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UW Residence Halls Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

May 3, 2010
Student with recycling
UW students gathered recycling materials on each floor in the residence halls. (Residence Life)

Beginning at move-in last fall, student leaders in the University of Wyoming residence halls have taken steps to make the halls more sustainable throughout this academic year. The efforts have centered on a three-phase approach: reduce, reuse, and recycle.

"We felt that those of us who live on campus, in addition to working and studying here, should be the ones taking the lead on making UW a sustainable place," says Residence Life & Dining Services Graduate Assistant for Sustainability, Jennifer Crandall. "With nearly 2,000 people living in the residence halls, we are one of the most concentrated housing locations in the state, and we want to set an example."

The first effort launched was an expanded recycling program. Nearly three tons of cardboard were collected on move-in weekend alone. Using that as a springboard, members of the Residence Halls Association (RHA) developed a plan to work with UW Recycling to expand recycling collection in the residence halls. Together, they set a goal to collect 10 tons of recyclable material from the residence halls over the course of the academic year.

"It was really exciting to watch as the hall senators' eyes lit up with the idea of starting this recycling initiative for the residents of each hall," said RHA President Branden Hayes.

Under the plan, student leaders would gather recycling from each floor of the halls weekly. UW Recycling would collect the material from designated pick-up points and provide data on the amount collected. The data were used to provide feedback and education about recycling to residents.

During the spring semester, RHA made plans to work with the Physical Plant to reduce the amount of energy used in the halls. Using data collected by the Physical Plant, RHA engaged residents in an educational campaign that provided monthly feedback about the amount of electricity used in the halls. Each hall competed to reduce its per-capita energy usage, resulting in almost 12,000 fewer kilowatts of energy used during February than the previous three-year average.

The final phase of the "reduce, reuse, recycle" effort will be implemented when students move out this month. During the "When You Move Out Don't Throw It Out" campaign, residents are asked to donate unwanted small appliances, clothing, food and other items. The residence hall staff will collect these items in each hall lobby and donate them to local charities to distribute throughout the community.

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