In September 2010, the University of Cincinnati hired 12 student workers to help the school reach its sustainability goals. The Office of Sustainability’s coordinator Shawn Tubb realized the need for student workers for several years, but only received funding from the university this year.
The student workers, known as Sustainability Advocates, worked their first shift at the Cincinnati Bearcat’s home opener against Indiana State on September 11. Every home game at Cincinnati is being worked by the Advocates in an effort to recycle all of the beer bottles and cardboard boxes that would regularly be sent to the landfills. Tubb says that the work used to be done by himself with the help of volunteers and his own friends and family.
Unfortunately for the “Bearcat Recycling” program at football games, the volunteer work was not recognized by the University of Cincinnati as service work that betters the community. Because of this decision, students could not apply this volunteer work to help with the community service hours required for several university scholarships. After this, it became very difficult to recruit volunteers for the events, and Tubb had to work many nights with little or no help recycling. He says that some nights he would work until three or four in the morning and would “feel guilty leaving without getting all of the recyclables,” but he would be so physically exhausted that he had to stop.
Thanks to the Sustainability Advocates and the leadership of Shawn Tubb, about 2,300 pounds of material was recycled at the event. The group also collected 125 hot dogs and 75 cheeseburgers left over from the football game and donated them to the Drop Inn Center in Over-the-Rhine.
Another program titled “Operation Move-In Recycle” took place at every resident’s hall when incoming freshmen and returning students moved into the dorm rooms. Cardboard boxes that have been thrown out for years is now being recycled by the Sustainability Advocates. Since they could not be everywhere at all times, it was often necessary for them to go dumpster diving for cardboard that had been tossed into dumpsters across campus. By the end of the weekend, over eight tons of cardboard were recycled through this program.
The Sustainability Advocates are doing much more than recycling though. Last May, Tubb started the UC Bike Share. The program is designed to allow students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to rent a bicycle at the Campus Recreation Center for the day free of charge. A mechanic for the program is currently being hired to repair bikes and replace old brakes or other parts that may need work.
Aside from the old projects the Sustainability Advocates are working to improve and build upon, they are working on some projects that are new to this year. The first one is the Sustainability Pledge which is a voluntary pledge by members of the UC community. Students, faculty, staff, or members of the surrounding community can sign the pledge to live a more sustainable life. The pledge asks people to check off the items they already do or are willing to start doing. Some of these items include using CFLs instead of incandescent bulbs, donating used furniture instead of throwing it away, recycling, eating locally, and attending a free sustainability event (including films, lectures, and other events) among other things. The pledge states that by signing it, you agree to share your sustainability efforts with friends, families, and others in the community to help spread the message.
Also on their table, is building a new urban garden for the University of Cincinnati. The group hosted a charrette in which different concepts were discussed at the UC Early Learning Center, the site of the new garden. After a brief overview of the existing conditions and a presentation by UC horticulture professor Susan Trusty, the group of Sustainability Advocates, UC students, professors, and parents of children at the daycare divided into mixed groups to discuss what they wanted from the garden. A general consensus on the garden included blocking the view of the parking lot on the other side of the fence and a meeting area for teachers to talk to students or hold class outside. Ideas discussed include harvesting rain water, creating a fluid design, and teaching the young kids at the UC Early Learning Center the importance of gardening. A ground breaking is scheduled for October 23, 2010 from 10am-3pm with intent to bring volunteers and engage the university students in the project. The UC Early Learning Center is located at 3310 Ruther Ave, Cincinnati, Ohio. Usually parking is very limited and those involved with the garden are encouraged to ride a bike, walk, or take the bus instead of driving.
A full list of events can be seen at www.uc.edu/sustainability and all are free and open to the public. A link to the pledge can also be found on this website.