Outdoor living. No I’m not talking about the special section of your local hardware store. I’m talking about the outdoor portion of campus life. Every campus sees at least some of the school year spent outside, whether you are in a warmer climate where outdoor activities happen year-round, or in a colder climate where you look forward to those few weeks of spring in which your breath doesn’t liquefy the moment it leaves your body and you can walk barefoot across the main quad without getting frostbite.
So what about recycling? I’m not myopic enough to suggest that anyone is actively thinking “woo hoo, the warm weather is here, let’s go outside and recycle.” However, I would suggest that enough of the outdoor activities include some sort of beverage containers that recycling is a necessary side car to other outdoor activities. There are a lot of little things that make up a successful outdoor recycling program. To give them all their just due, I am going to address outdoor recycling as a series of daily mini-posts.
The aesthetics of outdoor recycling
The grounds and appearance of a campus is a significant tool used to attract and retain students, at least for many schools. It is also part of a school’s efforts to create an environment conducive to learning. As such, how stuff looks matters, sometimes more than you realize.
If you want to set up permanent outdoor recycling bins, this is not a situation in which you can get away with using a cheap wastebasket-sized bin from your local custodial supply catalog. For many campuses, the outdoor bins used are a standardized design, which were the result of a long protracted debate from one or more campus aesthetics committees setup to oversee how the campus looks.
Be prepared that if you are proposing adding outdoor recycling bins you are going to have to go through the same aesthetics committees. It can be a long protracted process. Be prepared for several committee meetings, struggles to even get on a committee’s agenda, and meetings in which you fail to get approval, not because people think you have a bad idea but simply because that meeting failed to attract a quorum of voting members and thus cannot vote on your proposal one way or another.
Also be prepared that, regardless of the aesthetic chosen for your campus uses, chances are you are talking about permanent outdoor trash and recycling bins that cost several hundred or even thousands of dollars each. Other than a few prominent locations, you are unlikely to make that back up from the sale of the recyclables that you collect in those bins. To justify that expense, you will likely have to turn to alternate arguments. One option to defray the cost of adding recycling bins is to remove some of the trash bins. Do you have locations (such as a bus stop or central campus lawn) at which you currently have multiple outdoor trash bins? Could you replace some of those outdoor trash bins with outdoor recycling bins to defray the cost of adding recycling?
Another argument to justify the cost of those outdoor recycling bins is to turn to arguments such as those I outlined in my earlier post “Are You Green But Unseen?” If you are using your school’s commitment to environmental sustainability to attract and retain students, how will having all those outdoor trash bins without any recycling bins impact that image, especially given the existing prominence of the campus grounds as a way to attract potential students?
How have you addressed the aesthetics issues of your outdoor recycling plans?