Not one, but two DCCCD colleges were crowned with national titles in the 2016 RecycleMania tournament.
Richland College won the RecycleMania’s Grand Champion category with a recycling rate of more than 82 percent on campus. North Lake College won the Waste Minimization category, with a cumulative weight of four pounds of waste and recycled materials per person over eight weeks — the lowest rate of any college in the country.
The 2016 RecycleMania tournament featured 350 schools participating from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. In addition to North Lake and Richland, only one other college took home a national top prize: Loyola Marymount University, which won the Per Capita Classic. All national winners are recognized with an award made from recycled materials.
The colleges of DCCCD had a strong presence in several categories of RecycleMania, including Waste Minimization, which focuses on reducing overall waste on campus (including recyclables).
Nationally, out of 114 schools competing in the category, North Lake College claimed first place in Waste Minimization for the sixth time in the last nine years. Eastfield College claimed second place in the same category, with Mountain View placing sixth and Richland 12th.
"At North Lake we focus on zero-waste and source reduction. This includes reducing, reusing and recycling," explains Steve Schellenberg, senior associate director of facilities services at North Lake College.
At the state level, Dallas Community Colleges also scored high in waste reduction, claiming the top four spots in Texas for Waste Minimization.
“We can all continue to learn from one another’s efforts,” said John Watson, director of facilities management at North Lake.
A key category for sharing best practices? How to engage freshman students. Every year the colleges each must effectively communicate their zero-waste and/or recycling program to incoming students. That effort involves everyone — from marketing specialists and facilities managers to student life directors and orientation leaders.
Georgeann Moss, co-chair of Sustainable DCCCD, enjoys hearing the colleges present best practices at districtwide council meetings and workshops, such as the annual Sustainability Summit or Summer Learning Institute.
"DCCCD is a system of seven independently accredited colleges," says Moss. "We enjoy a little friendly competition from time to time; but the colleges also share what they learn with their sister colleges so
that the entire system can progress more rapidly on our journey toward sustainability. We are proud of all of the colleges’ accomplishments!"
Richland's recycling rate of 82 percent is impressive. It shows that not only does the college practice sustainability in its facilities management, but also that students are actively engaged in living green. Sonia Ford, sustainability coordinator at Richland College, says faculty involvement is the colleges' secret sauce.
“Faculty are crucial to developing sustainable students,” shares Ford. “For the district mission to be fulfilled, we have to have engaged students, and it takes faculty involvement. Really, it takes all of us working together towards that common goal.”
Art faculty at North Lake College are one of many faculty groups at the Dallas Community Colleges working together to integrate sustainability into the curriculum. So far, the impact has been huge.
“For photography students we have the Favorite Tree Photo Contest, and for our drawing students we host a sidewalk chalk competition with a sustainable theme,” explains Brett Dyer, art professor. “We even create upcycled art in the classroom, collecting trash at campus events and later turning it into art.”
The “upcycled” art Dyer mentions turned out to be more than a creative class project, however. It also led to RecycleMania choosing North Lake College as one of two national winners for the “Waste-Less, Promote More Engagement and Innovation Case Study.” North Lake students also participated in waste assessment labs, working with faculty and staff to estimate the college recycling rate and spot waste behavior trends.
“RecycleMania participants have again demonstrated innovations in recycling and new ways to reduce waste,” says Stacy Wheeler, president of RecycleMania, Inc. “These campus efforts will influence students’ lifelong recycling habits, which will ultimately help to address some of the planet's most pressing challenges.”
Speaking of student engagement and recycling habits, Cedar Valley College is definitely seeing a change for the better amongst its population. Sustainability Coordinator Brett Cease recently commented on the college's 2016 RecycleMania results:
"Even though Cedar Valley didn't make it as high up as the other stellar placements of our sister campuses, after eight weeks of hard work, we improved our campus' record to finish 34 places higher than we did last year. This is in terms of our overall total amount of recycling collected on campus, which was just shy of two tons of recycled paper, bottles, cans and cardboard."
The colleges’ efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle during the 2016 RecycleMania tournament (Feb. 7 – April 2) had a substantial effect on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Cumulatively the colleges' efforts eliminated 454 metric tons of CO2, the same as taking 89 cars from the road.
The colleges of DCCCD also support GHG reductions year-round through partnerships with DART, Dallas’ metro rail. Students and staff are eligible for reduced DART passes, and two of the colleges have stops right on campus (El Centro and North Lake). Fewer drivers on the road means fewer emissions. Every gallon of gas drivers save keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Sure, RecycleMania is a fun national tournament, but is recycling truly cost-effective?
Examining DCCCD's Trash Disposal and Recycle Services Agreement, most of us would answer yes.
Recycling services at the colleges range from $43.68 per month at Cedar Valley College to $277.44 at El Centro College (Main). This is significantly less than the total monthly cost of trash disposal services at the colleges, which range from $103.92 per month at El Centro College (West) to $1,117.14 at Brookhaven College.
The colleges’ decisions to minimize waste and increase recycling is good for the Earth and their college budgets.
“All our money comes from recycling … cardboard, paper, materials,” said Jerry Owens, director of facilities management at Richland College. “In the last three to four years we've probably earned $21,000 from recycling.”
So, to put a period on this article, exactly how much waste do the colleges generate?
“Our GHG calculator shows 40 short tons, or 80,000 pounds, of total waste at all NLC locations in 2014,” noted Watson.
And what will the 2016 waste total reveal?
“That is up to you,” answers Watson, smiling and looking sideways with a Cheshire cat grin. His statement echoes the wisdom of scientist Margaret Mead who once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” For more information on sustainability initiatives at the colleges of DCCCD visit www.dcccd.edu/green. Recent sustainable projects at the colleges include Brookhaven's new Windmill Garden, Cedar Valley’s new Environmental Learning Area and — beginning this fall — Richland’s Living Lab.