15:56 PM

UST Ranks #1 in Houston in Nationwide Recycling Program

By Brittani Wright

University of St. Thomas ranks number one among Houston college campuses in the 2019 country-wide competition for recycling called RecycleMania. UST earned 9th in Texas, ranking over UH and A&M.

UST joined this program to improve recycling and waste reduction efforts on campus. 

UST’s Environmental Footprint

The eight-week competition among colleges and universities occurs once a year across the United States and Canada to raise awareness about waste reduction.

This is UST’s second year in a row to participate in the Recycling Per Capita "Classic" Competition, and the third year overall. This success follows the 2018 RecycleMania competition, when UST ranked 12th in Texas with 5.279 pounds per capita of recycled waste.

The competition measures such factors as how much of a campus’s waste stream is recycled, how much is diverted, per capita results, food waste abatement and more. It also examines the effect of education on young people avoiding single-use plastics such as disposable bottles and packaging, according to RecycleMania.

Over 300 campuses in 43 states competed in RecycleMania in 2019 engaging 4.25 million students and 900,000 faculty and staff for a total of more than 5.1 million participants.

From Feb. 3 to March 30, the participating colleges and universities recycled or composted (and donated to food banks and farms and used for biofuels) 69.5 million pounds of waste. 

Council of Clubs Leadership

The Campus Recycling Program is a student-led initiative that takes place every Friday during the school year. It also takes place during the summer months on a bi-weekly basis. To garner weekly volunteers during the school year, UST’s Council of Clubs has an Adopt-a-Friday Grant that offers recycling collection as a volunteer event for clubs. In return for service, the club receives money towards their club funds.

During recycling collection, route leaders record the approximate size of bags and type of material to convert using Volume-to-Weight Conversion Factors provided by the EPA. 

“I’m incredibly happy about the UST’s improvement in RecycleMania this year.” Angela Nguyen, Campus Initiatives-Sustainability chair said. “RecycleMania was a fun and exciting way to spark the competitive side of practicing eco-friendly habits, both on a personal and university scale,” Nguyen continued.

“Being the Council of Clubs CRP coordinator this past year has been a humbling and rewarding experience. Thanks to COC’s Adopt-a-Friday program, recycling and sustainability at UST have grown in its campus presence enough that it will be a branch of Campus Initiatives (CI) under the new Executive Student Organizations (ESO) structure next year. I am very excited about this opportunity to grow in our sustainability initiatives here at the University of St. Thomas,” Nguyen said.

Taking Better Care of the Earth

“Not only is it great to see how UST compares in RecycleMania per capita among universities across Texas, but I’m also glad to see the Campus Recycling Program as part of UST’s Catholic identity” Nguyen said. “It is our duty to care for and protect all of God’s creation on the Earth we live on.”

The motivation to increase recycling efforts on UST campus started when Pope Francis asked that we take better care of the Earth. In 2016, the vice chair of COC created the proposal to promote recycling in the Adopt-a-Friday grant.

Factors attributed to UST’s recycling program include:

  • Discounting online-only UST students
  • Consistent COC club member volunteers each week
  • Trained route leaders to make collection more efficient each week
  • Departmental competition during the last month of RecycleMania
  • Accounting for Student Household recyclables

The Campus Recycling Program volunteers are motivated for another successful year to meet UST’s recycling goals.