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Recycling at Student Orientation

New students are coming. And when they get to campus, those first few hours, days, and weeks will be what they imprint on, and it will shape their entire college experience. If you can imprint positive recycling behaviors on them right away, those behaviors are likely to carry with them their entire time on campus. If you miss that window and they imprint on negative behaviors, you will spend the next 4 years overcoming that negative imprinting.

However, the start of school is also an incredibly busy time of year and you are not the only one trying to reach new students. Don’t try to do everything all at once. If you do, you will too often find yourself blocked from getting the access to new students that you want and will also find that they won’t absorb the info you are trying to get to them. Parcel your message into a few very-focused bits of information at key moments.

The First Moment

The first moment is the initial point of contact. Whether that is a campus-wide central check-in or the moment they set foot in their new home (their residence hall), or both, there is a communication that you want to get across at that moment. It doesn’t matter if the communication is done in person by you, by folks working with you, or via posters and signs in key locations, it needs to happen then.

However, to deliver that message, you need to respect the point that the new student and their family is at. For many students this will be the first time in their lives that they will live somewhere other than with their parents. And even if they have spent a lifetime in boarding school prior to college, this is a new city, new campus, and whole new group of friends and classmates. That is a maelstrom of emotions, from elation and excitement to a whole host of worries: will I make friends, will I like my roommate/floor mates, will I be safe, will I get the classes that I like, will I do OK in class, will I like my professors, can I find my way around campus without getting lost or being made fun of, where is there to eat, what if I don’t like the food, what time did they say breakfast is served, what if I oversleep, will I starve? Did I remember everything? Will people like me? Will my parents leave/stop crying/stop embarrassing me/stay/give me some spending money/take me to the mall to buy some stuff for the room/please leave/no don’t leave/yes leave – or at least stop embarrassing me and stop telling my roommate stories about how it seems like only yesterday that I was standing around in only a diaper feeding cantaloupe to the cat.

There’s a lot going on in that head. There’s not a lot of room to fit anything else in a way that is going to be absorbed. Now is not the time for a lengthy diatribe about what can and cannot be recycled, or double sided copying or other waste reduction efforts on campus or sustainability or how the U.S. disposal rate compares to that in Europe or Japan, or where the energy in this particular building comes from. At this point in time, such statements aren’t worth the breath it takes to say them or the paper it takes to print them. Save that for later. You have a whole school year ahead of you for those sorts of conversations. Pace yourself. Focus. What do they absolutely need to know right now, that they can absorb, that will help you, and will help them feel a sense of relief/welcome/normalcy about their new surroundings?

Main Points of Communication

“Welcome to campus. Here’s what to do with the cardboard boxes and other packaging wastes after you unpack.”

“When you look around the building to orient yourself, here’s where the recycling site is (and the bare minimum you need to know about it).

  • You have to bring the stuff from your room to the central bin located [on each floor, on the main floor, in the basement, or outside the building].
  • Just in case our recycling system is different than what you had back home, here is the exceedingly remedial basics: On campus we have a [dual-stream, single-stream, multi-stream] system. You will see bins for [separate bins for paper and bottles &cans; one bin for everything; or separate bins for several materials].”

“When you go to the store to buy stuff for your room,”

  • You [will or will not] need to buy a recycling bin and/or trash can
  • And maybe if you are also promoting sustainability, if you are buying a dorm fridge, here’s where to get an Energy Star one, and if you are buying a desk lamp/access light, here’s where to get an LED/CFL one.

“That’s all. Welcome to campus. Have your moment as a family. Meet your fellow students. Orient yourself. We’ll be back in touch after that. In the meantime, if you have any questions, or need anything from us, here’s our contact info.”

Step away. Your work here is done. Any more than that and they will not absorb the info that you are trying to provide them. Wait for the next orientation moment.

Written by

Roger Guzowski
Roger Guzowski

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