When the University began stronger sustainability efforts two years ago, faculty,
staff and students indicated that increased recycling opportunities were at the top
of their wish lists. U of M administrators listened and hired a sustainability coordinator
whose main focus has been to heighten recycling efforts and awareness. We sat down
and talked to the new interim coordinator, Amelia Mayahi, about her recycling plans,
including the purchase of a recycling truck, and the University’s other sustainability
Amelia, I understand you are the new sustainability coordinator for the University
of Memphis. Please tell me how this position came about and why it was created?
The creation of this position was recommended by the Environmental Action Club (student
group) and will be funded by the Student Green Fee. Before this position was created,
there was no person whose sole responsibility was sustainability.
What are your major goals in this position?
I hope to address the targets set forth by the American College and University Presidents’
Climate Commitment (signed by Dr. Raines). Some of these targets include reduction
of carbon emission, purchasing green certified products and implementing major enhancements
to the recycle program. In addition to compliance with the Climate Commitment, I also
plan to address goals set by the Sustainability Committee through the Strategic Plan.
These goals involve improvement of sustainability in our campus’ built environment,
natural environment, campus culture, curriculum and research, and community engagement.
I understand that recycling is currently your major push. Why? Do we need major improvement?
Recycling is my major focus — that is the primary sustainability initiative demanded
by the majority of students. Second, recycling is well within the means of our campus.
If we can circulate trash, we can certainly circulate recycling material. Thanks to
the Student Green Fee, we can provide the necessary resources and are in the midst
of doing so now. Finally, recycling is economical and an environmental necessity.
Our campus can save money by reducing our garage pick-up frequency. In turn, we will
also prevent these materials from entering a landfill where they would remain for
thousands of years and release toxins into the air and soil. It is just the sensible
thing to do.
I do feel we need improvement in our sustainability efforts. As mentioned earlier,
there has been no person to which sustainability was his or her sole responsibility,
so the issue was not given as much attention as needed. Also, we lacked the manpower
to collect a significant volume of recycling that the University produces. We are
currently addressing all these issues and more.
What are some of the things being done to address recycling?
We are currently in the process of expanding our primary collection sites, recyclable
materials, and bin locations. There have been improvements in our student awareness
activities such as Recyclemania and America Recycle’s Day. We plan on further awareness
through dormitory and Greek competitions, freshman orientation, Frosh camp, and dormitory
move-in/move-out day. Also, a committee has been organized to plan and execute recycling
activities and events. In addition to our recycle committee, we have organized the
Green Team, a group of volunteers that includes students, faculty and staff, which
assist with sustainability awareness events.
I understand that the effort includes a new recycling truck. How will it be utilized?
A recycling truck has been purchased and it is scheduled to be delivered by mid-March.
This recycling truck will greatly increase the proficiency of our collection program.
As of now, our collection program has been run by two people with golf carts with
the material being handled more than once. With the collection truck, we will be able
to lift heavy bins and cover more area with more frequency at a faster pace.
What are some of the things that can be recycled on campus?
The University has increased the amount and the types of materials that we recycle.
Currently we are recycling paper (office paper, colored paper, magazines, flyers,
newspaper and campus and city phone books), cardboard, plastics (#1, #2, #4), aluminum,
all batteries, ink/toner cartridges and old keys. These opportunities are all available
for students. Options for faculty and staff also include pallets, landscape waste,
scrap metal and electronics.
What is your background in sustainability?
I worked for building services at the University of Tennessee at Martin for seven
years. In that position, I was heavily involved in sustainability efforts. Over the
years, we helped in raising a major recycling facility for the whole community to
enjoy, as well as our campus. I also served as the Student Government Association
Committee Chair for sustainability efforts in Campus Observation. Directly afterwards,
I moved to Memphis and have been serving in the interim sustainability coordinator
position since August of 2009.
Do you have a recycling Web site?
We do have a recycling Web site located at http://bf.memphis.edu/pp/recycle.php. It is currently under construction to add more information. The basic information
— what we recycle, where and what the bins look like — is on the Web site.
(Contact Mayahi at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on the U of M’s green efforts.)