Sustainability Olympics bring a new kind of compost-ition to Mills

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March 11, 2016

The annual Mills Recyclemania competition is new and improved this year, in the form of the Sustainability Olympics.

For the past eight years, the Mills Sustainability Committee has encouraged eco-consciousness on campus through participation in Recyclemania. This eight-week-long event pitted residence halls against one another, and against other participating colleges, with weekly weigh-ins of recycling and compost products.  But due to a change in waste management providers, which gave fewer buildings easy access to compost bins, Sustainability Coordinator Nicole Gaetjens and student intern for the Eco-Reps, Saiqaa Nuri, decided to try something different this year.

“Because the residences had unequal access to the outdoor compost bins for part of Recyclemania, it didn’t seem to make sense for residences to compete partly based on compost weights,” Gaetjens said.

What emerged instead, was the Sustainability Olympics, a series of four events spread throughout the spring semester, designed to get all students actively involved with on-campus sustainability.

“This year we decided to try something more event-based that everyone can participate in, not just residents,” Gaetjens said.

The attendance of the events so far have been small but enthusiastic, and Gaetjens is optimistic about their overall success. Her hope is that the Sustainability Olympics, which is focused more on creativity and active participation than Recyclemania, will allow for involvement that fits a wider variety of lifestyles and interests.

Nuri worked as an Eco-Rep in Recylemania last year and helped spearhead the planning of the Sustainability Olympics. She believes that this year, students’ interest in learning about eco-friendly practices will be more self-driven.

“It’s [now] a conscious decision to participate,” Nuri said.

The first event, which took place in late February, encouraged students to sort recyclables from non-recyclables, educating attendees for future, independent recycling. The second event, two weeks later, encouraged students to reuse creatively, turning materials from the Re-Use Depot into art and crafts.

Echoes of Recyclemania have still been retained in this new iteration of on-campus sustainability education through the Recyclemania Quiz, which ensured that education about composting and recycling remained central to this year’s competitions.

The Sustainability Olympics are a largely experimental effort on the part of Gaetjens and the Sustainability Committee to find ways to engage the Mills community with environmental issues in ways that resonate with everyone.

“[We’re] trying to just do something new and seeing if there are other ways to engage students,” Gaetjens said. “And just making it fun! That was a big thing that I wanted: not to make it seem like a chore.”

In future years, Gaetjens hopes to continue to refine and improve upon the existing format, finding more creative ways to spread the word of sustainability at Mills.

Only two events remain in the Sustainability Olympics. “The Price is Rot” event is scheduled to take place on March 15, and “Heroes Chase Zero Waste” is scheduled for April 1. Bon Appetit has donated $20 in Tea Shop points as a reward for the winner of each event. Both events will be held in Adams Plaza at 12:30, and are open to all Mills students.


Sustainability Olympics bring a new kind of compost-ition to Mills was published on March 11, 2016 in News, Sports & Health

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