There are over 1,500 4-year colleges and universities across the U.S. and almost all of them have some portion of their enrollment that lives on campus and has to move out at the end of the year. When those students move out, there is a huge surge of trash that goes along with it. At more residential schools, it is not uncommon to see trash totals nearly double the month that students move out.
Every campus is a little bit different. Ironically, if you break a campus down into individual parts (e.g. traditional dormitory-style residence halls, apartment/suite style residence halls, faculty offices, departmental offices, cash-operations dining, dining commons, etc.), each individual part is actually pretty darn similar. But what makes each campus completely unique is the combination of parts, scale of the parts, the overall academic philosophy, and the fundamental business model of the campus. For the next few blog posts, I am planning to focus on some of the biggest differences and some fundamental changes those differences bring.
This is an open letter to college students, their families, and their friends all across the country. Please forward this to anyone that you know who is moving out of a residence hall in the next few months or just as importantly anyone who is going to a college or university campus to help their child, sibling or friend move out
Storing stuff, at least commercially, can be harder than you think. When you grow up with a family member that is a borderline hoarder, that can be a surprising realization. After all, if one person can store every issue of Consumer Reports since 1978 just in case they need to look up a review of something they buy at a yard/tag/garage sale (I wish I was making that part up), you would think that a campus of 10,000 could fairly easily store a trailer-load of baled paper in order to ship it to market.
I think this issue of relativity is something that needs to be addressed in the recycling and sustainability industry. Too often we throw around terms. We declare that something is sustainable, that something is “green,” that something will save money, or will save energy. Or conversely, we ask whether something is one of those things. But, too often, we fail to give context. The truthfulness of our statements or the answers to our questions may depend on what we compare something to. Context and alternatives matter.