When Britta Bullard started working at Mills in January 2008 as sustainability coordinator, her first project was Recyclemania. Janet Holmgren, Mills College’s president at the time, signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. By signing this, the College agreed to participate in Recyclemania and has continued to participate since.
Recyclemania is a competition between more than 600 colleges and universities nationwide that works to promote waste reduction. It is made up of eight weeks worth of competition for schools to try to minimize the waste they produce and sort waste into proper compost and recycling bins. The amount of waste, compost and recycling are weighed and reported back to Recyclemania who tracks what schools are doing the best.
The competition began in January 2001, from a school rivalry between Ohio University and Miami University. The two recycling coordinators of the schools decided to use the sports rivalry as a way to motivate and inspire the schools to recycle. As the years followed, more schools were invited and began to participate in the friendly competition.
Mills‘ scores are exceptionally high every year and proves to be a leader in sustainability. In 2008 Mills won first place in the Compost Per Capita category, and last year placed 15th among the other competing schools like Cornell University, University of Alaska, Sheridan College, UC Berkeley, Saint Mary’s College and California State University Easy Bay.
Last year, a total of 523 colleges competed in the various categories. Mills placed 15th in the Composting Per Capita category, 61st as a Grand Champion, 92nd in Per Capita Classic and 79th in the Waste Minimization category.
Mills is one of 461 colleges participating in the national eight-week competition this year, which started on Feb. 2. Moreover, for three of those eight weeks, the residence halls compete against each other and the winning hall is determined based on who can compost and recycle the most. This year the three-week competition started on Feb. 24.
“Maybe because Mills is such a unique place and people are so competitive with themselves that creating the spirit of competition in a face-to-face manner is more stimulating than thinking of someplace somewhere else,” Bullard said.
For those three weeks the campus Eco Representatives: Alexis Miguel and Brittany Burnett will be going to the resident halls at 7:30 a.m. everyday to weigh all the compost and recycle bins throughout the buildings.
Residential assistants also support Recyclemania by promoting the competition and encouraging residents to keep up the sorting.
Melanie Vega, a resident assistant for first–years, said that she plans to quiz her residents, put reminder signs that Recyclemania is going on and send updates on how their building is doing in the competition.
“I think it’s a great way to build hype about composting and recycling. If they’re trying really hard during the competition, they’ve practiced sorting and it might become second nature once the competition is over. Ultimately the goal is for people to build those habits,” Vega said.
The residence hall competition allows halls to win either in composting per person or recycling per person. Last year, Ethel Moore won both competitions. This year the winning hall or halls will have an ice cream party, including fruit and sorbet to consider everyone’s dietary needs.
Participation in Recyclemania for the campus is not only for the friendly three-week competition in the halls, but also to take a role in being more sustainable as a college community.
The eco-representatives won’t be the only ones weighing throughout the competitions however. A student group, as part of a class assignment, will be doing a data collection project for their introduction to environmental science class with Miguel and Burnett. Not only will they be participating for class, but also helping the Mills community understand the importance of this event.
“The intention of this competition is to inspire a lifestyle shift, and our goal is that these lessons come away with students and faculty after the competition ends,” said Burnett.
Tips for Success in Recyclemania
“Pay attention to the post-it notes you may find in your trash rooms explaining any disqualifications, keep updated on the daily posting of your residence halls progress, encourage your hall-mates and make an effort to take the time to process your trash,” Burnett said.
This year, Mills is competing in the Compost and Recycling Per Capita categories. The scores and data are posted every Friday on the Recyclemania website from all the schools who are participating. Bullard will also be reporting the data collected daily from the residence hall competition in the Student News Digest for students to see where their halls stand.
The rankings change widely throughout the competition, but thus far Mills has started strong. The rankings from the conclusion of the first two weeks of the nationwide competition are seventh place for Composting Per Capita, 30th for Grand Champion, 61st for Per Capita Classic and 54th for Waste Minimization.