Thinking Green

Though it has been a bit overshadowed by the current economic crisis, one of the day’s biggest buzzwords is still “the environment,” and Tech is doing its part to protect it through various methods. Be it through recycling, saving water or even just unplugging a lamp, Tech students across campus are doing their part for conservation.

One of easiest ways for individual students to get involved in conservation is by simply recycling their trash. Then again, one of the best ways to prevent tooth decay is by simply flossing, yet dentists still manage to stay in business filling cavities. Many students don’t recycle simply because they don’t want to make the effort.

The trick, says Jonathan Effgen, second-year ME and vice president of the Environmental Alliance at Tech (EAGT), is simply forcing yourself to start.

“The key to recycling is to make it a habit. If a student starts by simply recycling in their dormitories, in no time, recycling will become a part of their everyday life,” Effgen said.

Several resources are available for green-minded students, with recycling bins located a short walk from all the on-campus residence halls and apartments and others scattered in high-traffic areas across campus.

Larger drop-off areas where cardboard, magazines and glass bottles can be left are available on East and West campus at the end of 6th Street and outside of Woodruff, respectively.

Sinan Sinharoy, the president of EAGT, says that students interested in recycling can also find new ways to recycle by employing a bit of creativity and common sense.

“Although we don’t accept plastic bag recycling, most major stores like Publix and Wal-Mart will take your old plastic bags and recycle them,” Sinharoy said.

“Another tip is to get a reusable water bottle like a Nalgene instead of purchasing bottled water. It ends up being much cheaper in the long run and much more environmentally friendly,” Sinharoy said.

The Recycling Services website at www.recycle.gatech.edu also offers information for faculty and students to recycle larger items—like cell phones, computers and toner cartridges—as well as contact info for companies that offer these services. It also offers ways for students to simplify the way they recycle, like crushing cans so they can fit more in their room bins or putting two different bags in the same bin to make sorting recyclables easier.

Sinharoy is quick to point out, however, that recycling is by no means the only way students can help protect the environment.

He notes the competition the Residence Hall Association (RHA) is currently holding, Wasted Watts, as important in that it brings to students’ attention the importance of conserving electricity.

“We tend to take all of our energy availability for granted, but 75% of Georgia’s electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, which emit an incredible amount of CO2 and other dangerous substances into the atmosphere,” Sinharoy said.

Sinharoy also gave a few quick tips on how to cut electrical waste.

“Make sure to unplug chargers from the sockets if they’re not being used. These still pull some electricity, even if your phone or iPod isn’t being charged. Also, make sure to use compact fluorescent bulbs instead of regular incandescent. CFLs use a quarter of the power that normal light bulbs use. Students can find more really helpful tips about energy conservation on the Wasted Watts website,” Sinharoy said.

Students interested in going above and beyond for the environment can look into joining an organization like the EAGT or Students Organizing for Sustainability (SOS). Aside from encouraging general good stewardship of the environment, organizations like EAGT and SOS also work to forward campus-wide initiatives aimed at helping reduce Tech’s mark on the environment.

Currently, one of their biggest projects is focused on encouraging the use of solar power on campus.

“One of the most exciting things that our student organizations are working on is the use of thin-film solar cells for roofing on existing buildings. We’re working with Mike Leasure at Georgia Tech Facilities to look into the possibility of solar roofs on campus. This would reduce our reliance on fossil fuels like coal and focus more on clean, sustainable energy for Tech,” Sinharoy said.

Organizations like these also put on a few events throughout the year. The night of March 28, for example, is Earth Hour, and Freshman Council will be hosting a Blackout Party at the Campanile to commemorate it.

In April, several student organizations, working in conjunction with the Office of Solid Waste Management and Recycling, will put on the annual Earth Day at Georgia Tech celebration and commemorate the entire week beforehand with Think Green Week.