Office of Marketing and Public Relations
Making the best of a trash situation
One of the first things that visitors to Messiah College notice is the natural beauty that welcomes them. The trees and flowers are healthy and strong. The lawns and trails are well maintained. The grounds crew pays constant attention to detail. But, Messiah hasn’t lost sight of the big picture, either. We know that what we do on campus has an impact not just on the lives of the students who attend here but also on the wider community. What we do can have either a positive or a negative impact on God’s creation.
Messiah is determined that our impact will be a positive one. In 2007 President Kim S. Phipps Phipps signed the Evangelical Climate Initiative, a statement signed by more than 85 evangelical leaders, including Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-driven Life; Rich Stearns, president of World Vision; and David Neff, executive editor of Christianity Today. Expressing a biblically driven commitment to take steps to curb global warming, the initiative calls for governmental legislation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that are contributing to global climate change.
This pervasive sense of concern about the environment has become part of the Community Covenant:
This respect for creation also shows itself in our treatment of natural resources. As stewards we are to be faithful in preserving the environment and in maintaining the balances within the creation order. We are to use our intellect and creativity to preserve and enhance the creation, using its resources prudently in light of the uncertain limits to history and life as we know it.
This spring, Messiah participated in a nationwide effort called Recyclemania, http://www.recyclemania.org/ sponsored by the College and University Recycling Council (CURC) which recognizes the impact that colleges and universities have on the environment, based on the sheer volume of stuff consumed and discarded on campuses across the nation. The friendly competition encourages students and employees to be aware of how much of what they usually throw away can be recycled. Messiah recycled an average of 20.79 pounds per person and ranked 8th in Pennsylvania for the largest combined amount of paper, cardboard, bottles, and cans per person. Hilary Kreider, Messiah’s environmental health and safety manager, says that she saw a large increase in the amount of recyclable materials which were being collected and because the project lasted 10 weeks, new habits were formed. The College is still collecting more recyclables even in the months following the contest. Next year, Kreider says, Messiah will compete in the waste minimization category.
|courtesy of Joy Ellis '03
|Admissions office staff collect recyclable at Creation Fest 2009.
For at least the past 12 years, Messiah College has had a presence at Creation Northeast, an annual Christian music festival at Agapé Farm in Mount Union, Pennsylvania, in late June. As one of the two largest festivals of its kind in the nation, it has been a great way for admissions counselors to make contact with large numbers of high school students. As tens of thousands of people from around the country come together for four days of music and Christian teaching, the event generates a lot of plastic bottles and cans. Recycling at a large event like this is a big task , and no one was doing it. So it made sense, says admissions counselor Bryanna Boone, for Messiah to take the initiative. In 2008 the admissions team sponsored recycling efforts at the campground and collected more than 60,000 bottles and cans. In the process, they made contact with about 1,500 potential students. Boone says that recycling efforts at Creation were simply “taking a piece of who we are and creating an extension of our campus.”
Festival attendees were recruited to bring recycling back to the Messiah College booth and Messiah staff monitored and emptied recycling containers in the food vendor area. Admissions counselor Joy (Newcomer) Ellis ’03 was in charge of the project which took 16 staff and work study students to pull off. “Our team worked spectacularly hard,” she says. More than 61,250 bottles and cans were collected and the College representatives handled 1,608 inquiries from attendees about Messiah. She says it was “so neat to see the buy-in that students had with the overarching purpose that ties in with Messiah’s goals of stewardship and responsibility.”
Every May as students are moving off campus, they find that they have accumulated more than what they can get home in one trip. In years past, Messiah would bring in dumpsters to collect what students couldn’t take home. Last year, however, Messiah partnered with Goodwill Industries http://www.yourgoodwill.org/ to set up a trailer near residence halls. Students brought discarded clothing, furniture, televisions, lamps, and microwaves, and more. Nonperishable foods were collected for a local food bank. The project was so successful, two trailers were brought to campus— and filled—this year. Kreider is pleased with the results. “We’re helping with the president’s climate commitment and with the amount of money spent on dealing with trash at the end of the year,” she says.
A big part of stewardship is knowing how to make use of what you already have, and Jared Rudy ’00, Messiah’s grounds services manager, is in charge of compost recycling at the College. As the campus is cared for, leaves and grass clippings are collected for composting. Elizabeth Sobrevilla, plant care specialist for the College, did the research on how to compost properly, using all natural decomposition processes with no chemicals added. The compost is rotated and sifted using equipment on loan from the county and eventually becomes top dressing for the extensive landscaping needs of the campus. Rudy explains that using the compost trimmings saves the College from having to purchase other products for the beds and says, “Once you get the process rolling, it’s really not too demanding.” Messiah also makes its own mulch. Once a year the College rents a wood chipper that can, in a single day, process a year’s worth of logs and branches into useable mulch for beds, trails, and gardens. Other landscaping strategies like planting groundcover plants and using stone help to cut down on the amount of mulch needed. The goal, Rudy says, is “making the campus look presentable for visitors, students, and parents coming in for the first time. Our work is the first thing that they see when they come on campus.”
Kelsy Myers '11
Wes Bower, Messiah College's waste coordinator is committed to investigating new possibilities in the realm of recycling.
In July, the Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association, and the Keystone Chapter of the Solid Waste Association of North America recognized Messiah College among the state’s most outstanding recycling programs with a Waste Watcher award. According to the press release issued by Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania, “The Waste Watcher awards are given to recycling, waste reduction, reuse, and composting programs in Pennsylvania that have exhibited exemplary performance. This year 70 plus municipalities, counties, private businesses, individuals and community organizations from throughout Pennsylvania are being recognized for going above and beyond what is mandated under Act 101 for their communities or programs.”
Part of the reason for this recognition is the passion of Wes Bower ’77, Messiah’s waste coordinator. A self-proclaimed “tree-saver” who believes the planet is a legacy we pass on to future generations, he wants the College to be on the leading edge of initiatives “to keep as much as possible out of the landfills.”
During recent years, Bower has seen the sheer volume of materials collected increase as well as the variety of materials that can be recycled. All kinds of paper (including glossy, fluorescent, and phone books), #1-7 plastics, scrap metals, and electronics are collected on campus. In addition to helping the environment, the paper and cardboard collected are then sold to vendors, becoming a source of revenue for Messiah. Another financial benefit is that the College then spends less to haul away trash.
In addition to personally gathering all recyclables from the bins around campus, Bower works to educate students and employees about the possibilities. He asks people to “think about what you’re throwing away. Think about what God has given you in this environment …and eventually, maybe, we just might be able to clean this planet up.”
—Susan K. Getty '84