By Michelle DeMille
The commitment to sustainability is a guiding principle of the office of Residence Life & Housing. Sustainability is more than just the commitment to building environmentally friendly buildings, encouraging recycling, and reducing energy usage in our halls; to us sustainability is learned and practiced behavior with a focus on one’s impact on the world.
The Residence Life & Housing Sustainability Committee is designed to teach these principles and behaviors to the students living in our community. The committee is comprised of full time staff, paraprofessional staff, and resident students. The group meets bi-weekly to discuss how we can educate the residents that that there is more to sustainability than recycling.
We have created many programs/initiatives to capture the interest of our residents and raise awareness of our efforts. In the past we have held upcycling events where we created crafts, room decorations, bags, and planters out of materials that had outlived their intended use. Items such as old t-shirts, magazines, plastic bottles, broken furniture, and empty food containers that all could have found their way into a dumpster (or preferably a recycling bin) were turned into new and purposeful items that the residents could display in their rooms. These upcycled which would hopefully serve as a reminder to students that things don’t need to be discarded if they can be used for something else.
We held a virtual ‘Sustainability Awareness Week’ on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/RLH-Sustainability-Committee-1541039016138562/) and shared interesting content each day of the week. We gave tips on how to live sustainably in your residence hall by doing things like turning lights off, unplugging devices that aren’t in use, keeping windows closed in the winter months, and many more. We also held contests on the page including trivia and a scavenger hunt to find sustainable resources on our campus to win a reusable coffee mug. We raised the number of likes on our page and the daily interactions with the site also increased through this effort.
The committee’s main focus each spring is to help the residence halls participate in Recyclemania, which is an international competition on energy reduction and recycling on college campuses. Each year, in addition to the international competition, the Sustainability Committee partners with Facilities Management and Planning to reward the individual hall the recycles the most during the 8-week competition. Scott Hall, who has dominated the competition for the last few years and earned a study break at the beginning of finals with complimentary snacks and reusable tumblers to keep.
The Sustainability Committee partnered with students in the Sustainability Residential Learning Community in Woodward hall to host a campus clean-up day that showed them the impact of their efforts in their own environment and furthered a sense of campus pride. It also raised awareness for all the community members that passed by and witnessed the work these students were doing.
The committee introduced a few new ideas this last year, including an internal phone sharing program for Resident Assistants (RAs). The phone sharing program allowed departing RA to donate their landline phone (which are required as part of their job) to an incoming RA who may not have one. This was to keep working phones from finding their way into a trash barrel as well as provide a needed supply to an RA who may be in need.
Another new program was a donation drive at the end of the spring semester. Each year we observed so many useful and working items end up in the dumpsters because the residents simply did not want them any longer. We advertised via email to the residents in our halls that we’d be collecting things like microwaves, mirrors, bed risers, small fans etc. to be given back to other resident students at the beginning of the fall semester. We gathered so many useful items that would have otherwise been discarded and we will host a no-cost yard sale event at the beginning of the semester to offer those goods back to our residents!
The committee is always working to highlight the sustainability focused work of other areas on campus. We’ve highlight Sodexo’s efforts, The Facilities Management and Planning Department, BSU Recycling, and are always on the lookout for new partnerships and opportunities to spread the message of sustainability. BSU has a lot of great sustainability features but there is always more to be done and we hope that the work of our committee has impacted our residents to help contribute to a greener and more sustainable environment.