This weekend, I had the opportunity to lead a roundtable discussion on school-wide sustainable efforts at SWACURH (South West Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls), a regional conference held every year where student leaders get together to exchange ideas and swag amongst themselves. Just picture a congregation of the most spirited (and bright!) college students around the region cheer battling like one of those (really bad) Bring it On movies from the early 2000s and you wouldn’t be far off.
Then again, those Bring it On movies didn’t have this mega dope Tron Inspired Logo.
The talk was a great success! Hogs, Aggies, Tigers, Bears, and other animals no one actually wants to meet in real life all got together to talk about Eco-Reps, recycling, water conservation, energy use, and more in an hour long discussion. The students were able to give me a ton of great ideas, but as a Facilitator, I didn’t much get to talk about what the Hogs are doing. As you may know by now, I like lists. So for today’s list, we’re going check out some sustainable efforts in Hog City.
1: Razorbacks Recycle
So get this, so far, during this fiscal year alone, the school has produced over 2000 metric tons of solid waste. Since America is bass akwards and refuses to switch over to the much more efficient metric system, that’s over 4.5 MILLION pounds. That’s enough to fill up Razorback stadium with 12 billion I-Phones.
All of them probably broken because you looked at them wrong.
Granted, that is to be expected. With about 24 buildings holding 6000 students, even more academic buildings, 3 cafeterias, and trashcans that seem to magically be a mile away whenever you need them (seriously, why are these things so spaced out!?) you can see how the waste can build up. Still, it is a problem. If the University expects to be Waste Neutral by 2021, we have to start change here and now. Enter Clear-Stream Recycling bins.
Portable, Easily Constructed, and comes with a complimentary backscratcher!
Putting Recycling on every floor of a residence hall is an easy fix to alleviate some of the problem right? If students don’t have to carry heavy loads from the 10th floor all the way down the 1st, they’d probably be more likely to actually recycle. Not to mention, being able to see the change happening is a powerful peer pressure on the psyche. The problem? The University only employs four employees to pick up the recycling from every Residence Hall on campus. They just can’t deal with recycling on every floor! That’s why it’s up to students. Leaders in Yocum, Futrall, and Holcombe Hall have already stepped up to the plate to set up these guys on the floors of their buildings! They monitor them, switch out the bags, and collect data on the usage, all without being paid. That’s dedication! By the end of this semester, we’ll calculate the data and use it for the expansion of Ecological Representative (Eco Rep) programs in the future.
2: Hogs promote Alternative Forms of Transportation
So, parking sucks. There are over 26,000 students sharing this campus and substantially less than 26,000 parking spaces. Not to mention, they make us move our cars during game days to obscenely far off locations just so some football dad can use it to tailgate. It’s almost like they care about sports more than students or something stupid like that!
I’ll Let that Speak for Itself
Know why else parking sucks? It helps produce a ton of Greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2002, the University of Arkansas has steadily produced around 140,000 metric tons of greenhouse gasses, with no sign of it ever dipping outside of 1 standard deviation of mean. We get it, UA is a commuter school. Most students move off campus their sophomore years and thus need a reliable way of getting to school every day. Fine. We know that motorized vehicles also aren’t the only problem with greenhouse gas emissions. That’s fine too, but if the chancellor hopes to reach the University goal of being Carbon Neutral by 2040, something has to give.
That’s why the sustainability leaders on campus have been focusing our efforts on promoting bike and community transportation culture here. Through ASG, RIC, and Student efforts, we have worked to put in 6 separate Bike Fix-it stations on campus that allow you to repair your bike anywhere, as well as bike racks in virtually any space you can think of. We’re also working on the purchasing and installation of the Dero-Zap system, a solar powered sensor array that when connected to special tags put onto users bikes, skateboards, scooters, or the like, allows students to rack up points for using green forms of transport!
I mean, he looks pretty happy about it
We hope to use the Dero-Zap machines to incentivize students to roll out on two wheels more often, with prizes, free meals, and even scholarships! Speaking of scholarships…
3: Sustainability Leaders are making You Richer
Okay, maybe not you as in you, the person swiping away on their laptop with one hand while the other holds up your chin, you, but you in the general sense.
This is probably what you look like. The sound of Sustainability just tickles your fancy.
Sure, sustainability is economically beneficial in the long run – less waste, water usage, electricity usage, and parking concerns means more money for the university and less money needed from you – but we’re working on ways to give you back some money! RIC and ASG are working together to create a scholarship for Campus Conservation Nationals (an annual competition between the Residence Halls) that will put up to $1000 back into your pocket just for participating! I myself am currently working on creating a new Eco-Rep program within the Residence Halls, that will facilitate sustainability across campus and give the people participating a few dollars to spend. Sure, we get it, throwing money at a problem is by all means not the way of fixing it, but it can help! The more incentive students have for being involved in sustainable efforts, the more we can change the culture around campus, and hopefully, teach people that this is just something they should do. We’re not only instituting physical change, we’re hoping to change minds!
4: Hogs Provide for those in Need
If you read my previous article, then you know that sustainability isn’t just about electricity and water consumption, but is about the quality of people’s lives. That’s why Hall Senates, RIC, ASG, RSOs and the Office for Sustainability have all taken stands towards the creation of a more sustainable future! RIC has worked with the volunteer action committee and PackShack for World Food Day 2014 to pack up over 10,000 meals for students and the Northwest Arkansas community in need. Make A difference day this year saw hundreds of students going out and installing community herb gardens at Fayetteville Public Library, expanding the garden at Tri – Cycle, planting native plants and removing invasive species with Beaver Watershed, and even expanding fruit orchards at Cobblestone Farm! National Residence Hall Honorary has even pledged their support to Heifer International this year to provide a cow or camel to villages in need!
Dude I know, I thought it was a good idea too!
But that’s not all. Organizations and programs on campus such as Razorback Food Recovery and the Full Circle Food Pantry are ensuring that the food that the cafeterias would normally just throw away is given to students who are food insecure. That’s reducing waste, and reducing hunger! Pepsi has even been working with students on campus to increase recycling via their Dream Machine project, which provides money for veterans in need of physical healthcare for every bottle or can put into the machine. Clearly, Razorbacks are working hard in every aspect to promote sustainable practices and, in turn, help out the community we love so much!
But really, this is just the tip of the iceberg of the progressive things Hog Nation is doing to leave a positive impact on the world. I could go on for days on this topic, but Instead I’ll implore each and every one of you to get out and look for opportunities to help! Sustainability is Universal effort. When a lot of small hands help out, they can make a big difference. Let’s make that big difference.
– Kenneth L. Hamilton
RIC Director of Sustainability