Volunteers win Baylor record in sustainability efforts

By Kara Blomquist

Recycling is becoming cutting-edge.

Baylor has set a university-wide recycling record for the second year in a row.

In 2012, the university recycled 440.71 tons, breaking its previous record of 414.34 in 2011 by more than 25 tons. All of the university’s recycling is weighed by SunBright Disposal Services, which reports the weight of the recycling to the university.

“The Office of Sustainability is making incredible progress,” said Smith Getterman, sustainability coordinator.

“Baylor has had weak recycling months in the past,” Getterman said. “The months when school is not in session, such as May and December, are typically low months. Now, those low months are showing great improvement.” In May 2011, Baylor recycled 18.9 tons. In May 2012, that number jumped to 31 tons.

Baylor students are also about to have a new way to recycle.

“We’re looking into glass recycling on campus. I think that will be something that happens this semester,” Getterman said.

Because glass is difficult to transport and costly to recycle, the program will be for internal use only. Unlike paper and plastic recycling, where students, faculty and staff can bring their recycling to campus, glass recycling will only be available to the on-campus community.

The success of Baylor sustainability may be due to student awareness of sustainability.

The current senior class is the last class to have experienced Baylor before sustainability had a presence on campus, Getterman said. He said most of Baylor’s students don’t know the university without a sustainability program.

“I think the fact that people have now had the experience of living and breathing sustainability on campus, they’ve had that kind of opportunity to get into that routine,” he said. “I think that makes a huge difference.”

Pattie Orr, vice president for information and dean of university libraries, also attributes the success of the Office of Sustainability to student awareness. Orr also said the success of Baylor sustainability is due to good communication and good use of volunteers.

Callie Jo Clevenger, student assistant in the Office of Sustainability, has seen the impact of those volunteers at the football games.

Student volunteers help raise awareness and encourage others to recycle at the games.

“Their efforts alone have let our numbers just grow over the years in football games,” she said.

Clevenger said she realizes Baylor sustainability has made great progress, but there is still a long way to go.

Orr said one area Baylor sustainability has room to improve is in preventing contamination. One obstacle sustainability faces is keeping the recycled material in a clean state, such as emptying bottles before they’re recycled. A whole load of recycling will be ruined and become trash if one thing gets in that shouldn’t be there.

Paula Young, director of game operations, said the issue of contamination is prevalent at athletic events.

According to Getterman, the biggest obstacle to sustainability is mindset. When people approach sustainability with the idea that “this is good enough” or “Baylor doesn’t need to do that,” improvement can be difficult, he said.

“We’re not doing this just to save money or because we’re environmentalists,” Getterman said. “We’re doing this because God created the earth just for us, and He cared enough about it to create a covenant with us for the Earth to spare it for us.”

Clevenger said she believes sustainability means more than just conserving.

“Recycling can be so much more than just throwing your plastic in the bin. It can be about just the realization of God’s great power and appreciation for all that He’s created for us,” she said.

Young said she believes the costs of sustainability are well worth the benefits.

“I just think that we should do all we can for future generations to take care of the Earth as best we know right now,” she said.

Students, faculty and staff can find out how to get involved in sustainability efforts by visiting Baylor’s sustainability blog at https://osogreen.tumblr.com.