September 2020
Volume 3, Issue 12

Sustainable Initiatives in Residence Life

The Department of Residence Life is dedicated to promoting sustainability in the heart of Aggieland. This month, we highlight just a few of our initiatives to educate and engage students, faculty, and staff. A full list of our programs, resources, and events can be found on our sustainability webpage.

Programs and Resources

            E-Waste Collection

          

Above: E-waste collection bin in Hullabaloo Hall

Above: E-waste collection bin in Hullabaloo Hall

Since 2018, the Department of Residence Life has implemented an electronic waste (e-waste) collection program for Aggies to recycle unwanted e-waste with funding provided by the Aggie Green Fund. Aggies can recycle different types of items including, but not limited to, rechargeable batteries, cords, chargers, and computer mice. However, items that may contain personal information, such as phones or tablets, are prohibited from being collected. We have collected over 80 lbs of e-waste, allowing it to be recycled and given a second life! If you or someone you know are interested in recycling e-waste, collection bins are located at the Hullabaloo Hall 24 Hour Desk, Commons 24 Hour Desk, White Creek Community Center Desk, and the Gardens Apartments Community Center.

Green Dorm Certification

            Residents are now able to show off how they are doing their part to make sustainability an Aggie tradition. The Green Dorm Certification process is simple. Residents will answer a survey composed of questions covering demographics, items they have in their rooms, and sustainable behaviors. Once the survey is completed, they will be awarded points depending on how many items they have marked off on the checklist. These points come from the following categories: general items, energy behaviors, water behaviors, waste behaviors, transportation behaviors, purchasing behaviors, academic/tech behaviors, and involvement behaviors. Together, each of these categories adds up to 72 available points for residents to earn. Based on their point totals, residents will receive 1 of the 3 following certification levels: acorn (1-30 points), sapling (31-51 points), and post oak (52-72). Once they have their certification level, the Graduate Sustainability Coordinator will reach out to the resident to give them a badge to display on their door.

  Monthly Newsletters

            Beginning in October of 2017, Residence Life Sustainability has created monthly newsletters, just like this one, highlighting acts sustainability on campus and around the world. These topics have included Campus Sustainability Month, A&M Recycling Services, Plastic Free July, and many more. The goal of these newsletters is to educate both students and faculty about sustainability and encourage them to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Any recommendations for future newsletter topics are greatly appreciated and can be sent to sustainability@reslife.tamu.edu.

Fill-It-Forward

Beginning in January of 2020, we implemented the Fill-It-Forward Campaign. This initiative aims to promote the usage of reusable cups and increase personal water intake simply by scanning a barcode! This campaign is hosted by Fill It Forward. This is a Canadian company that makes reusable water bottles and travel coffee cups, as well as the Fill-It-Forward app that tracks the user’s positive environmental footprint while donating funds to provide clean water and sanitation to those in need.

To participate students, faculty, and staff must fill out a quick survey and receive a barcode sticker for their reusable cup or bottle. Participants will then download the Fill-It-Forward app on their mobile device and start scanning their barcode every time they reuse. The app keeps track of the environmental footprint of users through metrics including pounds of plastic saved, pounds of waste reduced, kilowatt hours of power saved, pounds of emissions saved, and square footage of land saved. The app even allows users to set a hydration goal and tracks hydration as the barcode is scanned. Users can also earn badges for good habits including good hydration and waste reduction.

Through each scan users are also passing on clean water to water projects around the world. The company partners with 5 different water charities to fund projects that provide both clean drinking water and proper sanitation facilities to those in need. Some of the projects that have been funded include a rainwater cistern for a family in New Mexico, a water tap stand for a community in Madagascar, and a hand sanitizing station in India.

The original batch of Fill It Forward stickers was funded using a microgrant from the Aggie Green Fund. If you are a student interested in getting a sticker or would like a presentation given on the campaign to your student organization or hall, please email sustainability@reslife.tamu.edu.

Events

At Texas A&M every October is campus sustainability month. During this month many events involving sustainability happen all month long. One of these events is the Residence Life Sustainability Dinner and Awards. For the past couple of years, Residence Life Sustainability has partnered with Chartwells to provide a plant based and locally sourced meal at the event. Dinner is served on compostable dinnerware and any food waste, along with the compostable plates and utensils, is collected in a composting bin for proper disposal.

The goal of the sustainability awards is to reward Aggies with a sense of achievement for their efforts in facilitating sustainable education and habits in the residence halls. Each year, nominations are open for each of the following awards: Green Tradition Award, Waste Reduction Award, Creative Innovator Award, Friend of Sustainability Award, and Green Custodial Award.

  • Green Tradition Award
    • Awarded to the student who exhibits the most enthusiasm for sustainability through volunteering for events, aiding with educational events for residents in the Residence Halls, and have gone above and beyond to make sustainability an Aggie tradition.
  • Waste Reduction Award
    • Awarded to the student who has been a leader for recycling in the Residence Halls through educational outreach and encouraging their fellow students to recycle.
  • Creative Innovator Award
    • Awarded to the student who was involved in the development of creative and ground-breaking approaches to addressing sustainability issues like recycling, student engagement, and energy conservation in the residence halls.
  • Friend of Sustainability Award
    • Awarded to a Residence Life staff member who aids with sustainability. The recipient will have gone above and beyond to improve sustainability in the Residence Halls and who served as an example of sustainability to our residents. Staff members can apply, be nominated by students, or be nominated by the Sustainability Awards Committee.
  • Green Custodial Award
    • Awarded to an individual custodian in the residence halls or anywhere on campus that has gone above and beyond for recycling. A custodian from each area of campus (i.e. Northside, Southside, etc.) will receive this award and custodians who service larger residence halls do not have an advantage over custodians who serve smaller ones.

After the nominations are submitted, the Sustainability Awards Committee will review the applications and make the final decision. Submissions will be judged by who can provide the most compelling examples of the nominee contributing to sustainability.

In October 2018, the Department of Residence Life Sustainability began the Trex plastic challenge on campus presented by the company Trex. Trex is a company headquartered in Winchester, Virginia that produces composite decking and outdoor furniture. Their products are made from a blend of 95% recycled wood and plastic film. With the Trex plastic challenge, students and faculty are challenged to collect 500 pounds of plastic film within a six month time period, November to April in our case. If the challenge goal is met, the participating group receives a bench made of recycled materials from Trex. Plastic films are collected at six drop-off locations around campus: the General Services Complex Lobby, Gardens Community Center, Hullabaloo Hall 24 Hour Desk, Commons 24 Hour Desk, and White Creek Activity Center.

Although the challenge only takes place from November to April, the bins are out year round at select locations because of the popularity of the film recycling amongst students, faculty, and staff. Since the beginning of this challenge we have saved over 2,500 pounds of plastic from going to the landfill. During the 2018 – 2019 cycle of the challenge we recycled 841.2 pounds of plastic film and during the 2019 – 2020 cycle of the challenge we recycled 856.19 pounds of plastic. Because we have met the goal both years, we have earned 2 Trex benches made of recycled materials.

Above: Trex plastic film collection bins and Trex bench from 2018-2019 challenge

Above: Trex plastic film collection bins and Trex bench from 2018-2019 challenge

The Utilities Challenge (U-Challenge) provides students with the opportunity to learn about the residence halls in a unique way. Participants are put into teams then gain access to utility (HVAC, water, etc.) data of an assigned residence hall and use this information, along with Utility & Energy Services and Residence Life staff, to learn about the current building efficiency and consumption patterns. Teams propose ways to increase the buildings’ efficiency during a 15 minute presentation to a panel composed of faculty, staff, and administration. The U-Challenge is open to students of all majors and classifications. Since the challenge began in 2016, we have had many participants and recommendations. Some of these recommendations have even been implemented in our residence halls including the availability of resealing windows and doors ,e-waste recycling, and replacing all standard water fountains with water bottle filling stations.

Above: A finalist team presents to guests during the U-Challenge banquet

Above: A finalist team presents to guests during the U-Challenge banquet

As students move out each May they oftentimes find items they no longer want or need. Instead of throwing them away, students have the option to donate their unwanted items through the Donate, Don’t Dump program. For this program, Residence Life partners with Goodwill during move out. Donation locations are as follows: parking lot 32 by Haas Hall, beside the south side parking garage, the White Creek Activity Center, and near the Gardens Apartments Activity Center. Drop-off times are typically from 8:30am – 4:30pm everyday (weekends included). The campaign accepts items including electronics, small appliances (not including microwaves or TVs), clothing, towels and rugs, shoes, and other household items.

Advertising image for Donate, Don’t Dump

Advertising image for Donate, Don’t Dump

In the spring of 2019, the department launched the Grocery Give & Grab (G3) program to address food insecurity among residents. During move-out, residents are able to donate unopened, unexpired, nonperishable foods into large collection bins at Donate, Don’t Dump locations. Other residents are able to take any food they need out of the bins without question. Each bin is clearly labeled with the types of items that are and are not accepted, as well as a note for residents who are taking food to thoroughly check the item for any potential allergens. The bins are monitored by Residence Life staff and are checked daily to ensure all items meet donation standards. Any food items that do not are disposed of. Any food that remains after move-in is donated to the Brazos Valley Food Bank (BVFB) to support the local community. Since G3 was started over 540 lbs. of food has been donated to BVFB.

View into one of the G3 bins that was placed during move-out this spring

View into one of the G3 bins that was placed during move-out this spring

Social Media Presence

            To keep the world up to date on what we have going on, we use both Facebook and Instagram. These social media platforms have allowed us to reach an even bigger audience. Through these platforms we have been able to educate followers about different sustainability events, holidays, and initiatives. We encourage you to follow us so you can stay up to date on all we are doing to promote sustainability on campus and beyond!

Resources

If you would like more information about any of our initiatives or programs please refer to our webpage. Don’t forget to follow us on social media to stay up to date about what we have going on!

Announcements

With the generous sponsorship of the Office of Sustainability and Caldwell & Gregory, caped hangers were purchased to remind residents how to responsibly take care of their textiles. From washing them in cold water and hang drying to purchasing second-hand and from local artisans, the hangers aim to be a useful item for residents while providing passive education on how to be more sustainable with their clothes.

Stay in Contact with Residence Life Sustainability

Email: sustainability@reslife.tamu.edu

Instagram: aggiesgoinggreen

Facebook: Aggies Going Green

Twitter: @TAMUResLife

Webpage: reslife.tamu.edu/living/sustainability