Keeping WC Green: Office of Sustainability Plans Initiatives

edited.RecycleBin_JennaSutcliffeBy Carlee Berkenkemper

Elm Staff Writer

Fall may be settling in, but as the trees change colors, Washington College is staying green with a sustainable outlook.

Greg Farley, WC’s first Director of Sustainability, has been working closely with student interns throughout the past semester to formulate initiatives that will improve recycling procedures on campus and hopefully the surrounding community.

Sustainability Media Intern freshman Melissa DeFrancesco said, “With our location near so many natural resources and agricultural areas, we at Washington College have the opportunity to set an example and lead the community in the most sustainable direction for the future.”

Currently, WC collects recycling in bins across campus that are emptied daily by one person. The contents are then hand sorted into appropriate categories before being picked up by Kent County.

Due to the Maryland Recycling Act of 1988, as a jurisdiction with a population less than 150,000 individuals, Kent County must recycle 20% of its waste stream. This minimum is continuously exceeded due to volunteer recycling efforts of individual families, communities, businesses, and schools like WC.

Residents of Kent County must personally transport their recycling to one of five recycling drop-off centers or partner with private recyclers such as Infinity Recycling, owned and operated by WC alumnus Ford Schumann.

Through collaboration with the Mid-Shore Regional Recycling Program, the county runs collections for county office buildings, public schools, private schools, and the College.

This county-wide endeavor is headed by Marty Holden, Kent County’s Recycling Coordinator. Holden is responsible for managing all waste disposal programs for the local government and facilitating recycling programs with businesses, homeowners, and schools.

“Waste reduction initiatives are very important and need to be enhanced due to our throwaway culture that can be harmful to the environment. Improving recycling participation to prevent landfilling and closing the recycling loop by purchasing recycled products will ensure economic incentives for collection and manufacturing processes,” Holden said.

Currently, Farley is planning a waste audit of a residence hall and an academic building to determine the best solutions, with the end goal of updating recycling signage for the ease of students, faculty, and staff.

In addition to developing these new initiatives, Farley’s interns hope to participate as a college community in the national Recycle Mania competition.

WC is most proficient in cardboard and paper recycling, but there is still room for improvement, according to Farley.

“My biggest thing is think first and put a face to the person who has to pick that up,” saidLea Carter, auxiliary services leader in the Department of Buildings and Grounds.

The Office of Sustainability is planning a recycling collection ride-along during Recycle Mania in the spring for students to receive first-hand knowledge of what happens to the waste they dispose of across campus.

“If you see what gets thrown away that could be recycled,” Carter said, “it really brings things into perspective.”

While these projects are set into motion, there are a multitude of environmental improvements students can make in their personal lives.

“Our problems are post-consumer disposable plastics; that is the thing I see ending up in the trash that doesn’t need to be there,” Farley said.

Examples of common disposable plastics include water bottles, plastic bags, straws, and laundry detergent bottles.

Students can help contribute to proper disposal efforts by learning about the types of plastics that can and cannot be recycled in Kent County, placing waste in proper bins, and thinking about the environment and who will be left cleaning up improper waste disposal.

Farley expects the student body will be instrumental in achieving the goals he has for WC.

“If we could get to the point where we diverted 90% of the recyclable materials that we bring in, we’d be pretty close to what is called a zero-waste campus. We would stand out and be a model for other institutions looking to reduce their waste,” he said.

Suggestions for students include keeping a shoe-box sized container inside dorm rooms for easy recycling collection, making an effort to keep trash rooms organized so that everyone can benefit from them, and washing out bottles to prevent them from contaminating the water supply.

Although it takes time and effort to become familiar with proper recycling procedures, DeFrancesco believes college students are up to the challenge.

“College kids are a really influential group of people because we have a unique perspective. We’re at a time where we’re realizing how we want to live our lives, and I think it’s important to consider how we can live them sustainably,” DeFrancesco said.

Stay updated with sustainability initiatives and events throughout the year by following the Office of Sustainability’s Instagram @wac.sustains or by contacting Farley at

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