Since the University of Louisiana at Lafayette approved its first comprehensive sustainability policy in 2014, the campus has seen recycling rates increase from a 3 percent diversion rate to 41 percent in just one year.
Twenty new exterior recycling bins have been added recently throughout the UL-Lafayette campus and in every lobby of each academic college in an effort to boost the campus’s single stream recycling process.
With this process, which takes recyclable material and diverts it from landfills, the university hopes to see this year’s diversion rate reach over 50 percent, said Gretchen Vanicor, director of sustainability at UL-Lafayette.
“That is a huge increase in just two years,” Vanicor said. “We went from really no recycling in public spaces to now having 15 buildings with recycling in public spaces.”
Through E-Cycle, the campus’s electronic recycling program, the university was able to recycle 1,070.90 pounds of electronic materials and remanufacture 83.53 pounds from 2014 to 2015.
“From June 2014 to August 2015, we recycled 1,070 pounds of ink cartridges and toner cartridges,” Vanicor said. “That’s the equivalent to planting 378 trees.”
Next week, UL-Lafayette will be receiving 50 bicycles for its new round-trip bike share system Geaux Vélo. These bikes will be offered to students, faculty and the community for easily accessible transportation and to reduce pollution from single occupancy vehicles.
Individuals wanting to rent a bike can pick one up from bike share stations at Cajun Field, the Student Union and Girard Park Circle. Renting costs are free for the first hour, $1 for the second, $1 for the third, free for hours four through eight and $1 for every hour until the bikes are due back at midnight.
“The Geaux Vélo is important,” Vanicor said. “For one, it gives students a fun and healthy transportation alternative. We have a lot of students who live on campus now, and this will provide them the option to actually come to campus without a car, so they don’t have to pay for parking.”
In the 2014 football season, UL-Lafayette placed in the top 10 of 70 universities and received an accolade for sustainability by participating in the GameDay Recycling Challenge. Since the 2014 season, gameday recycling has increased from 28.94 percent to 59.3 percent, Vanicor said.
“We were concerned about the diversion rate, which is how much we are sending to recycling versus how much is sent to the landfill,” Vanicor said. “To start off with zero recycling and become the highest in the Southeast was really exciting.”
This increase in recycling would not have been possible without the help and support from fans, AmeriCorps, the athletic department, campus staff, the Office of Sustainability and many others, she said.
Kelsey Breaux, staff member of the 2014-2015 UL-Lafayette AmeriCorps team, said “environmental sustainability is important because we depend largely upon our natural environment for survival.”
The Office of Sustainability provides AmeriCorps with a source of service projects to do, such as raising fans’ awareness of the recycling bins at UL-Lafayette football games, Breaux said.
In an effort to raise greater awareness of the full effects of pollution, UL-Lafayette will host Fête de la Terre, the university’s annual Earth Day celebration April 18-22.
The week includes kayaking down the Vermilion River to witness the full effect of pollution, planting Louisiana Irises near storm drains to assist with water filtration, a farmers market on campus and a community bike ride with the UL-Lafayette Geaux Bike Club, among other activities.
“We want to leave the environment and our institution even stronger for the next generation,” Vanicor said. “It’s about leaving behind a legacy.”