Green students make a bid for gold
By Greg Bolt, The Register-Guard March 2005
Maybe they should call it treecycling.
Dressed up as trees to promote recycling, University of Oregon students Allison Maikath and Heather Canapary certainly fit the description. They've been at it off and on for the past four weeks, green trees on a green campus trying to coax fellow students to be a little more green themselves. But it's not called treecycling, it's called Recyclemania, a nationwide contest involving 49 universities competing to see which can recycle the most material per student. And the UO is in the lead. But not by much. Less than three-tenths of a pound separates the university from its closest rival, Miami University of Ohio, as the schools head toward the half-way point of the 10-week contest.
"What does that mean? That's like three student newspapers or three plastic bottles per person," said Robyn Hathcock, recycling coordinator for the UO's facilities services department. "So it's really, really close."
That's where Maikath and Canapary come in. They roam the residence halls and dining centers offering pieces of candy to any and all who will listen to their mini-sermon on recycling.
They'll do anything within reason to spread the word, including dancing for an accordion-wielding student on one occasion. But they draw the line at push-ups.
"We get mixed responses," Canapary said. "People generally do recycle and are way enthusiastic about it. On the other hand, we walk past the Dumpsters all the time and see them half-full of plastic bottles and paper, so there is plenty of room for improvement."
Ironically, part of the reason for that might be the state's green reputation. Oregon is one of the country's leading recyclers and the UO has a recycling rate of about 40 percent, but Hathcock worries that might lead some people to think they're already doing enough.
"I think that allows some people to sort of sit on their laurels," she said. "It's a challenge to just get people to think about what they're doing currently and go beyond that, because we can always be doing better."
That's what Recyclemania is all about. It started as a friendly rivalry between students at Miami University and Ohio University in 2001 and spread nationwide, with the UO competing once in 2003 and then skipping the 2004 contest.
The object is to see how much students can recycle from their dorm rooms and dining halls.
Each week's gain is added to the total and divided by the number of students living in the halls - 3,131 for the UO - to get the cumulative number of pounds recycled per resident.
After four full weeks, the UO was ahead with 27.08 pounds per student, shadowed by Miami at 26.79 pounds. To make it even more enticing, the third place school is Bowling Green State University, the school that edged the UO out of first place in 2003.
And hanging close in fourth place is upstate rival Oregon State University, having its first go at the competition.
"The rivalry, especially having Oregon State in it this year, is really exciting," Hathcock said. "Those bragging rights are a great incentive."
Right now the goal is to keep students interested in the effort as the end-of-term pressures set in. It's the eve of dead week, which is followed by finals week, which is followed by spring break, so students have plenty of other things to attract their attention.
That's why Canapary and Maikath hit the Hamilton dining center Friday. And they got the word out without having to do any dancing.
"I just think it's a good idea to get people to recycle who don't recycle," said freshman Matt Nuernberg, who was having lunch with friends when the trees paid a visit.
Fellow freshman Anthony Accinelli agreed.
"Plus, the tree outfits rocked the house," he said.
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