University of Denver students more likely to recycle on campus


Water bottle refill stations are located all over DU campus. This station in J-Mac has eliminated waste from 47907 disposable plastic bottles.

The University of Denver has taken progressive action towards developing a sustainable campus, however, many students continue to exhibit flippant attitudes regarding “green”living.

“I recycle everything that has a label. I love that DU provides easy opportunities for recycling but, I feel like a lot of students don’t care about sustainability at all,” said Paige Mills, a third year R.A in Johnson-McFarlane Hall.

Since 2009 DU has formed an active sustainability council, increased recycling efforts, introduced a sustainability minor, started water bottle refill stations, and offered organic meal options. Yet, many students remain unaware of the potential harms associated with high-consumption lifestyles.

Living on campus provides amenities to students that allow for easy recycling and earth conscious living styles. The proximity of recycling options, for first and second year students, is much closer than for those who live off campus or in apartment complexes.

“I compost and recycle because it’s available. I wouldn’t go out of my way if the option wasn’t there,” stated Aly Higgins, a first year living in J-Mac.

Mills has been looking for new and entertaining ways to promote recycling among her first year residents, one of which is Higgins. “If people don’t understand the value of recycling than they just won’t do it. Education is so important,” Mills said.

Recycling and compost area in Nelson dinning hall.


Off campus residents are less likely to recycle

Scattered around the walls of every resident living hall and dinning area around the DU campus are posters and billboards encouraging “green” living. Constant reminders help students to take shorter showers, turn lights off when leaving their dorm, and choose organic when possible. But, do these habits become a way of life when college students move off campus into their own home?

A recent study conducted at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga showed that convenience and knowledge of recycling were positively correlated with participants recycling behavior. The study also demonstrated that students who lived off campus were less likely to recycle due to inconvenience caused by their distance from the recycling center.

James Howe, a third year environmental science student who previously resided in Nagel Hall said that his habits promoting “green” living have decreased over the last year. Currently, he is living the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house where recycling and energy efficient practices are much more limited than in first and second year dormitories. “Many of the guys I live with don’t even know what materials they are allowed to recycle. You can’t expect too much effort out of people,” said Howe.

Howe says the reasoning behind his continued to effort to recycle, use less water, conserve paper, and turn off lights is because of a previous biology course focusing on sustainability energy and transportation around DU.

The tendency to abandon recycling when moving out of the dorms is reflected by another third year student, Hope Secor, who is currently living in an off campus house. “Sometimes I want to become a ‘greenie’. But after I recycle I don’t know what else I can do.”

Secor, along with Higgins, have never taken a class or been presented with serious material regarding environmentally friendly living habits. When asked, both girls said they would be interested in knowing more about the subject and agreed that their habits would likely change afterwards.


Education must become focus

 Educating students is the most important factor when it comes to developing sustainable living habits. The DU career center offers resources about a sustainable future through job boards, internship possibilities and education opportunities. Their website offers students with easily accessible information.

When offering job fairs, the career center should make sure that environmentally friendly groups are widely represented. And implementing sustainable education into mandatory natural science classes is an easy and realistic goal.

Marketing earth friendly practices, forums, and lectures around campus should also be a focus. It’s easy for students to get involved with the sustainability council by joining their e-mail list.

Environmental protection groups can frequently be seen talking to passerby’s on the Driscoll bridge or promoting their cause throughout campus. As a University, DU has done a remarkable job becoming more environmentally friendly. Recently, Nagel Hall earned a LEED gold rating for being such a highly efficient building.

Other places for improvement

 Outside of improving environmental education, DU has other small areas of improvement pointed out by students.
“In the bathrooms the trash is always full of paper towels. I always feel guilty, so maybe an air dryer would be more ‘green’,” said Higgins.

Howe and Mills both suggested that the University stop selling plastic water bottles on campus. An organization called Hype gives a free reusable water bottle to each first year student, and the refill stations throughout campus would make the transition away from plastic bottles very easy.

A few simple changes would make for a much greener DU.

One Response to University of Denver students more likely to recycle on campus

  • Brendan Cronin
    Brendan Cronin says:

    I think you did a great job explaining why students choose to recycle, and talking about how much emphasis the school puts on being green. You also did a great job talking about how many students who are living off campus are recycling less, as I feel like that is an issue that needs to be addressed. You then go on to talk about areas of improvement, so overall the article has very nice flow. Great job!

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