Written by Don Ratzlaff Wednesday, 02 May 2007 08:56
“It’s something I really feel strongly about, that the Lord left this earth in our hands to take care of and gave us that responsibility—and we’ve really screwed it up,” said Liz Finch, a junior from Houston, Texas.
“I don’t understand why we don’t feel more compelled to do something about that.”
She and fellow junior Shelby Miller, from Byers, Colo., are doing something about it.
The pair have reinstituted a recycling program on campus that slowly but surely is making a difference in the amount of recyclable trash leaving the campus and heading for landfills.
The pair is passionate about the cause.
“I really feel strongly that every person is capable of making a difference,” Finch said. “I believe in quotes like ‘I’m only one person, but I’m still someone,’ and ‘I can’t do everything but I can do something.’”
Added Miller: “It’s just tied deep roots into us about stewardship. I’m a business major here, and stewardship is actually the preaching point for all of the classes here. They’ve just encouraged us to take it to the next level.”
This year, Finch and Miller have revived a tradition of student-initiated recycling that first emerged during the 2000-01 school year, when a student organization called Pax set out some trash baskets near photocopy machines in the business lab and library to collect discarded paper.
As key students graduated, the program disappeared for a couple of years. But last year, Miller and Finch responded to an invitation from the Student Senate to revive it.
The pair received some funding from the Student Senate to buy several recycling containers and began placing them around campus.
“When Liz and I took over, there was a great need for bins here by the mail room (in the Student Center), so we have paper, newspaper and glossy bins in there—and they fill up rather quickly,” Miller said.
“It was kind of experimental,” Finch added. “We put bins in certain places to see what kind of stuff got put in them. A lot of times, people would just throw trash in there—and that was really discouraging.”
But with time, participation has continued to grow—sometimes to the point that the Miller and Finch can’t keep up with the need to transfer the materials from the campus to Hillsboro’s community recycling center.
“I have a Saturn LS and every week the trunk and backseat are completely stuffed at least once—sometimes we have to take two carloads,” Finch said.
“Not only that, but we also recycle for Little Pleasures Coffeeshop (in downtown Hillsboro),” she added. “Marissa (Root, owner) is recycling everything, so usually once every two weeks my trunk will be filled from that, too.”
Miller and Finch have a working agreement with the community program—and a key— whereby they can drop off materials other than the Thursday and Saturday times when the center is open to the public.
“Basically, they’ve granted us full access to their facilities,” Miller said. “When bins fill up on a Monday, we just can’t wait for Thursday.”
In turn, the pair volunteer to work a shift at the local center once every two months to assist the public patrons. Some of their college friends join them on occasion, too.
“That’s really been nice,” Miller said.
The two women credit the growth of recycling on campus to their ongoing effort to educate fellow students on the importance of it. The pair presented a student convocation on the topic last fall and regularly publish flyers that draw attention to the effort, often in humorous ways.
“We try to name a ‘recycler of the week’ when we see that someone has significantly recycled a lot and their name is on a lot of paper,” Miller said. “A lot of people want that title, so they’ll go out of their way to write their name on a bottle—and we just acknowledge them.”
The pair also publish the name of the occasional “recycle hater of the week.”
“That sounds really bad,” Miller said, “but we have close friends who will throw stuff away (in the trash) to make us laugh. So we like to pinpoint them. They know us well enough to know there’s humor behind it, and they like participating in it just because of that. It’s a fun thing to do.”
It’s also time consuming. Finch and Miller estimate that each of them invests 21⁄2 hours each week to the cause, whether it’s unloading bins, separating materials—and sometimes even washing out plastic bottles.
The pair admit they both are over-involved students, and sometimes their schedules don’t allow them to unload the various bins as soon as they’d like to.
“If the bins are full and we have a full week, they’re not going to get emptied,” Miller said.
As a result, they’ve gotten some complaints from some in administrative roles, such as the admissions department.
“They’re trying to show off the campus on campus tours—we understand that,” Miller said. “It does look trashy if you don’t have it organized right.”
Toward that end, Miller and Finch have received money via the Student Senate to purchase more and larger recycling bins—which should be arriving on campus soon.
“It will help greatly when we have the bins because it will look more appealing,” Miller said.
Even though participation in the program continues to grow, Finch and Miller have no illusion that recycling is pervasive.
“It’s a small percentage, which in a way is sad,” Miller said. “But I’m also grateful for that, because we don’t have the facility to get the whole campus involved. It would be really overwhelming.”
Finch said developing the recycling habit is simply hard for some students.
“There’s just so many people whose families never cared—they’re just raised that way and so it’s just not on their mind,” she said.
“One thing we’ve noticed is that people will do it if it’s readily available for them,” Miller said. “I think people just want it to be easier than it needs to be.”
Finch and Miller plan to direct the program again next year—with the new and larger recycling bins in place. But they also want to develop more structure to the program—perhaps make it a paid position—so that successors can step in and keep it going after they graduate.
“I don’t think we knew what we were getting into when we started,” Miller said. “We’re happy with what we got into, but it’s a lot more work than what we thought it would be.
“Next year, we want to know how many bottles are recycled—to give statistics to students so they know what kind of difference they’re making on the campus.”