In 2009, Valencia joined a network of 685 institutions and became an early signatory of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). The resulting Climate Action Plan commits Valencia to become a climate neutral and zero waste institution by 2060.
A core strategy used by institutions to successfully reduce waste and increase recycling is the removal of individual classroom trash and recycling bins and placing larger waste and recycling stations in hallways.
“While we’ve achieved nationally recognized energy efficiency savings, we need to do more to reduce waste,” said Director of Sustainability Resham Shirsat. “Currently at West Campus, more than $18,000 per year is spent on plastic liners alone. We have won Recyclemania the past three years in a row, but we need to be sure we are not just increasing recycling, but we are reducing over overall waste generation.”
Resham notes that many of the plastic liners are discarded with few items inside but are replaced each time garbage is collected.
“Larger waste stations also usually yield more recyclables by reducing contamination,” she explained. “This will also decrease the amount of plastic being consumed that end up in landfills, incinerators and waterways, and reduce costs on plastic liners by nearly half (if implemented campus-wide). West Campus’ plastic liner use last year alone equated to approximately 6,000 miles of plastic. It will also reduce custodial labor time that could be better used elsewhere and avoids costs from purchasing classroom bins,” she said.
Osceola Campus successfully piloted the removal of individual classroom bins in 2013 and is now expanding its efforts, thanks to the leadership of a 2013 Valencia student intern (now part-time employee) Brandon Golbeck. West Campus will begin a pilot in January 2015 in 17 classrooms located in Building 1.
“After a semester of feedback and program improvement, we hope to expand these efforts to other buildings as well,” Resham said.
She credits West Campus student intern Allyson Smith who performed all the data collection, analysis and mapping of new waste locations. Resham finds that waste and recycling is a topic many students care about.
Valencia College has been a national energy and climate leader over the last few years, but energy is just one facet of sustainability.
Said Resham, “true sustainability includes the responsible and efficient use of all resources such as water, paper and campus habitat, while reducing our impacts through waste and chemical reduction.”
Valencia is on trend with other colleges and universities that are moving in this direction as a core strategy to reduce waste and increase recycling. The College’s stewardship also reflects its awareness of its role as a regional leader, as Florida’s statewide goal is to have a 75 percent recycling rate by the year 2020.
For any questions, comments or ideas about this pilot, please contact Resham at firstname.lastname@example.org or extension 1830.