I have discovered that sustainability has more math than I imagined! Working on our measurements for RecycleMania has been an interesting challenge for my intuitive brain. And, I can say now, that I know more about trash than I ever thought I would!
I am the co-chair of our region’s Higher Education Sustainability Consortium’s (HESC) Initiative Incubator subcommittee. To that end, we set a goal to have 100% participation of HESC members (20 schools) in the national challenge of Recyclemania. Our reason to show such a high goal was to make an impact in our region as role models for waste awareness. We have approximately 80 % participation. I’m happy with this because STLCC has pals in this learning process. Several of the schools are participating at the Challenge level as I mentioned in my last blog. Most of us are in RecycleMania for the first time.
What I am learning along with my campus green teams is how to calculate our waste and recycling. It started for me with gathering information about our waste operations. Doug Mahoney, formerly in purchasing, now green business manager at Flo Valley, sent me the purchase contracts with all the weight and cost data for the past year. From there I contacted our haulers Jack Nagel at IESI and Jerry Witter at Earth Circle Recycling. Both guys have been extremely helpful giving us our weights to post to the national RecycleMania website. However, this is where the math comes in, IESI is only weighing our compactors in tons and Earth Circle is only giving us volumes. In the name of transparency, I’ve made decisions for our calculations with the help of RecycleMania volume to weight (v2wt) conversions. I chose to use mixed paper (484 lbs for 1 cubic yard container), mixed bottles (200 lbs for 1 cubic yard container) and trash (90 lbs for 1 cubic yard). For the past 2 weeks meant to be our baseline, I crunched the v2wt numbers for the volumes given by our haulers. An additional math headache comes when 2 sites (Cosand and Wildwood) don’t get compactor weights, so I calculated their trash volume conversions. For the 3 campuses that have compactors (42 yarders), I have not been calculating v2wt on their remaining trash! AHHHH. The contract tells me exactly how many yard collection containers we have across the district. I guess if I figure (there is that math word again!) we are comparing one bin’s info per campus, that we are approaching apples to apples comparisons (now, produce I feel comfortable with). Apply apples to apples and divide by number of students and employees, and we might see how each campus is doing.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll share my excel calculations. If anyone can help me simplify this pilot waste project, I’d be beholding. People helping people is what I understand as a psychologist. What I will conclude this blog with is that I am a believer when it comes to having solid data to help inform people to see the world differently and to pitch in to make a difference. We need to measure more of our operations so we can show we are sustainability leaders in the region, and, where we aren’t doing so well, make changes that will save money, jobs and well, the planet. Triple bottom line is math I can get behind.