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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - University of South Dakota, South Dakota, USA

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University of South Dakota, South Dakota, USA
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Registered: December 2018
City/Town/Province: Rockton
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Growing up on a farm in Illinois provoked my young interest in the environment and ecology. Recycling, consuming local meat, raising chickens, and growing fresh produce represent a few of the lifestyle choices my family instilled in me growing up. On top of this, my family frequently traveled around the country with a focus on national parks and other nature-related sights. My background rooted my passion for the environment and our planetís well-being and inspired me to study sustainability and medical biology as a freshman at the University of South Dakota. After beginning coursework on overconsumption, I observed the excessive amount of waste that college students alone generate. Keeping this in mind, I organized a recycling program within my residence hall - serving over 60 students.


After the housing administration approved my recycling proposal, I installed three bins in a central location on my floor to collect recycling compatible with the Missouri River Valley Recycling Center guidelines: #1 and #2 plastics, aluminum and tin, and paper/cardboard products. Currently, the Housing Association unintentionally discourages recycling by inconveniently positioning the available bins near the entrance - farthest from the studentsí rooms - and neglecting to empty them. In addition, the campus lacks thorough advertisement about the proper usage of the few single-stream recycling bins available - leading to student misuse and inefficiency within the program. By providing convenient and guided recycling directly on my floor, I anticipated an increase in student engagement and overall participation.


During the fall semester, my recycling project collected well over 50 pounds of materials that would otherwise litter our landfills. Ten bins of paper, four bins of aluminum cans, and 18 bins of plastic contributed to the overall mass. Over the course of the semester, I sorted and transported the material to the local recycling center, where I learned necessary recycling procedures for special items that allowed me to recycle more efficiently and pass that information on to my peers. My project also incorporated green habits into everyday college life. Early on, I found numerous unfit trash items - pizza boxes, bottle caps, and food-filled containers - in my bins due to some studentsí unfamiliarity with recycling practices. After posting notices clarifying the characteristics of recyclable goods, I discovered an immense decrease in the number of unfit items present in the bins. The educational component provided by my project demonstrates an increase in conscious student effort to improve the environment and continue recycling in the future.


The busy lives of college students increase the popularity of convenient options, such as plastic water bottles, that compound and contaminate the environment. Of course picking up a plastic water bottle from a fridge is quick and easy, but with correct implementation and placement of filtered fountains and water bottle fillers, stopping the daily use of plastic becomes much easier. Similarly, strategic implementation and promotion of recycling on campus will not only reduce landfill waste, but also educate students about their ecological footprint and limit their potentially unsustainable actions. College students possess the influence as a generation to enact lasting environmental improvements. Exposure to sustainable elements during college can promote a greener lifestyle that students will maintain into the future.


My project and the corresponding presentation in my sustainability class impressed my peers and even inspired a few of them to pursue similar implementation for their dorms next semester. The commendations from the students on my floor inspired me to continue operating my recycling program through May. To further reduce waste, I plan to conduct an end-of-year clothing and school supply drive inspired by my project. The collection of unused items around the time students move out prevents unnecessary waste and benefits others in need. By continuing my project through the spring, I hope to instill environmental consciousness within the student body and establish recycling as a habit that follows my peers beyond this year.


Because of my project, I now see that one personís passion and leadership can guide many othersí actions and that education and exposure to sustainability can prevent further environmental strain. Moving forward, my new position as Secretary of Sustainability Club gives me an opportunity to collaborate with others and bring recycling to all of the University of South Dakota. Working with the Sustainability Department this spring, I will help plan the Earth Days events on campus and analyze prairie ecology research to promote biodiversity. While at home, I volunteer at the Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful recycling center, where I educate others and promote the benefits of reducing and reusing. Choosing rigorous coursework in medical biology and sustainability exposed me to additional opportunities to expand on my passion for the environment. Overall, I have gained awareness of my own waste production, allowing me to take deliberate actions to improve. I now strive to reduce my ecological footprint by avoiding straws, drinking from a reusable water bottle, and reducing disposable coffee filter use. More than ever, our planetís dire circumstance calls for our attention and I refuse to look the other way.
Date: December 31, 2018 ∑ Views: 368 ∑ File size: 16.7kb, 983.9kb: 3024 x 4032 ∑
Hours Volunteered: 100
Volunteers: 1
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 19
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