The We Mean Green Fund, aiming to reduce waste on campus and educate students about proper recycling habits, has created a committee to organize UNT’s involvement in the recycling competition RecycleMania.
Funding was approved for the recycling competition this year by the WMGF to connect more with students by creating the RecycleMania student-based committee, graduate assistant for the WMGF Heather Williams said.
RecycleMania is an annual competition among universities in the U.S. and Canada to measure and compare waste reduction efforts. UNT’s main goal this year is to “divert the most recyclables from the landfill,” according to the Division of Student Affairs’ website.
UNT’s RecycleMania campaign is co-hosted by the UNT WMGF, UNT Facilities and the RecycleMania Student Planning Committee.
“Most of the schools participate for very different reasons,” RecycleMania Manager Kristy Jones said. “They might be wanting to set a benchmark for their efforts, they might have very advanced waste reduction programs and are really wanting to up their game and just continue to engage the new students on campus. That’s the best thing about college campuses … you always have new students coming on campus. So, a priority should always be education on what it means to be a part of that campus, and how to be more sustainable and reduce your plastic use.”
Applications for the UNT RecycleMania Student Planning Committee are due Oct. 27, following an extension of the original Oct. 15 deadline, with the eight-week competition occurring from Feb. 2 to March 28, 2020.
To be involved in the committee, members had to be part-time or full-time students from the planning period of November 2019 to April 2020 and they must be able to attend each of the committee meetings posted on the online application.
“Serving on the RecycleMania Student Planning Committee provides an excellent opportunity for students to gain experience leading and coordinating educational campaigns and events at UNT,” Williams said. “We’re looking for students who are passionate about making environmental change on campus and empowering UNT students with new knowledge and behaviors that will benefit the environment and our campus.”
The recycling competition has multiple categories to compete in from a tap water tasting contest to a contest focused on which campus collected the most recyclable electronics, Jones said.
UNT will be competing in the Stephen K. Gaski Per Capita Recycling competition where the WMGF will measure the weights of paper, cardboard, bottles and cans recycled every week during the eight-week period on a per person basis, according to the Division of Student Affairs’ website.
Williams said competing against other post-secondary institutions in this competition is to attempt to lower the environmental footprint of these institutions and to bring attention to expanding recycling and waste education at UNT.
“I certainly think it’s important to recycle,” Jones said. “But I think, first and foremost, it’s important to reduce. Think before you make a purchase, or before you throw something away. And then the recycling is kind of that third component. Recycling will always be a core part of waste reduction. And it’s just really important for individuals and campuses to kind of understand and know what can be recycled, and how it should be recycled.”
For RecycleMania 2019, UNT competed in the Per Capita Recycling category finishing with 3.228 pounds of recyclables per student, faculty and staff, Jones said.
Overall, UNT and the other estimated 300 competing campuses recycled and composted 69.5 million pounds of waste and cut out 300 million single-use plastic containers from the waste stream during the 2019 competition, Jones said. These efforts resulted in preventing the release of 99,254 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere, equivalent to preventing annual emissions from 20,895 cars, Jones said.
“We hope that this event will encourage the UNT community to propose environmental sustainability projects to the We Mean Green Fund in the future and empower the UNT community with a recycle-right mentality,” Williams said. “We are currently seeking We Mean Green Fund project proposals from students, staff and faculty.”
To continue pushing for recycling, the We Mean Green Fund granted Beta Gamma Omega, a fine arts fraternity on campus, full funding in the amount of $3,340.50 for the Fourth Quarter and Halftime Hustle Game Day Recycling competitions, Alison Murphy, a member of Beta Gamma Omega, said.
This sustainability project will engage UNT student organizations in a competition during the fourth quarter and halftime period of home football and basketball games where they will compete against each other to collect the most recyclable material in weight from game fans. The three student organizations that collect the most for each athletic season will win monetary awards, according to the Division of Student Affairs website.
Currently, Beta Gamma Omega is in the final planning stage, Murphy said, and is hoping to gain enough participants so the project can go into effect for the upcoming basketball season.
“I would love to see more people recycling and caring for the environment during [RecycleMania] and continue to do so when it’s over,” Murphy said. “I like UNT focusing on being a green campus because with them implementing many things, one being the recycling bins throughout campus, it allows all of the students to have accessible options to be environmentally friendly. And because we are such a big university, I feel like it could really make a difference.”