After a 10-week RecycleMania competition among more than 200 colleges and universities, Georgetown ranks among the top institutions finding ways to reduce solid waste on campus.
RecycleMania pits colleges and universities against each other for a friendly recycling contest. This year, the contest went global with U.S. institutions competing alongside colleges in Canada and India. Schools combined to recycle materials totaling 69.4 million pounds during the competition.
In waste minimization efforts, Georgetown ranked 22 out of 148 schools. The category is judged by which schools produce the least amount of municipal solid waste, including trash and recyclables. The university ranked No. 48 of 206 schools in the grand champion category, which measures overall recycling. Georgetown had an average recycling rate of about 37 percent, improving on a rate just under 26 percent in 2008.
University environmental leaders are pleased with Georgetown's RecycleMania showing, and say the Hilltop’s green efforts will continue to evolve.
"We have performed better this year in every category," says Karen Frank, vice president for facilities and student housing. "Most notable is that, in the last week of this year's competition, we recycled over 52 percent of our total waste. … Now we must focus on ways to achieve these numbers when we are not in a competition."
Reducing Georgetown's overall solid waste is a top goal of EcoAction, a student-run environmental education group, says member Jonathan Cohn (C'10). He wants those efforts to start with the ubiquitous disposable water bottles people carry.
"Without a doubt, I want to see a reduction in the consumption of bottled water. During my experience at GU, I have felt as though many believe that bottled water is better than tap water and that the offering of bottled water to someone conveys something specific," he says. "However, the consumption of bottled water produces a large amount of unnecessary waste."
There are easy alternatives, Cohn adds, including reusable bottles and filtered tap water.
Frank says her office shares Cohn's concern and notes that Georgetown had lower rankings in recycling cans and bottles, placing 117 out of 210 schools.
"This suggests that many recyclables are still being disposed of in regular trash," she says. "We have placed more recycling containers throughout Bunn ICC and are considering removing waste baskets from classrooms to encourage the use of the recycling containers in the corridors just outside the classrooms."
Georgetown's results during RecycleMania are:
• Ranked No. 22 of 148 in waste minimization
• Ranked 48 of 206 in overall recycling
• Ranked No. 88 of 293 in recycled gross tonnage of combined paper, cardboard and bottle and cans with 158,371 pounds recycled
• Ranked No. 146 of 204 in paper recycling
• Ranked No. 71 of 204 in cardboard recycling
• Ranked No. 117 of 206 in bottle and can recycling With RecycleMania over for another year, Frank's office continues to collaborate with student groups to promote and institute environmental initiatives. She knows there is more work to do, especially to achieve a university recycling goal of 40 percent of all solid waste. Part of Frank's strategy is broader input from the university community.
"We have a lot of support and excellent suggestions from active students," she notes. "Now, we need to bring more faculty and staff into our awareness planning."