Recyclemania 2009: Georgetown’s on the up-and-up

Well, getting closer…

Just in time for Earth Day, the results of this year’s Recyclemania—a national recycling contest for colleges and universities—are out and they show some improvement for Georgetown.

Although Recyclemania has been around since 2001, we only got in the game a few years ago. According to EcoAction co-President Jonathan Cohn, when Georgetown started in 2007 we only participated in the cardboard recycling subcompetition and placed in the bottom half. Last year we got 41st for overall recycling rate and 122nd for per capita recycling rate.

Here’s how we fared this year:

  • Grand Champion (recycling rate compared to overall waste generation):
    48 out of 206 (top 23%)
  • Per Capita Classic (quantity of paper, cardboard, bottles and cans recycled per person):
    178 out of 293 (top 61%)
  • Waste Minimization (lowest quantity of waste per person):
    22 out of 148 (top 15%)
  • Gorilla Prize (gross tonnage of paper, cardboard, bottles and cans recycled):
    88 out of 293 (top 30%)
  • Paper (quantity of paper recycled per person):
    146 out of 204 (top 72%)
  • Cardboard (quantity of cardboard recycled per person):
    71 out of 204 (top 35%)
  • Bottles and Cans (quantity of bottles and cans recycled per person):
    117 out of 210 (top 56%)

Now, those numbers on their own don’t look too spectacular, especially for a school that’s used to perpetually being ranked 23rd. After the jump, an explanation of why the stats are actually pretty promising and what Georgetown can do to improve.

Those numbers don’t look like a big improvement over last year’s performance, but things look brighter when you look at Georgetown’s raw data in comparison to 2008. It’s better across the board, from our average weekly recycling rate of 34.62% (up from last year’s 25.98%) to our average per capita recycling rate, up to 1.08 lbs per person from last year’s .98 lbs/person.

According to Cohn, the big areas Georgetown could improve on are increasing the number of paper recycling bins in the dorms, getting students to separate their trash out and reducing the use of plastic water bottles. But the biggest project is changing the default mindset about recycling. As Cohn wrote in an email:

More importantly, one of our constant missions is to be able to figure out how to change the “default” that exists in people’s minds. Most people default to trash with all items and default to taking a plastic bag whenever available; getting in that second or two of reflection before the reach is vital.

Photo courtesy Flickr user kingdesmond1337, used under a Creative Commons license.

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