The Greening of Back to School
By Beth Pullias
After playing a genius game of Tetris to pack your boxes in the back of your car, it’s time to unpack and make sure everything is in its place. But what do you do with all the boxes, bubble wrap, and trash after you’re done unpacking?
The Office of Housing and Residence Life (OHRL) attempted to solve that problem this year by moving toward a greener move-in. OHRL implemented several initiatives, such as reducing trash, assisting with traffic flow, and adding 3,000 recycling bins to residence halls.
“The changes are from a variety of sources, some just our own ideas. Some are ideas staff members brought from previous institutions,” explains Jen Frank, assistant director of housing services in OHRL.
OHRL encouraged students to be “green” even before stepping foot on campus. With the help of the Office of Sustainability, the office updated the suggested packing list and denoted green items, such as green cleaning products and organic bedding.
In addition, OHRL encouraged students to take all their new items out of the packaging to save space and use towels, bed sheets, and clothing instead of paper as packing material for fragile items.
During move-in, OHRL provided hundreds of large rolling bins for students to transport their belongings from vehicles to their new rooms. This step cut back on idling engines and kept cars from parking on green areas of campus. Staggered move-in times minimized traffic.
OHRL also cut the number of water bottles handed out by half. Refill stations with paper cups were available around campus, and freshmen received a reusable water bottle. Staff and volunteers were encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles.
Cardboard recycling areas near buildings made it easy for students to recycle their packing boxes rather than throw them away.
Being green didn’t stop after move-in day was over. OHRL is piloting a new program to help reduce the amount of paper products resident advisors buy for events throughout the school year. And students who live in suite-style residence halls will receive reusable to-go containers to bring to events.
During the spring semester, the OHRL Sustainability Committee applied for and received a grant to fund recycling bins for residence halls. In May, Keep America Beautiful, with Coca-Cola, granted Mason 1,000 recycling bins. The university’s Auxiliary Enterprise Management Council helped fund an additional 2,250 bins.
“We are fortunate that we have found a way to bring Mason’s commitment to sustainability and conservation into our residence halls. We had to get creative in order to find the resources to make this happen, and we are very thankful for the support we have received through these grants,” says Evan Baum, director of strategic initiatives for University Life.
Recycling bins will be pulled and emptied as needed by the OHRL housekeeping staff. OHRL housekeeping will assist the Office of Recycling and Waste Management by taking recyclables from all halls to 21 exterior bins located within the hall neighborhoods. The exterior bins were purchased with funding from the Patriot Green Fund through the Office of Sustainability.