When Madde Schetnan came to the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University Sustainability Office, she started researching recycling opportunities for the two campuses.
She believes she found one in the “Campus Race to Zero Waste,” a national event which she’ll be leading from Jan. 31 to March 27 at both CSB and SJU.
“Our main goal is to reduce our waste overall and make sure our trash and recycling ends up in the right place,” said Schetnan, a Minnesota GreenCorps member.
“I thought it would be a wonderful event to encourage students to think about their habits when it comes to sustainability,” Schetnan added. “I am hopeful that this will give students the tools they need to recycle right and reduce their waste far beyond their college careers.”
CSB and SJU will be competing in four categories:
- Diversion. The goal of this category is to divert waste from landfills through reduction and recycling categories. Diversion is determined by the percentage of the total weight of recyclables and food organics diverted from total waste generated.
- Food organics. The following materials are included in this category – pre- and post-consumer food waste, compostable service ware (dinnerware, napkins) and used cooking grease. The scoring in this category is based on the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy.
- Electronics recycling. This competition is based the collection of scrap electronics over a one-month period. It includes computers, printers and other office electronics; cell phones and other hand-held devices; televisions and stereos; and ancillary items such as chargers, cords, headsets and old CDs. There will be drop-off sites at both campuses for electronics waste.
- Case study. Schools will share their best practices in promoting and improving recycling and waste reduction on campus.
“We think this project is important because it will foster a friendly competition between our campuses,” said Rachel Brodeur, sustainability coordinator at CSB and SJU. “It’s a great way for students to get involved and be excited about participating.
“We also think waste is a huge problem on college campuses everywhere, but especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. We want students to be more mindful of their consumer choices while they are at CSB/SJU and continue those habits as they move into the ‘real world’ as well,” Brodeur said.
Schetnan, who heads up the project through the Sustainability Office, has an interesting story that explains how she became interested in sustainability. She graduated from St. Cloud State University in May 2020 with a degree in economics.
“I became interested in sustainability when I gave up animal products to reduce my environmental footprint back in 2018,” Schetnan said. “After I transitioned to a plant-based diet, I became interested in other ways to be sustainable in my own life.
“In 2019, one of my professors took note of my habits - such as always having a reusable straw and refusing single-use plastic - and he helped me to realize just how passionate I was about sustainability. It was then that I decided I wanted to be in the environmental sector. The Minnesota GreenCorps program was perfect for me, as it gives young adults the opportunity to network, attend trainings and learn first-hand what it's like to work in the sustainability sector,” Schetnan added.
In the 2020 competition (known then as RecycleMania), 300 campuses and 4.5 million college students, faculty and staff were reached across the U.S. and Canada.
Their efforts were impressive – 48.6 million pounds of waste was recycled, donated and composted, and 380 million plastic containers were kept out of the landfill, according to its website.
Although campus winners will be announced in late April, no prizes of value are awarded to winning schools. Participants compete for the “glory” of winning and knowing they are making a difference in raising awareness about waste reduction.