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Eastern Kentucky University is taking its commitment to a sustainable future to a new level, revealing plans for two major sustainability initiatives set to launch this fall.

The first of the initiatives, titled Colonel’s Cleanup, is an “Adopt-a-Highway”-style litter prevention partnership between the Office of Sustainability and Athletics. Each sports team will be assigned a specific area of campus to keep free of litter.

EKU Sustainability Manager Patrick McKee said that the Office of Sustainability is very grateful for the relationship developed with Athletics over recent years. “Our student athletes are some of the most highly visible members of the campus community,” he explained, “and have an opportunity to influence others’ behavior for the positive due to their leadership status.”

Though many student athletes are already active in community service, the Colonel’s Cleanup will allow them “to witness first-hand the extent of the litter problem on campus and gain a sense of accountability for helping to change the campus culture,” McKee said.

Signage will mark each team’s territory, and McKee hopes to create a video promoting the project to play on the jumbo-trons at football and basketball games. McKee believes this will create a sense of positive peer pressure, encouraging students, especially fans of certain sports teams, to avoid littering.

The second initiative will make the choice not to litter even easier. Courtesy of a $60,000 investment from Coca-Cola as a result of EKU’s new pouring rights contract, 85 new outdoor recycling/waste bins will be installed around campus this summer.

The new bins will include improved “What Goes Where?” signage, expanded volume and ease of use, so that recycling will be simple and accessible for all students. Additionally, the upgraded bins will ideally enable EKU to meet its goal of reducing landfill waste by 20 percent from 2017 to 2022.

However, placing recycling bins only in public spaces will not be enough. McKee emphasized that convenience is the most important factor in any recycling program. “If it’s not as easy or easier to recycle than to throw something in the trash, people simply will not do it.”

To further provide that convenience, the University will also expand its in-room residence hall recycling program. The program began in January 2017, when 200 recycling transport bins were placed in the rooms of Burnam Hall. Since the implementation of the program, Burnam Hall reported a 500 percent increase in recyclables, and many residents expressed satisfaction with the program.

The in-room recycling transport bins will be placed in additional residence halls before the fall semester, with the goal of implementing the program in all residence halls in the near future. Furthermore, 27 new “three-bin” recycling stations will be placed in various, to-be-determined buildings around campus.

“Helping students understand how to recycle in the residential setting is something that not only helps EKU reduce its waste to landfill,” said McKee, “but provides them with a life lesson that they can take with them after graduation.” Many Eastern students come from service areas where recycling is not supported, and this may be their first experience with it.

Most importantly, McKee explained, such a program will help students “understand the value of waste minimization and learn that recycling to the maximum extent possible is a basic, but essential, component to achieving a sustainable future.”

— by Yasmin White, EKU Communications & Brand Management