Debbie Steinberg, Director of Campus Sustainability, is working with volunteers throughout RecycleMania to get the Knox College community to think critically about how much waste it is producing and where that waste goes.
RecycleMania is a friendly eight-week competition between colleges across the United States and Canada that tracks trash, recyclables and composting materials production to encourage campuses to think about ways to reduce their waste production.
For the past two years, Knox College has won first place in food organics diversion. So far this year, Knox is placing 44th in the overall Diversion category, which includes trash, recyclables and composting materials. In Food Organics, Knox is placing 11th. Knox is in 48th place in the Per Capita Classic, which focuses on recyclables.
Steinberg admits that Knox is never competitive in the overall Diversion and Per Capita Classic categories. She’s happy to see some competition in the Food Organics category, though. For Steinberg, outreach and education are an important part of RecycleMania. With the help of volunteers, Steinberg hosts an event each week to increase awareness of sustainability options on campus.
Some weeks, Steinberg and her volunteers host Trivia Plinko; other weeks, they host pop-up Share Shops, events encouraging students to compost in the Gizmo, a scavenger hunt or Weigh the Waste with the Food Recovery Network.
One of Steinberg’s volunteers, Fiona Munro, senior, enjoys engaging students during RecycleMania. She enjoys helping students figure out steps to take to be more sustainable. Munro recognizes that living sustainably can be hard, but she wants to help students find easy ways to live more sustainably.
Steinberg and her team of volunteers are constantly looking for ways to make the college more sustainable. Sometimes, all it takes is someone like Munro standing next to the compost bins in the Gizmo showing students what is compostable, what is recyclable and what is trash. At other times, Steinberg has to encourage the Knox community to think about the choices they’re making on a daily basis.
Last year, the Polar Vortex happened during RecycleMania. Steinberg noticed the numbers for trash skyrocketed that week. She spent some time thinking about why that would be and realized that because of the Polar Vortex, students were not going to the cafeteria. Instead, they were getting takeout which in turn created more waste.
Steinberg would have not recognized this pattern if she had not already been monitoring waste production for RecycleMania, but it got her thinking about how abstract things like weather can affect sustainability.
Steinberg and her team of volunteers will continue to try to improve Knox’s sustainability and remain competitive in the Food Organics category.