Nicodemus Wilderness Project
Nicodemus Wilderness Project
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Nicodemus Wilderness Project


NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - DePauw University, Indiana, USA

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DePauw University, Indiana, USA


Registered: December 2018
City/Town/Province: Austin
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Taking Recycling Where It Has Never Gone Before

1887 to 2018. That is how long it took for the chapter of Delta Upsilon at DePauw University to begin recycling. I rushed Delta Upsilon this spring timidly, trusting that this fraternity would be different than the stereotype of fraternities projected on the news and in movies, and it was, except in one critical way. My fraternity, founded as non-secret, and based on principles of social justice, honor, and liberal culture, was hopelessly lost in an archaic approach to sustainability and the environment. Sustainability was an afterthought at best, and at worst completely absent. So, I took it upon myself to change the culture of a social organization of over 80 men; a social organization that has spanned centuries through my Nicodemus Wilderness Project.
In February, I ran for a new leadership position, Sustainability Chair, and won on a platform that promised change. I faced several challenges from the very beginning, hungry and ambitious, I wanted to do it all. I wanted to start a compost garden from our food waste. I wanted to start a recycling program. I wanted to buy more energy efficient lighting. I wanted to replace our showerheads with a more efficient alternative. Unfortunately, the Sustainability Chair had no budget and all of these projects required funding. So first things first, I went to our treasurer, demanding a budget of $1,000. Unfortunately, after an hour of haggling, I had to accept a budget of only $150. Frustrated, I assessed what I thought was financially feasible with my limited budget, and decided that implementing recycling should be my priority. With a budget as small as mine, I knew I had to stretch every dollar, so I reached out to the faculty member who runs a student group I participate in, the Sustainability Leadership Program, and through him acquired 6 recycling bins that the university facilities had no use for, free of charge. Enamored at this, I set the bins up right away, and I believed that for the first time in its history the DePauw chapter of Delta Upsilon was recycling! Of course, it was not that simple…
I watched as the bins began to fill up in the coming week, however their contents were far from recyclable. Used paper towels, Kleenex, every kind of plastic imaginable, food wrappers, and other waste occupied as much space as actual recyclable material did. Furious that my brothers either did not know what was recyclable or did not care, I sifted through the waste. Sorting out everything I deemed salvageable, I carried the recycling outside to throw it in our recycling dumpster… only to discover we had no such dumpster. I was back to square one, except this time the recyclable material was piling up by the day. Determined as ever, back to drawing board I went, and devised a plan that would ultimately lead to recycling of thousands of plastic water bottles, cans, papers, magazines, glass bottles, and cardboard boxes.
First, I went to Walmart and purchased all the supplies I needed to make posters on recycling education(pictured above). I set them in places where I thought they would garner attention, such as above the urinal. I presented the boards at our weekly chapter, fielded questions, and offered advice on packaging to avoid and packaging that if used we could recycle. On Sundays, I would clean up after parties, hunting for used water bottles, forgotten beer cans, and empty glass bottles. I borrowed my friend’s car and became Delta Upsilon’s own recycling service. Every week, I collected all of the recycling from the bins, loaded it into my friend’s car, and drove it to the nearest recycling dumpster I could find in Greencastle, Indiana. What money I did not use for the posters, I used to reimburse my friend for gas and pay for the garbage bags I used to collect recyclables. It is my hope, that not only does my hard work set a precedent for Sustainability Chairs who will come after me, but that there is a lasting change in the culture both in the DePauw Chapter of Delta Upsilon as a collective and that there is a lasting change in the culture of every individual within the chapter.
In addition to the challenges mentioned above, balancing my time as Sustainability Chair with my academics, men’s soccer, and other extra curriculars was also difficult. I had to manage my time more effectively, fitting in recycling runs on days when I was not studying for exams or had a practice to play in, waking up early on Sundays when I had a game or meeting to go to. I also learned to communicate more effectively with my eco-illiterate peers, teaching them the importance of sustainability and recycling. This project taught me that even in the face of adversity, meaningful and impactful results are still possible. I grew as a person and as an eco-warrior. I learned to believe in myself and my ability to enact change.
After my semester and term as Sustainability Chair ended, I took on a position as a field intern at Environment Texas. I worked on a campaign to ban single-use polystyrene, fundraising over a thousand dollars and collecting over two hundred signatures. In the fall semester, I volunteered at the local elementary school, acting as a mentor to at risk-youth without a male role model in their lives. There I was exposed to a school system that did not have enough funding, and did not offer what I believed to be a sufficient education. So, this spring I will become a founding project manager of the Conservation Education Group in the Sustainability Leadership Program, where we will lead environmental science seminars in the local middle and high schools where environmental science is not taught.
All of this became possible because of the role I took on as Sustainability Chair. My project impowered me to believe that I was capable of making an impact in my community, both at college in Indiana and at home in Texas. Without that recycling program, I never would have had the courage or the belief in myself to take on more projects, to challenge and impact the world around me. Thanks to my Nicodemus Wilderness Project, I know with enough hard work and grit, anything can be accomplished.
Date: December 31, 2018 Views: 2515 File size: 37.6kb : 350 x 263
Hours Volunteered: 100
Volunteers: 10
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 20
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