Recycling Program Sets School Record

Harvard undergraduates tossed 28 more tons of beer cans, Moral Reasoning papers and other detritus of college life into the recycling bins this year than last during “Recycle Mania,” leaders of the undergraduate-run Resource Efficiency Program announced yesterday.

But while the College trounced its own record from last year, Harvard took a mere fourth among the eight schools competing in the ten-week intercollegiate contest.

Bowling Green State University in Ohio took first place in this year’s competition.

Last year, Harvard placed last in a field of four. This year, the College out-recycled Ohio University, Western Michigan University, the Ohio State University and Washington University in St. Louis.

Undergraduates recycled a total of 91 tons during Recycle Mania 2003, which ended April 13.

The increase in recycling at the College will save the University $50,190 next year—money that will go back to the Houses in reduced trash disposal fees, said Robert Gogan, the University’s manager of recycling and waste management.

Harvard earns $20 for every ton of paper it recycles and spends only $25 dollars for every ton of cans it recycles, Gogan said. Disposing of regular trash costs $86 a ton.

Gogan attributes the 28-ton improvement to the Resource Efficiency Program (REP), which pays undergraduates to organize recycling drives and energy and water conservation. The program was launched this fall.

“The main thing is there’s a voice for recycling,” REP co-captain Rachelle K. Gould ’03 said. “They told people what they could and couldn’t recycle. It’d never really been addressed before.”

Representatives in each House and the Ivy, Elm and Crimson Yards spent four hours a week encouraging classmates to recycle through poster and educational campaigns. During Recycle Mania, REP leaders say, each undergraduate recycled an average of 2.83 pounds weekly, a 26 percent rise from last year’s 2.25 pounds.

Kirkland proved the greenest House, with residents recycling an average of more than five pounds per person weekly.

Kristen R. Hoelting ’03, the REP representative for Kirkland, said she and last semester’s representative, Sloan J. Eddleston ’04, enlisted friends as well as Masters Tom and Verena Conley to encourage people to take a REP-sponsored survey and to recycle.

The House’s conveniently located communal recycling bins—one in each corner of the courtyard—might also have given Kirkland an advantage over the more sprawling Houses, Hoelting said.

Stackable recycling bins with handles were also distributed in each House this year, a change that Gould and Gogan said made recycling easier.

REP representatives held study breaks this winter—complete with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream—to promote recycling and reducing energy and water consumption, Gogan said.

“So many of the reps just really found a way to speak the language that was meaningful to residents of a particular House in a way that constantly walked the line between being an advocate of environmentally responsible behavior and being a pain in the neck,” Gogan said. “They got their fellow students to really make big improvements.”