My “big idea” is simple, but would have a real effect on the school: Put a recycling container in every dorm room on campus.
Under the current system, there are recycling bins in the dorm buildings, but no containers in individual dorm rooms.
I have talked to students who are in favor of recycling, but admit to throwing out recyclable materials because of the difficulty of storing them. Few walk out to the closest bin with every can or scrap of paper they want to recycle. Saving up recyclables without a container is not intuitive. This is especially true of paper, which comes in all shapes and sizes and can easily become scattered.
The solution: make saving up recyclables easier and more intuitive. Reusable recycling bags such as these fit neatly into any dorm room. Two compartments separate paper and bottles/cans. Students can put their recyclables in the bags and carry them to the recycling bins outside their rooms when they are full. The bags have guidelines printed on them so that people students know what can and can’t be recycled.
Boston University, Plymouth State, Evergreen State, Keene State and University of Vermont are just a few of the schools that have recycling containers in their dorm rooms. I have talked to transfer students from these schools who expressed confusion and dismay at the lack of dorm room recycling containers here. Clark University is one of the most progressive schools in the world. If they can do it so can we!
Getting an estimate on how much can be spent per bag will be simple: divide the grant money ($5000) by the number of dorm rooms in Clark. The bags are sold in bulk, so it should be feasible to buy enough for the whole school. Once a budget is worked out, we can decide on details such as style and whether or not to put pictures on the bag or keep it generic.
Is it worth it? The answer is a resounding yes, for Clark and for the environment. Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy cost of processing aluminum. Recycling plastic saves 66% of the energy cost. Recycling paper generates 74% less air pollution than making paper from new pulp. Glass can be recycled infinitely without any loss of quality. More intuitive recycling methods means more recycling which means less waste in landfills, less pollutants in the water and sky, less greenhouse gas and less dependence on fossil fuels. A recycling container in every dorm room would not force students to recycle, but would increase the rate of recycling among those who want to, saving Clark money (we get money back for returning recyclable materials) and saving the planet.