Let’s get Wasted! (Reducing our Waste, That is)

Let’s get Wasted! (Reducing our Waste, That is)

I recently came across an organization called We Hate to Waste, a community of people who hate to see things go to waste: food, energy, water — you name it. It was founded by “Junky Jacquie” Ottman, an expert and author on green marketing and “eco-innovation.”  After 25 years working with industry and government, she decided … Read more

I recently came across an organization called We Hate to Waste, a community of people who hate to see things go to waste: food, energy, water — you name it. It was founded by “Junky Jacquie” Ottman, an expert and author on green marketing and “eco-innovation.”  After 25 years working with industry and government, she decided to make a difference in a new way: by empowering a community of like-minded Waste Watchers — the conservers, the repurposers, the mindful and the resourceful — to ignite a cultural change that can help reduce waste.

The organization developed its own creative ways of reducing waste in our everyday lives, and arranged them in seven different categories. Start getting wasted – check out its list of tips.

RecycleMania Has Begun!

RecycleMania Has Begun!

The past several years Mount Union has participated in a month-long, nationwide recycling competition called RecycleMania. The competition started on February 4 and runs through March 30, with the involvement of 523 schools, more than 4.4 million students and nearly 1 million faculty and staff participating in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. During this … Read more

The past several years Mount Union has participated in a month-long, nationwide recycling competition called RecycleMania. The competition started on February 4 and runs through March 30, with the involvement of 523 schools, more than 4.4 million students and nearly 1 million faculty and staff participating in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.

During this whole month, all the competing schools will recycling and compost roughly 94.4 million pounds and have Greenhouse Gas Reduction of 148,897 (MTCO2E). Last year Mount Union finished 206 place while achieving a recycling rate of 20.18%. You can download the full 2012 Competition Final Results here. We want your help to help improve this rate and climb to the leader board! Please help remember to recycle at all possible times and spread the word.

Download a Mount Union RecycleMania flyer to help promote the competition!

National recognition is provided to the winning school in each category on the RecycleMania website and in a national press release. Winning schools receive an award made out of recyclable materials, and win the right to host that category’s special traveling trophy for the coming year. Here are some overall goals of the competition:

  1. Motivate students and staff to increase recycling efforts and reduce waste generation.
  2. Generate attention and support for campus recycling programs.
  3. Encourage colleges to measure and benchmark recycling activity in their effort to improve their programs over time.
  4. Have a fair and friendly competition.

Schools compete in 11 categories to see which can recycle the most paper, cardboard, cans and bottles and food waste on a per capita basis; which can produce the least amount of waste; and which recycles the largest percentage of their overall waste stream. In one of two new categories – Game Day: Basketball – schools are challenged to increase their recycling and reduce waste generation at a single home basketball game. A second new category targeting film plastics will call attention to the recyclability of items such as dry cleaning bags, shrink wrap and shopping bags. Mount Union just competes in the general categories.

Happy recycling, and follow our Facebook page!

A Whole Year Without Plastic?!

A Whole Year Without Plastic?!

I posted a few days ago about my new haircut, which I inadvertently made as a New Year’s resolution I guess. So, bring on 2014. I already knocked out and completed my goal for 2013! Kidding. I didn’t want to come up with some standard resolutions that everyone does, even though they still exist on the bottom … Read more

I posted a few days ago about my new haircut, which I inadvertently made as a New Year’s resolution I guess. So, bring on 2014. I already knocked out and completed my goal for 2013! Kidding. I didn’t want to come up with some standard resolutions that everyone does, even though they still exist on the bottom of my list, but my top resolution is a rather lofty and impactful goal.

2013 Resolution: Rise Above Plastics. Attempt to go a whole year without using, or significantly reducing my plastic footprint.

I was very inspired by this after I attended the East Coast Chapter Summit with the Surfrider Foundation, and really hope to follow through on cutting out as much plastic as possible. The facts are pretty evident I quickly found out, and in many parts of our oceans there exists this sort of plasticy soup, a gyre as it’s called. According to the organization Rise Above Plastics, plastic is all around us. It’s in our homes, our offices, our vehicles, our yards and our playgrounds. We use it to package food, bottle products, bag produce, make dinnerware and utensils, make toys and more.

Plastics have undoubtedly helped us to manufacture, package and ship goods more easily, for less money, and in some cases, more safely than ever before. But, plastics pose a significant threat to our planet as well. Part of the problem is plastic itself. The very qualities that make it an adaptable and durable product to use, also make plastic an environmental nightmare. You see, plastics do not biodegrade. Instead they photodegrade – breaking down under exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, into smaller and smaller pieces.

The bottom line is that with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated, virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form.

The Rise Above Plastic’s mission is simple: to reduce the impacts of plastics in the marine environment by raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution and by advocating for a reduction of single-use plastics and the recycling of all plastics. I encourage you to follow ‘RAP’ on Facebook and Twitter, and be a leader and advocate for change. “Ban the Bag” from your city if you are so empowered to do so.

Some other easy things you can do to reduce your ‘plastic footprint’ and help keep plastics out of the marine environment are choosing to reuse when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water; refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other ‘disposable’ plastics; reduce everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons; bring your to-go mug with you; and recycle! If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics. Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically have very low recycling rates. Wish me luck!

For more ‘green’ resolutions, check out this post.

Reduce and Reimagine This Holiday Season

Reduce and Reimagine This Holiday Season

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, and now we have the full month of December, which means gift planning, purchasing and accumulating of materialistic items. These holidays put your bank account and the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red. Also, we are currently using the resources of one-and-a-half … Read more


Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, and now we have the full month of December, which means gift planning, purchasing and accumulating of materialistic items. These holidays put your bank account and the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red. Also, we are currently using the resources of one-and-a-half planets on our one and only planet, Earth. Wow.

According to Patagonia, environmental bankruptcy, as well with corporate bankruptcy, can happen very slowly, then all of a sudden. This is what we face as consumers unless we slow down and try to reverse the damage. We’re running short on fresh water and raw materials, all of our planet’s natural systems and resources that support business and life.

There is much to be done and plenty for us all to do. Don’t buy what you don’t need this holiday season. Think twice before you buy anything. Remember to reduce, repair, reuse and recycle by supporting companies that are sustainable and making a positive impact. You can also fix old clothes instead of getting new things (it adds character anyways) or find a new home for things you don’t use anymore and see if any of your belongings can be recycled. The bottom line is that you should try to not buy what you don’t need, pledge to fix what’s broken, sell or pass things on and pledge to keep your stuff out of the landfill and incinerator.

More importantly, let’s reduce and reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.

“Christmas should be something to enjoy rather than endure,” writes author and activist Bill McKibben. “Instead of an island of bustle, it should be an island of peace amid a busy life. We want so much more out of Christmas: more music, more companionship, more contemplation, more time outdoors, more love.” In Hundred Dollar Holiday, McKibben, a church-going Christian, describes what it’s like to set a $100 limit on holiday spending – gifts, decorations, even the holiday feast. Some of us might find that level of simplicity a challenge, at least to start, but surveys bear out that those are the things people want most.

Time – especially time with friends – is one of the most valuable gifts we can give. How you choose to take back the holidays is up to you – that’s what it’s all about, creating and nurturing your own traditions. As with any gift, it’s the thought that counts. So this year, think hard about what really matters to you and your family and put that at the top of your holiday gift list.

As for me, I plan to spend time at home with my family who I haven’t been able to see for an extended period of time in so long, after being in Spain, then coming to Mount right away. I plan to simplify as well, and even though I already have some new clothes on the Christmas list and maybe a new camera, I believe my mindset and mentality is there. Most the clothes are from companies that support a good cause anyway!

How do you plan to reimagine your holidays this year?

(Thanks to Patagonia for some of the insight on this post)

November 15th – America Recycles Day

November 15th – America Recycles Day

Thursday, November 15 marks the celebratory day of recycling, where the goal is to better educate all Americans about the environmental and economic benefits of recycling. America Recycles Day is celebrated with local events, pledge contests and prize drawings that drive home the point that we will all do more and be better about recycling in the … Read more


Thursday, November 15 marks the celebratory day of recycling, where the goal is to better educate all Americans about the environmental and economic benefits of recycling. America Recycles Day is celebrated with local events, pledge contests and prize drawings that drive home the point that we will all do more and be better about recycling in the coming year. The national recycling rate has increased every year since 1980, and is currently 34%…lets help improve that on campus! The Sustainability Committee will be hosting several events and games, so be on the lookout! Prizes will be awarded.

Find an event near you. (Enter your zip code under Attend an Event to find a local celebration.) Or, check out a list of events near Alliance.

Take the pledge to recycle more this year. (and be entered into a drawing for fabulous prizes).

I recently went to a conference and heard the organization 5 Gyres speak. Its vision is to witness plastic pollution decline in the environment until it is no longer found in the world’s oceans. The video is of a research team that went to investigate the Great Lakes, and they found the same results in the ocean – tons of plastic infested waters.

Take a look around you- most of what we eat, drink or use in any way comes packaged in petroleum plastic, a material designed to last forever, yet used for products that we then throw away. This throwaway mentality is a relatively recent phenomenon. Just a generation ago, we packaged our products in reusable or recyclable materials (glass, metals and paper) and designed products that would last. Today, our landfills and beaches are awash in plastic packaging and expendable products that have no value at the end of their short lifecycle.

The short-term convenience of using and throwing away plastic products carries a very inconvenient long-term truth. These plastic water bottles, cups, utensils, electronics, toys and gadgets we dispose of daily are rarely recycled in a closed loop. We currently recover only 5% of the plastics we produce. What happens to the rest of it? Roughly 50% is buried in landfills, some is remade into durable goods and much of it remains “unaccounted for,” lost in the environment where it ultimately washes out to sea.

Just think…there are 350 million-square-kilometers of ocean, and 73 million pounds of plastic. Take a look at this “plastic soup,” and maybe you will avoid using single stream plastic, or just recycle a little bit more.

The Game Day Challenge: Attempting to Go Zero-Waste

The Game Day Challenge: Attempting to Go Zero-Waste

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One of the university groups I am involved with at Mount Union is the Sustainable Management Advisory Committee (SMAC). Part of my role within this group is to help assist in the decision making process of socially and environmentally sound opportunities to create a sustainable atmosphere for students. I have helped promote awareness for sustainability on campus by doing some marketing in the library and writing green facts in The Dynamo (our school’s weekly newspaper). One project this year is the Game Day Challenge, which will be held at our last home football game of the year against Baldwin-Wallace.

The Game Day Challenge is a groundbreaking event for sustainability on the campus of Mount Union. Mount Union Stadium will host the first ever near-zero waste event. Universities nation wide sign up for this event to measure and report recycling, composting, reuse, donation and trash disposal in pounds at sporting events. The EPA will recognize all Game Day Challenge participants in December of 2011 and present awards in the following five categories: waste generation, diversion rate, greenhouse gas reduction, recycling and organics reduction. Several of these categories are measured by taking the pounds of waste and dividing it by the total attendance, leaving a rate of per capita waste generation. The colleges and universities with the highest rates will be presented with awards. Basically, much of the trash generated at the game will no longer just go to a landfill.

At the game, there will be several stations set up where fans will be engaged an educated on where to properly dispose of concessions and refreshments. Recycling will still be taken to the schools municipality, the organics will be composted at our school’s Nature Center and the waste that cannot be handled will have to go to a landfill. One part that I am really excited about is how we will recycle our chip bags and candy bar wrappers. We will be putting different collection bins out for these and sending them to TerraCycle, where I interned this past summer, and they will be turned into eco-products. This is just another big step Mount Union is taking to become a more environmentally sound campus. Come out and cheer on a Purple Raider win, but also do your part to help a win for the environment!

My Internship at TerraCycle

My Internship at TerraCycle

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I posted in my first blog about some of the cool jobs and internships I have been fortunate to have. I wanted to take the time and talk about my most previous internship in the business development department at TerraCycle this past summer. I moved out to Trenton, New Jersey to work for a company that is simply eliminating the idea of waste. CEO Tom Szaky, from his book Revolution in a Bottle, says it best that “in looking at waste as an entirely modern, man-made idea, I stopped viewing garbage as garbage and instead slowly started to see it as a commodity.” The private company’s goal is to engage consumers and communities in the collection of non-recyclable waste, things that you ordinarily cannot throw away into a recycling bin. Through a collection process, or Brigade™, consumers can send in their used products to TerraCycle where they will transform the waste into eco-products. They also incentivize the collections by rewarding consumers with $0.02 per item to a charity or school of their choice. This is able to close an environmental loop for brand’s consumers, and help them realize that there is an end of life decision for all the products they are using.

From corks, cameras, cell phones, any sort of packaging, pre-consumer waste, shoes, diapers, energy bars, pens to yogurt containers, TerraCycle handles them all. They are very proud to say that they have not yet encountered a form of waste in which they can’t handle. Also, the whole Trenton office is upcycled featured conference rooms made from bottle walls and reclaimed doors used for desks (the office was voted the “Coolest in America.”). Some of their more successful products can be found in Walmart and the Home Depot like the Capri Sun backpack and the garbage cans made from 1,500 Frito-Lay bags. Next time you’re at the grocery store, be sure to look at the back of a Capri Sun box!

By being a part of the business development team it was my duty to research and reach out to prospective brands to sponsor a specific Brigade™ or waste stream. Some of the companies that I was on conference calls and in contact with were Adidas, Puma, Mary’s Gone Cracker, ReBounces and KEEN Footwear. I actually helped facilitate and close a deal for ReBounces where TerraCycle will collect and reuse tennis balls. This was truly an amazing experience and I learned valuable skills like brand management, business etiquette and abstract thinking. An internship experience is a great way to help someone better understand and mature in a real world business environment. I also was able to explore the east coast, a place unfamiliar to me. It was fun to go to Times Square, Philadelphia for the 4th of July, and different beaches along the coast as well as go surfing. I actually was able to surprisingly see P Diddy and the Jersey Shore cast on two different occasions!

If it wasn’t for some of the classes I took at Mount Union, I may have not been able to land the internship. There are several courses in the Department of Economics, Accounting and Business Administration offered like life and career plans that helped me construct proper resumes, cover letters, references, acceptance letters and allowed me to participate in mock interviews. I found the internship online, and all the tools I learned in class were put into use. I really loved working for an eco-capitalist company, and I hope to implement some of the ideas here at Mount Union. Maybe one day our campus will be completely off of waste!