March usually embodies the naïve hope of spring: warm weather, green grass, tulips, frolicking in fields…. As I’m writing this blog post warming up my frigid fingers after being slammed by Winter Storm Toby, it’s hard to imagine what a green world feels like. Yet the Orca team has been psyched to be collaborating with universities to promote “green” (like the segue?!) and sustainable initiatives throughout March and into Earth Month in April.
Most notable in March was our initiative to promote the nationwide Recylemania tournament. I was made aware of the tournament after a December phone call with facilities administrators at Southwestern University. They mentioned that Southwestern would be competing in the 8-week competition beginning February 4th. Recyclemania is a “friendly competition for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities.” Competing schools raise awareness about waste reduction, increase recycling efforts, and report weights to benchmark against other schools.
Following our conversation, I dug around online and found some great templates on Recyclemania’s website that we could use to distribute on Southwestern’s OrcaTV channel via digital signage and the Stream2 IPTV app. I forwarded these to the Southwestern team and Southwestern’s “sustainability steward,” a student who’d been selected to champion Southwestern’s sustainability outreach efforts to students. Throughout the subsequent discussions, the Southwestern team and I created a plan to highlight sustainability facts and advertise the competition on Southwestern’s channel. Peri, Southwestern’s sustainability steward, highlighted facts such as “the average college student produces 640 pounds of solid waste per year” and “there’s no limit to the amount of times aluminum cans can be recycled.” We also discussed social media collaboration with the university marketing and communications team to feature the hashtag #SURecycles, the official Southwestern hashtag for the competition. Peri created an awesome series of flyers and sustainability tips, scheduling one to play each successive week throughout the competition. As of week five, Southwestern had recycled 136,970 pounds of waste – on a campus of about 1,400 students!
While working on our dynamic campaign at Southwestern, I checked out Recyclemania’s website and the “participating schools” section. I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of our other OrcaTV partners were competing. As Brandon, our Client Coordinator, and I discussed the competition with schools including Clemson, the University of Texas at Dallas, George Mason University, Michigan State University, Bryant University, and the University of New Hampshire, we started to find that some of our contacts at these schools weren’t aware of the competition.
Thus ensued a wonderfully collaborative process in which I was able to learn about strategies for promoting the tournament from our various university partners, then share the ideas with our schools to facilitate recycling on a nationwide scale. One school of note was Michigan State University, where Maddie, our OrcaTV Student Ambassador, is also a User Accessibility and Social Media Marketing Intern for the College of Natural Sciences. Aside from all her titles, Maddie is an extremely motivated student and an incredible graphic designer. Maddie and her supervisors hadn’t known MSU was involved with the competition, but proceeded to create a powerful campaign to promote the tournament within the college after finding out more. Maddie created graphics highlighting the competition to display on the new College of Natural Sciences Instagram account (@msunatsci), used the running hashtag #IHeartNatSci to display the graphics on the OrcaTV social media feed broadcast on MSU's video wall, and coopted the “fun facts” idea to include Recyclemania sustainability facts with a MSU theme.
The result? Maddie helped raise awareness for Recyclemania throughout Michigan State’s College of Natural Sciences, a community of about 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students plus 325 faculty and staff and more than 40,000 living alumni. By week two, MSU had saved the energy consumption equivalent of 75 households according to the EPA’s Waste Reduction Model.
Other universities have taken up the charge to create comprehensive recycling campaigns as well, and we’re only seeing more as April and Earth Month arrive. At Pace University we’re featuring #PaceEcoMonth posts on OrcaTV screens across campus throughout April.
Our Student Ambassador at Michigan Technological University, Rebecca, assembled an incredible series of sustainability facts at Michigan Technological University in partnership with students living in the Michigan Tech Sustainability Demonstration House, a solar powered house housing five Michigan Tech Students. I even learned a new fun fact: you can use the Ecosia search engine to save trees while surfing the web!
Daniel, our Manhattan College Student Ambassador, emailed me this weekend with an impressive plan to “collaborate with various student organizations… in order to promote a week of Green Awareness leading up to Earth Day,” and use OrcaTV to promote their messaging. At the University of Texas at Dallas, our ambassador Alaa coordinated with the Sustainability Club and UT Dallas’ Digital Media Specialist on a series of creative fun facts about sustainability, inspired by our weekly student ambassador calls and our success at Southwestern.
Throughout the Recyclemania competition and into Earth Month, I was flattered to discover that acting as a consultant by just sharing ideas can help generate large-scale school campaigns. More importantly, I learned that every school – from Southwestern, an intimate private institution in Texas, to Michigan State, a large R1 Big Ten school – can make an impact, and can in many cases use the same means to do so.
Sustainability facts adapted from the EPA and recyclemania.org.