By Mark Walter, Brown County Port & Resource Recovery
Getting ready for college can seem overwhelming; there are books to buy, roommates to meet, and, of course, a new place to move into.
Ask any college student, and they’ll tell you there’s a lot less space in that new dorm room than there was at mom and dad’s place. Realizing you’ll have to downsize before you move can make packing for college a bit of a challenge. On the bright side of this challenge, it’s a great opportunity to recycle, reuse or donate everything you can’t bring with you.
Before you begin packing, take a look around your bedroom. What doesn’t need to be packed? I can guarantee you that your old high school papers won’t do you much good in college (and no, you can’t reuse those for your college assignments). Old papers, books and folders are all recyclable in your curbside bin. Even that “vintage” flip phone and mp3 player can be recycled. The Brown County Household Hazardous Waste facility accepts all types of electronics.
If your closet is busting at the seams, it’s time to downsize. There are a lot of places that will take your unwanted clothing if your friends or siblings won’t be caught dead in those styles. The Salvation Army Thrift Store, Goodwill, St. Vincent De Paul and several other nonprofits will gladly accept your clothing donations.
Once you’ve gotten rid of some of the clutter, it’s time to actually start packing. You basically have two options for your packing containers: cardboard or plastic. The choice is yours, but there’s a smart way to use each. For cardboard boxes, check your local grocery store or department store for used cardboard boxes. Stores usually have an overabundance, and most of them are in good condition. It saves you money since you don’t have to buy new cardboard boxes, and it’s a great way to reduce waste. Once you unpack your cardboard boxes, you could pass them onto to someone else who’s moving. If no one wants them, just recycle them at the Recycling Transfer Station here in Brown County. If you choose plastic, buy quality totes that will last a long time. They’ll come in handy the next time you have to move, and they can be used to store things indefinitely since they’re stackable and keep your items safe and dry.
When you’re unpacked and moved in, your recycling challenge doesn’t have to be over. It’s actually not as hard as it sounds to be intentional about recycling in college. At the very least, most colleges across America encourage their students to recycle by supplying their on-campus housing with recycle bins. Colleges like Pepperdine University set an amazing example, with only 22 percent of their waste produced going to landfill and the other 78 percent recycled.
If you find your college doesn’t have a recycling program or any sustainability initiatives yet, you can still get involved. RecycleMania is a friendly competition and benchmarking tool for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities. Keep America Beautiful is another great resource to help you continue recycling and stay green in college.
Mark Walter is the business manager for Brown County Port & Resource Recovery and a supporter of the Environmental Management and Business Institute’s (EMBI) sustainability internship program.