Earlier this month, Augsburg College was awarded a $50,000 recycling grant through the Hennepin County Environment and Energy Department. The grant will help the College complete an effort, begun in early 2015, to increase the amount of organic and compostable items diverted from trash and other recycling. Funds provided by the county will be used to purchase indoor and outdoor bins, rolling carts, and signage to encourage increased recycling of organic materials as well as other mixed recyclables.
Submission of the proposal was a collaborative effort between Augsburg’s Environmental Stewardship Committee (ESC), facilities and custodial staff, and the Augsburg Day Student Government’s Environmental Action Committee. This marked the first time that these three groups have worked together on a campus issue.
“Recycling is near and dear to the entire community,” said Christina Erickson, associate professor in the Department of Social Work and program director in Environmental Studies. “And, yet, it’s surprisingly hard to do well. Bins and signage are an important component of helping this process along, but they are also extremely expensive. This grant allows us to think through this process and make purchases that will work for the entire campus community.”
In 2015, Augsburg’s Custodial Services department converted all paper towels to a compostable and more sustainably manufactured option. It also began using bath tissues made from non-tree fibers containing 65% recycled fiber content. The coreless 100% solid tissue rolls create less waste and reduce transportation costs.
With this grant, custodial staff will install new interior and exterior bins across campus, post new signage, and place specialty containers across campus to collect used batteries, plastic bags, and small electronics.
Michelle Nies, custodial services manager, noted that her team will share information on the expanded program with all current and incoming students, as well as their parents, so they can incorporate recycling and composting into their campus homes.
The ESC since 1999 has guided Augsburg’s efforts to integrate environmental stewardship into all aspects of campus life. Comprised of students, faculty, and staff, the ESC engages in various projects and outreach initiatives including curriculum review, workshops, transit fairs, energy and waste audits, lectures, green purchasing audits, and more.
The grant furthers the Augsburg 2019 strategic plan which outlines a commitment to be “Green by 2019”. In September of 2010, a task force submitted a climate action plan for Augsburg’s Minneapolis campus to reduce carbon output by 2019, the year of its sesquicentennial.
The Student Government’s Environmental Action Committee voted in March to provide the necessary contribution of matching funds required to secure the county grant. Erickson was grateful that students embraced the idea and took an active interest in the proposal. Committee members also will carry out volunteer-led projects and campaigns to educate Augsburg’s undergraduate and residential population about the expanded organics program.
Amber Lewis, a graduate student in the Education department and an Environmental Stewardship Fellow, is hopeful that the grant will increase recycling in three high-traffic areas of campus: Si Melby Hall and Kennedy Center; Event and Conference Planning; and the various residence halls.
“From commencement ceremonies and sporting events to convocations and conferences, thousands of people touch the campus in some way during the course of one year,” Lewis said. “Sustainability is something that Augsburg wants to present as a central characteristic of our diverse body of students, faculty, and staff. It’s important to all of us that anyone who visits our campus has access to recycling and composting. This grant has provided us with the funding necessary to see that vision move forward.”
“There is a growing awareness of the need for sustainable living among those who spend their days and nights on this campus,” said Nicholas Stewart-Bloch ’17, who leads the student Environmental Action Committee. “Much of this is manifested in small decisions such as recycling or using public transportation. There is still much work to be done to fully consider all the various ways in which we affect our environment, but there is a growing interest among students in helping reduce our carbon footprint.”
To learn more, please visit the Environmental Stewardship Committee website.