Western Maryland College is a model of recycling

April 19, 1991|By Linell Smith | Linell Smith,Evening Sun Staff

Westminster -- AS ANOTHER Earth Day blooms on the campus of Western Maryland College, students speak of becoming more responsible for shaping their school while faculty and administrators speak of the pride which has accompanied it.

A little more than a year ago, a few students launched a campaign to make the college change its wasteful ways. Thanks to the efforts of the Advisory Committee on Environmental Matters -- a group formed to include faculty and administrators -- the campus recycles all of its aluminum, newspapers, office papers and unwaxed cardboard and will recycle all of its glass this fall.

In addition, roughly 70 percent of all college publications -- including Commencement programs, the admissions letterhead and the parents' handbook -- use recycled paper. All copying done by Central Services uses both sides of the paper. The library committee recently elected to use cherry wood rather than mahogany (rain-forest grown) in its new furnishings. And graduating seniors hope to TRASHSee TRASH,B2,Col. 2TRASH, From B1raise $2,000 in order to receive $6,000 from developer Martin K.P. Hill toward a second recycling bin and endowment of the campus recycling project.

During the first three months of 1991, the small liberal arts college of 1,300 students recycled 7 1/2 tons of material, according to Mel Whalen, coordinator of the campus building services. Every day his staff picks up newspapers and other recyclables from 110 containers on campus and deposits them in the college's giant recycling bin for free pickup by Carroll County. The college anticipates saving $3,000 over last year's waste removal costs.

Although most area colleges and universities have begun recycling and conservation programs -- mostly run by students and volunteers -- Western Maryland has managed to institutionalize the practice in what seems a remarkably short period of time.

"It's been really easy," Whalen says. "The recycling committee has all the right people on it. The committee answers questions immediately, there's none of this 'We'll get back to you in two weeks or three weeks.'"

Along with Whalen, members of the Advisory Committee include the dean of student affairs, the vice president for administration and finance, the dean of academic affairs, the associate director of public information, professors of biology and comparative literature and three students from the Student Environmental Action Coalition.

Committee members throw most of the credit right to the students. Take senior Meeghan Ziolkowski, for instance. President of SEAC, she led the organizing of a statewide student environmental march and rally in Annapolis last year. Along with help from student activists Pat Blackman and Ken Biggers, she also engineered WMC's Earth Day program of celebrations and worked to get conservation programs implemented at the college. Time magazine presented Ziolkowski with its first 1990 student environmental action award.

A religion studies and philosophy major from Carroll County, Ziolkowski attributes some of SEAC's successes to its members' diverse backgrounds. The group was formed by a merger of the ecology club and the campus chapter of Amnesty International.

""A lot of us also work for peace issues and gay and lesbian issues and women's issues," Ziolkowski says. "The core of people who make decisions in our club sees issues of oppression being tied into the environmental movement very closely."

They are also politically savvy, keen on organizing and tireless, says biology professor Esther Iglish. And they seem to have lost none of their momentum.

"Every time I'm ready to celebrate a success, the students on the committee say, 'Well, yes, that's very nice -- but the recycled paper we're getting now is bleached.' Unbleached is far preferable," says committee member Phil Sayre, dean of student activities.

"Some people are easy to buy off, you make a few changes, and then they're happy to revel in that success. But these students have not let up -- which I'm pleased with. They've studied this stuff pretty carefully and they're very committed to it."

The talk now is about "precycling."

"That's organizing the way you do business so that you don't have to recycle a lot of stuff," Sayre says.

Cutting down on paperwork presents a daunting challenge for a community which treasures the written word. Voice mail, a telephone message system, already supplements memoranda for college faculty and administration; some would like to see it extended to students as well. Environmental committee members anticipate a time when computers can inform groups such special-interest campus events as job recruiting workshops rather than wasting hundreds of sheets of paper in mass mailings.

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