Trash Talks with “GeorgeGoesGreen”: How One Senior’s Thesis Got the Whole Campus Talking about Our Waste

By Brooke Schultz
Elm Staff Writer

Got trash? Washington College sure does. From Monday, Nov. 3 to early Wednesday, Nov. 5, a huge pile of trash adorned Martha Washington Square.

In just one day Wasington College produced a mountain of trash, much of which could have been recycled according to senior Schneider.
In just one day Wasington College produced a mountain of trash, much of which could have been recycled according to senior Schneider.

The pile was placed thanks to senior Zoë Schneider who is using that project as a piece for her Senior Capstone. Schneider is a double major in economics and business management and is combining the two for one thesis to see if a marketing campaign can increase school-wide recycling.
“My favorite economics course I took was environmental economics, so I decided for the econ side of it, I’d like to look at something along those lines. I had to tie business in, so this was the most natural way to do it,” she said.
To make the pile happen, she worked closely with Buildings and Grounds, specifically with Reid Raudenbush, director of physical plant. Raudenbush got WC’s permission and then began the planning process with Schneider and his employees.
“Zoe approached me with her idea to display a day’s worth of campus trash to give people a visual of what leaves here each day. Often such displays spark conversation and get people thinking about waste and recycling.  It was a big pile for one day, but that is what leaves here every day,” Raudenbush said.
On average WC keeps about 2,000 pounds of trash a week from going to landfills, but still an alarming amount of recyclable items are thrown away as trash.
“What I think stood out to me the most when I was looking at it, if you looked at the trash, almost all of the stuff in it was recyclable. There was a whole bag of just pizza boxes,” Schneider said. Recycling doesn’t cost anything to be picked up, but trash per ton is very costly. She said, “A ton sounds like a lot of trash, but we produce so much of it, so it’s really not that much.”
Dr. Terrence Scout, associate professor of business management and Schneider’s advisor, also discussed the content of the trash bags. He said, “If you ‘inspect’ the trash pile, you’ll notice numerous cardboard pizza boxes and aluminum cans… Why weren’t they recycled?  The recycling option and the trash option are side-by-side.  It is just as easy to recycle as to trash it.  Zoe isn’t asking students to save the world by undertaking some arduous task.  All she wants students to do is to [recycle].”
Schneider is pushing the campaign with a strong social media presence on Twitter and Instagram, using the @GeorgeGoesGreen handle. The George Goes Green campaign started in 2006 but died down after a couple of years. Schneider reached out to several bodies on campus, but since no one was currently doing anything with it, she took it over. She uses the accounts to display recycling facts and to promote the different facets of her capstone.
Outside of social media, Schneider is continuing her marketing campaign throughout the month of November.
On Monday, Nov. 9, Schneider spread the word that Java George and the Miller Café will fill reusable mugs, something they already do but students and staff just don’t know about. According to the Carry Your Cup campaign, if you buy one cup of coffee in a disposable cup every day, you’ll create about 23 lbs of waste per year.
She’s also holding a recycling challenge for the Greek dorms. For one week, recycling won’t be picked up and whichever building recycled the most will win a prize.
Scout summed up the mission of the trash pile and Zoe’s project. He said, “Zoe’s project is much more than just the trash pile.  She is trying to change the behavior of the WC community by first getting us to generate less waste and to recycle more of the waste that we do generate.”

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