It’s a burning hot day on your way to class and you drink your entire bottle of water. As you throw it away in the nearest recycling bin, you go on about your day not giving it a second thought. But just a few short years ago that bin wasn’t there; you would have thrown that plastic bottle in the garbage where it would not get properly recycled.
Living in the metropolitan city of Atlanta, it’s easy to forget about the nature our pollution and trash is damaging. Students saw the recycling problem at Oglethorpe and took the problem into their own hands.
Environmentally Conscious Oglethorpe Students, ECOS, is an organization dedicated to bring awareness to the environmental issues in our community. They work with the Oglethorpe Sustainability Initiative to support new ways to keep the campus environmentally friendly. One of their projects that has taken off over the years is the rising concern of recycling on campus.
“It went from zero, from nothing. There were a few in the dorms, but not many outside of that. Ones that were out were mismatched, misplaced and people would just put their trash in there. It was a disaster,” said Madeline Tulk, the current president of ECOS, regarding the former state of the Oglethorpe recycling system. “There was this rumor going around that recycling here at Oglethorpe was a hoax. Like if you put recycling in the recycling bin, it’s just going to go into the trash. And that can still happen when there is certain amount of contamination in recycling bins.”
The Sustainability Initiative was first established in the spring of 2008 and has funding to help progress the college forward. Madeline Tulk is the student voice for the initiative and has been a part of ECOS since her freshman year.
“We have still come a long way...Last year, we got the funding [and] we got together collectively, not only as a student initiative but with the Sustainability Initiative,” said Tulk. “We finally got the recycling bins; believe it or not, it was really hard task. And the signs went out the first week of school.”
Students may notice these posters around campus, especially in the dorms. They help to highlight which items can be recycled. This is important because it keeps the recycling bins from being contaminated with non-recyclable items. If the bin gets too contaminated, it runs the risk of the whole bin going to the trash.
According to National Geographic, 91 percent of plastic is not recycled. Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down, which means that most of the plastic that has been produced thus far has yet to decompose. Plastic is left floating in the ocean, littering green spaces and cluttering urban spaces. Something as simple as throwing an empty water bottle into the proper recycling bin can help to lower this average and that’s what Oglethorpe students have set out to accomplish.
“I think students have a stronger voice than we think we do,” said Tulk. “If the students want something, and push for it, they can get it.” ECOS’ recycling program started back in 2006, before an administrative funded program was set in place. The progress has come a long way, but ECOS is working to address and fix other environmental issues that face Oglethorpe’s campus.
“I would like to have a waste audit done, so that we can really see how much of an impact this project has had on recycling from when we started to now, “ said Tulk.
ECOS has many other ways to learn more about how to serve the campus community, including screening environmental documentaries to shed a light on the many issues that plague the planet. Joining ECOS is a great way to make start making an environmental change at Oglethorpe, or even taking the simple step to think more about how you dispose you recycling begins to move the campus to a cleaner and greener future.