When I think of waste reduction, I think of the three rules I learned in grade school – reduce, reuse and recycle. Today, waste reduction has become much more sophisticated and those three rules have expanded to rules four and five – rethink and recreate.
I often receive calls from staff wanting to know what to do with items such as old foam boards, cloth banners, glass bottles, spray bottle lids, milk tops, wood blocks, things that don’t quite fit the typical recycling profile. I always ask them to think about what they could use it for, and nine times out of ten we come up with a way to reuse or recycle the item.
I like these calls because I get to put my creativity hat on, and think of all the other possibilities for these items besides throwing them into the garbage. To me, these items aren’t garbage because they have the potential to be transformed into things that you could reuse or even upcycle.
For example, Aman in Life Sciences and Biotechnologycalled the Sustainability Office about 60 glass chemical bottles he’d been collecting because he didn’t want to throw them away. These bottles were beautiful, clear and unique jugs, and I thought wow that is something I would buy. I could envision the bottles being transformed into a sand garden, a lighted lantern, or some kind of great art project. After some research we discovered a home for the bottles at ArtsJunktion, where they were included in their showroom of free art materials.
Last week, I ran into Christian in “Marketing and Web Presence” who was directing the installation of the used RRC “By the Numbers Campaign” poster boards in C tower. When I asked him what he was doing, he told me the poster boards were our Transit bus ad panels, and that they were in such good shape, he thought to bring them back to RRC to use as billboards in our C tower elevator areas. Wow, I thought, what a great idea!
I asked Christian how he came up with that idea. He said he was inspired by sustainability and that he always thinks about the shelf life of a campaign, and when it’s generic enough, how they can use the materials again. Following that same idea, his group recently reclaimed the wooden bus bench ads from the Alumni Gala campaign and used them as directional signage for the event.
We encourage all staff to recycle, and a big part of that is rethinking and recreating items on campus and at home. On campus, when you are purchasing items, think of a long shelf life. If you have old, outdated items in your office, ask yourself these questions: How could I reuse this? Could this be turned into something new? Could someone else use this? With the holiday season coming, challenge yourself to rethink and recreate and give an upcycled gift.
If you have an odd item and are wondering if it can be recycled, contact the Sustainability Office. We are here to help you reuse or recycle your items. Remember, most things can be reused or recycled. The waste bin should be your last resort.