Posted by: Cameron | Posted on: September 20, 2021
4 Incredibly Simple Actions to Improve Campus Sustainability
Next month is international Campus Sustainability month. Throughout October, colleges and universities will be organizing events to bring awareness to sustainability issues, with the hopes of inspiring students and faculty to be more environmentally conscious and encourage generational change.
Whether you’re on campus or not, if you are in charge of a sustainability program, there are four critical areas that you need to address in order to ensure it has significant long-term success. Thinking back to my university days, these four attributes of their recycling program have stuck with me for over 20 years, even though I wasn’t directly involved in any campus sustainability groups.
Make it Cool
I arrived in McDonald Hall as a freshman at Bowling Green State University (Go Falcons!) in August of 1997. One of the first things I noticed in those few days before classes began were all the recycling containers. It was a huge transition from high school, where recycling wasn’t nearly as top of mind.
What makes the BGSU recycling program memorable for me is that they attached a slogan with a double-meaning to it. BGSU Can Recycle was a creative play on words. Yes, it was obviously an initiative for students to recycle their pop cans. More importantly, it was also a proclamation to everyone associated with BGSU. Bowling Green was committed to doing a better job of recycling and being environmentally conscious. Their motto let everyone on campus know that we all had a part to play.
Make it Convenient
If you’re trying to change the habits of people in your organization or neighborhood, removing as many barriers as possible is crucial. Bowling Green consistently did a great job of this.
Recycling containers weren’t just in dining halls. They were everywhere. If you were walking from the Student Union to Jerome Library, you passed one in the center of campus. If you were farther away, like at the Rec Center, a recycling center was there too. BGSU made it very easy for students to recycle, and we responded accordingly.
Even at massive events like the annual back-to-school campus cookout, recycling containers were prevalent. Yet, if you walked by University Hall even 15 minutes afterward, you would never know that thousands of hungry college students just had lunch, all spread out across the lawn. Keeping the campus clean was important to everyone, so we all did our part.
Make it a Challenge
Nobody likes a problem, but everyone loves a good challenge. I heard Tony Robbins say that once, and it really stuck with me.
When I was a student, BGSU was great at promoting challenges for various causes. These were highlighted at football and basketball games, where Greek houses and residence halls were always highly visible and usually competing for some cause.
Friendly competition gets people involved. More than just saying “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, find a way to put a competitive spin on your program. You’ll be surprised at the results you can achieve through fun competition.
Make it the Culture
As a student, I was always very impressed that Greek houses and residence halls were at the forefront of every large campus-wide initiative. Whether it was Dance Marathon, environmental causes, or special one-day events, they were instrumental in promoting to the rest of campus. Your organization can operate similarly.
Find the influencers in your organization and get them on board with your sustainability initiatives. It only takes a few people taking consistent action to improve the culture and spread positive change.
Times Have Changed
In my research, I found that BGSU Can Recycle was retired quite a while ago. To be honest, I’m not sure if that was ever an official slogan, but it was everywhere on campus and obviously had a lasting impression on me. I’m a very thorough and consistent recycler now, and that likely took shape during my years at BGSU.
You can find more about the Going Green at Bowling Green initiatives (started in 2008) by visiting their Office of Campus Sustainability.