For the last four years, Eastern Mennonite University has finished as runner-up in the state rankings of colleges and universities participating in the national Recyclemania contest.
But not in 2015. This year, EMU surged to the top of the Virginia recycling competitors – regaining the crown it has previously held in 2008.
EMU ranked 53rd overall out of 232 participating colleges and universities, with a recycling rate of 45.025%, a 4% increase from last year.
“This is impressive, given that the field of competing schools has more than tripled in the past seven years,” says EMU recycling coordinator Matthew Freed. “This win highlights that EMU is a leader in recycling and sustainability among colleges and universities in the state of Virginia.”
Freed works to collect recycling with the help of student volunteers and the Earthkeepers Club, a mobilizing force on campus and in the Harrisonburg community since the 1970s. Recycling is collected by utility bike trailer. (This initiative was started by former recycling coordinator Jonathan Lantz-Trissel ’00, now campus sustainability coordinator.)
During the eight-week competition promoting waste reduction in campus communities, schools reported recycling and trash data, which was then ranked according to recyclables per capita, amount of total recyclables, and least amount of combined trash and recycling, according to the organization’s website.
To compare with other regional schools, James Madison University finished 77th with a 39% recycling rate, University of Virginia (UVA) finished 119th with a 32% recycling rate, and Mary Baldwin College finished 226th with a 7% recycling rate.
Antioch University of Seattle, this year’s winner, finished with a recycling rate of 96.7%.
EMU was second behind The College of William and Mary in 2013 and 2014, and third behind William and Mary and UVA in 2012.
During the Recyclemania competition, the recycling team also hosts weekly competitions, from which are drawn six semi-finalist individuals to compete in the RecycleMania Olympithon Extravaganza Yes! The champion is chosen through a tripartite points system, comprised of scores accumulated through an obstacle course race, a recycling weight-guessing game, and consistency in participation over the eight-week competition. This year’s winner was Robert Propst.