Category Archives: Waste Management

Saving Sustainability at St. Louis Community College

Spring 2012 semester gallops forward and I am just catching my breath to write.  Twenty students signed up to take my morphed Think Tank capstone featuring greenhouse gas inventory training.  I am teaching this class with Rene Dulle, former Meramec student and intern for the Greenhouse Gas Inventory for the City of St. Louis.  Our students seem jazzed about climate issues and the training that can translate to green career value.

RecycleMania has begun across the district with the Green Team Elves planning “Waste-less Wednesdays” programs like a clothing exchange at Meramec and “Trash Tally” surprise audits and a Recycling Fashion Show  at Cosand Center.  Later in the semester, the college will again offer electronic recycling at no fee.  On Saturday, March 31, 2012, Meramec campus and Midwest Recycling Center will collaborate again with Hands On Kirkwood to collect electronics and appliances.  On Sunday April 22, 2012 from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., the college joins with St. Louis Earth Day and 15 recycling vendors for the second annual St. Louis Earth Day Recycling Extravaganza held at the Forest Park campus (http://www.stlouisearthday.org/2011/12/earth-day-recycling-extravaganza/).  Start saving your hard-to-recycle items now!

My goal this semester is to keep wonderful programs and alliances in place that raise awareness about waste and recycling.  More than that, I want to leave a legacy when my 3 year position as sustainability coordinator ends this summer.  This past 3 years has shown the region that St Louis Community College (STLCC) is serious and committed to sustainability by advancing green career pathways, infusing systemic thinking into curriculum and greening operations through energy efficiencies, carbon mitigation and reduced paper use.  Fellow schools in the St. Louis Regional Higher Education Sustainability Consortium look to the college as a role-model as we have paved the way in innovation and leadership.

To sustain sustainability at the college, I am working to create a strategic plan that colleagues and campus leadership can follow should the college not be able to create a sustainability position past this 3 year pilot.  On Friday January 27, 2012, campus leaders gathered for a “Conversation for Sustainability.” Twenty leaders across the 4 campuses and Cosand, including Presidents Marcia Pfeiffer of Florissant Valley campus and Pam McIntyre of Wildwood campus. I presented a very brief overview of our successes and raised trigger questions to address the challenges ahead(www.stlcc.edu/green/presentations). Everyone generated fantastic strategies and I am synthesizing them into a hopefully “living” document–one that grows and shows sustainability as a journey.  My next blog will develop this work and it is my hope that readers who were not present will add their ideas as well.

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Sharing Best Practices

HESC luncheon at Meramec campus

Nine area colleges and universities from the bi-state converged at St. Louis Community College-Meramec on November 29, 2011 to learn more about waste management strategies and to consider and fight for best practices leading up to 2012 RecycleMania from January to March. The St. Louis Regional Higher Education Sustainability Consortium (HESC) invited representatives from Waste Management, Aspen, and Midwest Recycling Center to share their strategies for handling trash, recycling, composting and electronics.  Jeff Macko at St. Louis University (SLU) has negotiated a way to measure their RecycleMania trash and recycling by having Waste Management run their campuses like a wee city–taking the full trucks back for weights.  This works for SLU because of their size.  It is understandably costly to run a truck for one small campus back to the scales, then out again to area businesses.  So another best practice was negotiated with Aspen by Peggy Lauer, Director of Sustainability at Maryville University.  Aspen offers scales on each truck that can capture a weight at each bin and tally those weights onto their invoice.  This practice of tying weights to payment assures Maryville getting their measurement in a timely fashion.

Getting accurate weights was one big frustration by participating schools last year.  At STLCC, I had to calculate volume-to-weights because my recycling hauler does not have the equipment to provide actual pounds.  Another snafoo that occured for my measurements came from my trash hauler who summed our trash with 5 other companies.  That week’s measurement was 5 time larger than the week before!  I called to ask if we were being combined with an anvil company.  What I learned keenly is that participating in RecycleMania is a journey–there is yet no exact science yet in the trash biz.  What I also learned is despite not having true numbers, we are BILLED as if there are true numbers.  As a consortium, we with our numbers, want this to change.

Linda Adams from Solid Waste Management District urges schools to apply for grants

Midwest Recycling Center (featured in many earlier blogs) shared about the collaboration with STLCC to collect 232,767 lbs at no cost to the college and community because of grant support from the St. Louis-Jefferson County Solid Waste Management District (SWMD).  Linda Adams, from the SWMD, urged the HESC schools to follow suit to get supporting monies to make their recycling programs happen. Steve Fishman from the regional EPA urged our consortium schools to sign up for Waste Wise program focuing on composting.

I felt proud to have STLCC host this important regional event. Acting Vice President of Academics, Dr. Vernon Kays, gave a warm welcome and honored our work gathering to share best practices.

Acting Vice President for Academics at Meramec, Dr. Vernon Kays, welcomes the consortium member schools

Our next HESC luncheon will be in January at Maryville University where the discussing and sharing will focus on Green Purchasing.

Community Collaboration is the Key

A well-oiled MRC team--ready to take electronics DOWN

STLCC is truly taking trash DOWN!  At present, we are well over 200,000 lbs collected and diverted from the landfill. I am humbled by the momentum of these electronic collection numbers.  Last Saturday at the Meramec campus, over 800 cars rolled through the two well-oiled lanes of Midwest Recycling guys unloading 3 cars at a time.  No one waited more than a minute or two.  And even during that short time, participants were pleasantly greeted by guys who love what they are doing for a living.  Several members of the public have emailed me to praise how the event was managed.  Not only were folks able to recycle electronics for FREE, they didn’t have to wait to do the right thing and responsibly divert dusty, some toxic, items from their homes and offices.

There has been such a win-win on these events.  More than saving folks in the community money and protecting Ma Earth, there is a true element of social justice operating.  Next week will show this justice clearly at our last event at the William J. Harrison Education Center in underserved north city. Two key just developments are ongoing in the Jeffvanderlou neighborhood: a brand new LEED-Gold campus of St Louis Community College, and dozens of LEED-Platinum homes built by Habitat for Humanity and the owners.  Research shows these shining examples of green architecture INSPIRE occupants to dream big.  Not only do these buildings save energy–money that can be reallocated into educational goals–but residents are healthier.

International studies from India show that urban poor are more than motivated to recycle given the opportunity and means to do so (Wahid Murad & Chamhuri Siwar, 2007). In fact, community co-ops find a living wage re-using and re-manufacturing waste, but need policy to protect them from commodies pimps who force labor at horrid health consequences. “It is no exaggeration to say that, throughout the world, the poorest people are forced to live in, on, and from the waste produced by the rest of us” (Leonard, 2010).  Education remains a key for resource management and way to improve quality of life in underserved areas.

This whole quest to collaborate with the community on these recycling events began with one elderly man trying to dispose of 3 televisions and not having the $45.00 to do so.  He left dejected and unserved with his TVs. Tony Krieg (MRC Co-Owner) and I could only wonder what would happen to those units.  Hopefully they ended up at Goodwill who still accepts TVs without charge.  But what if they ended up by a stream all because of fees? We knew that to really succeed, we needed the help of the surrounding communities to get the word out.  And that is exactly how these events have grown and succeeded. Many are faced with economic challenges, but none more so than those without employment and living below the poverty line.  The grand idea was to help across the board–financially for those monetarily challenged; environmentally for those with too much STUFF; and socially for those who live with trash as a part of their landscape.

Kudos to Mayor Richard Detweiller who got the word out to his staff and community; to Hands On Kirkwood, a consortium of churches volunteering their labor of love and time; to Dr. Emily Neal and her Meramec Green Team (including Toni Oplt in Community Relations); the Kirkwood Community Newspaper; and Kristen Cornett at KMOV Ch 4 TV who all got the word out to bring in a guestimated 85,000 lbs of electronic and appliances.  And of course to Tony and MRC–together we all have made a true difference.

The conspiring duo, Peggy Moody and Tony Krieg

References

Leonard, A. (2010). The Story of Stuff. Retrieved on 24 Oct 11 from storyofstuff.org/bottledwater/what-you-can…/demand-fair-recycling/

Wahid, M. & Chamhuri, S. (2007, Feb.). Waste Management Resources, Vol. 25, 1: pp. 3-13.