For most Spartans, the summer is a deep breath of relaxation after a long school year. For Michigan State University’s Recycling Center, that is simply not the case.

Despite the low-volume of students on campus from May through August, the recycling team is hard at work maintaining the Recycling Drop-Off Center, improving their communications and assisting a record number of visitors on campus with sustainable waste disposal.

Waste Reduction Coordinator Dave Smith discussed the challenges that come with the summer season. First on the list: not everyone knows what it means to "Be Spartan Green." Here at MSU, sustainability is something we have embraced as part of our identity. Smith said that most of the people visiting during the summer are "first-timers to campus" and don't know that recycling isn't just suggested, it's our responsibility. Additionally, MSU hosts a number of conferences and special events during the summer that encourage people to have fun and socialize, but don't necessarily put them in the mindset to be sustainable.

In response to this, the recycling team has implemented a strategic plan to help reach uninformed audiences and make recycling accessible for everyone.

MSU recycling containers lined up along a brick wall.

Starting in November of 2013, the recycling team began standardizing all recycling signage. This effort has been crucial in creating consistency and urgency on recycling at MSU, something that was previously lacking because several campus organizations were creating their own communications. Recycling signs are now color and language coded to clarify which materials are accepted in which bins and to ensure that recycling is as easy as throwing something in the trash. "People are inclined to do what is easy and convenient, so we are trying to create something easy and convenient," said Recycling Project and Event Coordinator, James Ives. The Recycling department is now conducting an audit of these communications to ensure every campus space is up to current standards.

With these developments, the Recycling department is now serving more people, events and projects than ever before. Large programs like Academic Orientation, sports events and various conferences hosted by MSU are now serviced by the Recycling department. Sustainable waste disposal has never been so easy at MSU; the last obstacle is merely a personal choice. "Now the responsibility to recycle is in the hands of the individual – you have to make a conscious choice to either recycle or throw everything in the trash, when both options are right in front of you," said Recycling Material Recovery team member, Dan Briones.

MSU Recycling Equipment Operator Regis Shuck operates a recycling roll-off truck.

This move to become involved with everyday events on campus is creating recycling awareness not only for students and staff, but also for anyone visiting MSU. Last September and October, the department served over 100 events, and 75 events from May through August. This summer, Recycling will assist numerous events, including the world finals for Odyssey of the Mind, an international program that brings K-12 students together for dynamic problem solving, and the 2015 National Order of the Arrow Conference. Each event is expected to bring in over 8,000 participants, which means a lot of waste products and a lot of opportunities to educate people on sustainable disposal. "We are trying to be more visible, in a positive way," said Ives.

As summer kicks off, and campus quiets, the Recycling department is hard at work educating and assisting a record number of campus visitors on the importance of recycling. Through improved signage and involvement with summer events, the department is ensuring that Being Spartan Green is a commitment reflected throughout MSU, and that recycling has become equally as accessible as throwing something in the trash.