More than 1.2 million pounds of recyclables were collected by the University of Michigan campus community during two annual eight-week waste reduction competitions, RecycleMania and Battle of the Buildings.
Efforts by students, faculty and staff on the Ann Arbor campus led U-M to place fifth in the total recycled category among the 230 schools participating in the nationwide RecycleMania competition.
In U-M’s RecycleMania: Battle of the Buildings competition, building occupants competed for titles in the areas of most-improved recycling rate, largest waste reduction rate and highest recycling rate.
“The success of waste reduction efforts on our campus can be largely attributed to the engagement of our community,” says Alison Richardson, recycling coordinator in the Office of Campus Sustainability. “The dedicated individuals who step up and become leaders in their facilities and communities really are what drives action and impact to reduce waste.”
During the competitions, OCS monitored recyclables, composting rates and landfill levels for participating buildings on a weekly basis.
The Madison Building, which houses the Division of Public Safety and Security Administration and units in Facilities & Operations, achieved the top recycling rate with 78 percent.
Lane Hall, home to the Institute for Research on Women & Gender, LSA Facilities and the Department of Women’s Studies, achieved the most improved recycling rate with a 52.8 percent change from 2017. Crisler Center, home of Michigan basketball, won the waste reduction category, reducing total building waste by 36.8 percent from last year.
Sucila Fernandes, facilities manager at the Dana Building, said she is proud that the Gold LEED-certified building is among the top of the list for building recycling rates, placing fifth.
“Given that the Dana Building houses the School for Environment and Sustainability, our students, faculty and staff are deeply committed to sustainable practices like composting and recycling,” Fernandes says.
Fernandes also notes sustainable waste management is a team effort.
“We’re glad we can rely on our co-workers in Custodial and Waste Management Services to make sure that our sorted waste, including the compost, gets where it needs to go,” she says.
“It also helps to have a student organization, the Dana Compost Crew, whose mission is to remove barriers to sustainable waste management. These dedicated students give composting workshops, find caterers who can execute zero-waste events, and everything in between.”
Coinciding with Planet Blue’s efforts to encourage waste reduction with weekly themes promoted on its social media accounts, the Martha Cook residence hall was recognized for being particularly engaged.
Kate Vogel and Neha Srinivasan, resident advisers in Martha Cook, take a similar approach and encourage participation of fellow students through competitions and prize offers.
“My friends and I are just incredibly passionate about sustainability in general,” Vogel says. “We are excited to share our knowledge with each other and with the building. Our passions inspire each other, and by talking about sustainability daily, we have been able to get more residents involved.”
Vogel and Srinivasan promoted opportunities such as film screenings and discussions related to food, water, recycling and energy, guided efforts to become certified Planet Blue Ambassadors and promoted engaging with Planet Blue on social media.
This was U-M’s 12th annual Battle of the Buildings competition which ran Feb. 4-March 31, and its 13th year participating in the national RecycleMania competition.
Both competitions support the university’s goal of reducing waste sent to landfill by 40 percent by 2025 and the university’s broader commitment to sustainability, known as Planet Blue.
“We think that educating others is essential to helping U-M meet its sustainability goals,” Vogel says. “There is often a lack of awareness of the small things that people can do every day to minimize their impact on the environment, and we want to make sure that people think of sustainability as an issue that affects them today.”
At the conclusion of the national competition, the university’s efforts generated the following results:
• Per Capita Classic (the largest weight of recyclables per person): 77 out of 229 schools, 13.7 pounds of recyclables per capita.
• Total Recycling (the largest collection of recyclables): fifth out of 229 schools, 1,227,702 total pounds recycled.
• Diversion Champion (the highest recycling rate during the competition): 61 out of 170 schools, 42.72 percent recycling rate.
• Waste Minimization (the least amount of waste per capita): 86 out of 179 schools, 43.63 pounds per capita.