There’s no doubt that UC Merced is committed to sustainability. Dining Services serves takeout items in corn-based plastic and recycled containers, most departments use recycled copy paper, there is a university compost pile and most campus buildings have received environmental certification ratings.
But what may come as a surprise is how competitive UC Merced is about its green-living programs. In fact, UC Merced is in the midst of competition right now. For the second year in a row, the university is competing in Recyclemania. The friendly competition bills itself as a benchmarking tool for universities to promote waste reduction.
The 10-week contest includes two weeks of trials before eight weeks of actual competition. Schools report recycling and waste data weekly, the results of which are ranked. Categories include the amount of recyclables per capita, total recyclables, trash per capita and recycling rate.
UC Merced is competing against 337 other schools. UC Merced student recycling coordinator Emily DeCremer says UC Merced is doing great, ranking in the top 50 percent.
“I think people really like competitions,” the psychology major said. “What excites me most is seeing others so excited. We’re doing better than Harvard in some categories.”
Official competition began Feb. 1, and DeCremer is the one who reports UC Merced’s data for the contest. Though the first official results get reported today, she assures the campus community that it’s not too late to make changes to boost UC Merced’s standings before the contest ends March 28.
Students who live on campus can help the most by putting recyclables in the proper bins in the housing complex. Everyone – students, faculty and staff – can help out by reducing their waste.
“Don’t use takeout containers at the Dining Commons,” she advises. “Bring a coffee mug or cup from home to refill with drinks throughout the day.”
However, DeCremer also warns against cheating. Those who live off campus can’t bring their recyclables to campus to boost the count.
“The point of the contest is to encourage people to increase what they recycle and reduce what they throw away while on campus.”
DeCremer, a graduating senior, has been passionate about recycling since she set foot on campus as a freshman.
“I grew up in the desert,” she said. “Conservation of resources is what we live and breathe there. It just made sense to continue that effort when I came here.”
More than continue those efforts, DeCremer can be credited with creating much of the UC Merced Recycling Program, which falls under the purview of Facilities Management. Seniors Dannique Aalbu and Cecilia Arredondo work with DeCremer to ensure campus recycling goals are met.
“Our program would not be as effective as it is were it not for Dannique and Cecilia’s efforts,” DeCremer said, adding that they’ve helped her create a legacy of sustainability at UC Merced long after they move on to the professional world.
DeCremer takes that step in May, when she graduates. She plans to enter the workforce in a field related to green practices. And if you think that conflicts with her major, you’re wrong.
“Recycling and green thinking are behaviors,” she points out. “And in psychology, we learn to observe and alter behavior. It’s the perfect background for what’s become my professional focus.”