Eco groups reorganize

Butler University’s environmental groups say they hope to ramp up their efforts to improve the university’s greenness despite a slew of fragmented campus groups and lax participation from the community.

One challenge for Butler’s green community is its own organization. There are a host of green-oriented organizations on campus working on similar projects, which tends to create communication barriers,  said Mike Tirman, Council on Presidential Affairs chair. Another problem is an apathetic student body, he said.

Tirman said his organization has attempted to streamline the communication between all of Butler’s green entities, including the student ECO club, BURN, Eco Dawgs, the Center for Urban Ecology and maintenance entities.

Tirman said he hopes that a new Butler Sustainability Council, headed up by a campus sustainability coordinator and that could be in place for next year, will help ease some of the barriers this community currently faces.

“You fight two things,” Tirman said. “Money and student apathy. We need more students to walk the extra 10 steps to recycle. It’s challenging because it’s something you want to care about, but educating the campus is another burden.”

The possible addition of the sustainability coordinator, whom Tirman said could be a recent graduate, would serve as a liaison between all of Butler’s groups and green services.

The ultimate authority for adding the position rests with Butler’s upper administration group, said Dick Hamm, director of housekeeping.

Hamm said he hopes the Sustainability Council will solve these communication problems and that he is appreciative of CPA’s efforts.

Tirman said he hopes CPA’s role will be to offer some of the resources and the connections with administration in order to help the green efforts on campus.
Another challenge is more visible.

Much of what is recycled each week has to be thrown away because of trash contamination, even though there are more than 100 recycling bins spread strategically throughout the campus, Hamm said.

Augusto Acosta, a housekeeping supervisor, said the worst areas on campus for contamination are the Apartment Village and Ross Hall, although he said students have improved their efforts over the past three weeks.

“Unfortunately, they’re just putting in trash,” Acosta said. “We have no other choice but to throw it out.”

While Hamm said although his staff may want to try to save a batch of contaminated recyclables on its way to the dumpster, they are not allowed to pick trash out of it.

“We get into employee workman’s compensation issues,” Hamm said. “But we also just don’t have the time.”

The university recently received a grant from ALCOA to add 60 more recycling containers, of which 8 to 12 will be given to Hinkle Fieldhouse.

The Hinkle staff has a hard time keeping up the staffing it needs in order to adequately recycle the materials that people go through at sporting events, such as plastic bottles, Hamm said.

Since Hinkle’s maintenance staff has less than five workers, students are stepping up to help the recycling efforts after major events and basketball games by going around the fieldhouse and collecting bottles and other materials that people leave behind.

Tim Carter, director of the Center for Urban Ecology, said that he was impressed by a sporting event recycling initiative at the University of Georgia.

During sporting events, students would go around with designated colored bags to collect recyclables from fans.

“If it can be done there, it can be done at our scale,” Carter said. “You just have to be creative.”

Ryan Eller, secretary of ECO Club, said his group has tried to push recycling at Hinkle.

Eller said his group struggles to market its events to the entire campus due to low participation. The group currently has about five members.

“We’re trying to do new things,” Eller said. “With a university this size, it’s hard to get the word out.”

One of the projects they now are working on is RecycleMania, a nationwide recycling competition for college campuses, which started in early February and goes until mid-April.

Eller said Butler is participating in the contest informally and that many people don’t know it’s going on.

“We want to see who can recycle the most,” Eller said. “We’re trying not to put people against each other.”

During the 2008 competition, Butler recycled more than 65,000 pounds of recyclables during a 10-week period. The school was ranked 120th out of 200 universities that participated.

Last year, Butler’s RecycleMania levels declined to about 45,000 pounds of recyclables and it was ranked 245th out of 363 participating universities.

Hamm said he thinks it is up to the student club to educate the university community about the importance of recycling.

“Last year, it hit some bumps with raising awareness and the time devoted to it,” Hamm said. “It’s so difficult with classes going on, but you’ve got to take some time.”

Eller said one of the problems with getting people to care about recycling is that it is out of sight, out of mind, especially in residence halls.

“If we don’t make things more convenient,” Eller said, “we won’t give them an incentive unless they have an epiphany that recycling is good for the environment.”

One of the ECO Club’s newest ideas to increase convenience is to convert their Atherton Union student office into a recycling depot, where students could drop off materials and ECO Club members would work with the housekeeping staff to properly dispose of them.

Hamm said he has not heard about the plans for this venture.