Hope College has received an award through the PepsiCo Recycling Zero Impact Fund to enhance its ongoing recycling and composting programs and increase awareness of the importance of both practices.

The PepsiCo Recycling Zero Impact Fund supports projects aimed at making environmental, economic and social sustainability impacts.  Proposals are judged based on environmental impact, social impact, desirability / feasibility / longevity, ingenuity and cost effectiveness.

Hope is one of only 26 colleges or universities nationwide, and the only one in Michigan, to receive an award for the coming school year.  The college requested and has received $9,979, out of a potential maximum of $10,000.

Recycling and composting aren’t new at the college.  Recycling in particular has been a core part of the college’s sustainability efforts for decades, and in July 2018 alone is estimated to have saved 14,824 Kilowatt hours of electricity, 76 mature trees, 38,159 gallons of water, 27 cubic yards of landfill and 24 metric tons of the greenhouse gas CO2, based on calculations from Hope’s waste hauler.

The activities that will be supported through the grant reflect the belief that more can always be done.

“We’re rolling out a big campus-wide recycling and composting campaign in the fall,” said Michelle Gibbs, who is director of the Hope College Office of Sustainability and co-directing the grant with Susan Ipri Brown, who is director of ExploreHope and an instructor of engineering.  “The focus will be on increased education and access to recycling and composting. We’ll be hiring two student interns through the award to actively manage the process and education, as opposed to only having places to drop off materials.”

All campus buildings, including student residences and individual offices, already have provisions for recycling — multiple drop-off locations are even built into the LEED Gold-certified Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center that opened in 2017.  While campus departments like the dining service and groundskeeping compost extensively, options for individual participation have been more limited. Through the grant, Hope will add more recycling stations and provide education regarding what can be recycled and composted, and where.

The initiative will also educate regarding the importance of making environmentally friendly everyday choices in the first place, like refusing single-use items and encouraging the usage of reusable items — a process already happening on campus.  “In the fall of 2018, dining services rolled out straw-free lids to enhance their to-go services. Straws are still available to those who may need one,” Gibbs noted. “This coming fall we will roll out a reusable cup program as part of this project as well.”

The new work will actually begin this summer, focused first on the hundreds of area children who will be attending the summer science camps held on campus.

“We will start things in the ExploreHope camps,” said Ipri Brown.  “Mostly it’s to encourage our campers to recycle more of their projects and lunch and food waste.”

Although the grant is for one year, Gibbs and Ipri Brown are thinking in terms of three-year impact.  Between reaching Hope students and young children directly, and the visibility of efforts in high-traffic venues like the Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse, they hope ultimately to expose at least 10,000 people to the message.

“Recycling is increasingly important.  We’re a disposable society. As a country, we need to figure out a better way of doing this,” Gibbs said.

Sustainability is an ongoing process at Hope that includes not only individual and departmental efforts but the coordinating work of a Sustainability Advisory Committee, known as the “Green Team,” consisting of faculty, administrators and students.

Activities and practices at the college have ranged from green purchasing policies; to trayless dining to reduce food waste; to replacing residence halls’ windows with better-insulated models and adding insulation to the cottages’ attics; to academic programs in both environmental science and environmental studies.  In addition to the Bultman Student Center’s LEED Gold certification, the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts that opened in 2015 has LEED Silver certification.

The college has been a partner in the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, along with the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works, with Gibbs serving as director since the initiative was established in 2014.  Hope is also among the institutions that have signed the international Talloires Declaration, a 10-point plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations, and outreach at colleges and universities.

In 2017, the college earned a STARS Silver rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.  In 2015 Hope College Dining received Gold-level recognition in the SEED sustainability program of Creative Dining Services; and Hope received statewide recognition for its environmental stewardship through its grounds management practices with certification from the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program in 2014.

More information about sustainability efforts at Hope and in the area.