If you wander through the lobby of North Hall Thursday night (Jan. 16), you’ll encounter a mouth-watering S’Mores party, the spoils of an intense battle between residence halls last semester to see who could recycle the most glass, plastic, paper and cardboard.
To the victors go the spoils! North Hall won, so its 170 residents, plus or minus a few, celebrate with toasty, tasty S’Mores. They’ve also earned cool T-shirts with a “recycling is sexy” slogan, designed by an education graduate student from Dillingham, Ricky Lind, and financed for the winning team by the UAA Green Fee Board.
Lind is a resident assistant for West Hall and part of the team that brought the recycling competition to fruition. Also a part of the recycling leadership team was Natalie Tierney, an elementary education major and sophomore from the Mat-Su Valley and resident assistant for the six Main Apartment Complex (MAC) units.
Joining them from the victorious North Hall was Kirsten Rawding, a sophomore majoring in English with a concentration in literature and creative writing. North Hall is the freshman residence hall (Go, Freshman!). And rounding out the recycling effort was Bobo Camara, the resident advisor for East Hall.
Natalie, Kirsten and Ricky were all guests on KRUA’s Student Storyboard on Jan. 10, a weekly interview show every Friday on 88.1 FM that features as guests UAA students and their ambitions and endeavors. The recycling experience was the topic du jour.
The four student leaders join UAA residential life employee Ryan Hill to help on-campus residents think and act effectively on sustainability issues. Paula Williams, director of UAA’s Office of Sustainability, meets with the team regularly and helped inspire the recycling competition. There is already talk of a spring semester energy competition among the residence halls and apartments, but more on that later.
So, some facts about the big fall semester battle. All of UAA’s residence facilities have recycle bins in their lobbies. The competition launched on Oct. 1, and was supposed to last until Halloween. However… an application by Bobo Camara to the Green Fee Board to support winners with T-shirts was approved on Oct. 31, so leaders decided to extend the competition two more weeks, until the middle of November.
Student workers on the Friday recycling crew took on the duty of weighing the recycled material and keeping track of each unit’s overall numbers. Lobby bins overflowed, to the degree that advisors are now entertaining installing recycle bins on every floor of the residential halls—making it even easier for students to recycle.
“We really wanted to invite students to get into recycling, and all the different categories of items they can recycle,” said Natalie Tierney. “We wanted to motivate them so they realize it needs to happen.”
Clearly, the effort worked. The official volumes of recycled material from each unit were:
- East Hall, 114 pounds
- North Hall, 137 pounds
- West Hall, 102 pounds
- MAC, 164 pounds
These weights were divided by the number of residents in each of the units, making North Hall the ultimate winner.
“I was really happy with the results,” Williams said. “It significantly increased recycling and students were very enthusiastic.”
The residential team leaders said they found that some students are natural recyclers, but some come from areas of Alaska where they don’t have the opportunity to recycle at home. Living in UAA’s residential facilities is one of their first opportunities to practice recycling where they live.
That was true for Ricky Lind, who said recycling is limited in Dillingham. Energy use, however, is top-of-mind there. Lind said he always remembers to shut down heat and turn off lights after living with the high costs of rural energy.
Williams said the chance to teach students similar good sustainability habits was behind the energy-saving competition in the residential units last spring. Plans for a similar competition this semester are still taking shape.
Ryan Hill says his teams hope to focus on turning down energy use in all the living units this spring. The date for the actual competition is still up in the air, depending on the opportunity to install energy meters in the MAC units.
The MAC meters have been purchased, Williams said, but installation requires utilities to be shut off and that probably won’t happen until over spring break. The
new meters would allow MAC apartment residents to compete more dramatically as individual consumers.
That’s how it worked at the Templewood apartments last spring during the previous energy competition. Individual residents even got “faux energy bills” from the Office of Sustainability, pinpointing their gas and electricity usage and including tips for turning those levels down.
“This is an important learning opportunity,” Williams said. “We won’t have these students for long. Soon they’ll be out in their own apartments. This is a chance for them to learn smart energy habits that they can use for a lifetime to save money and benefit their planet.”