead of bottled water, a fabric shopping bag or a metal straw,” said Carly Weld, program and volunteer coordinator for KDB.
Bilcik and the rest of the WMGF hope the RecycleMania initiatives will have a lasting impact at UNT and students will adopt more environmentally-friendly practices for the long-term.
“We’re empowering students, staff and faculty to make even the smallest changes in their lives by sharing ideas and educating them about easy, sustainable alternatives to everyday actions that might produce waste,” Bilcik said. “We’re here to challenge the idea that going green is difficult and showcase ways everyone can embrace a more eco-friendly lifestyle.”
Featured Image: Recycle Mania preparing to use their merch swap donation box for the upcoming event on Feb. 21, 2020. Image by Theophilus Bowie
Source: North Texas Daily