Black and gold remain the predominant colors at The University of Southern Mississippi, but green has become a significant presence thanks to the Office of Sustainability.
From an incomparable recycling program to creation of a greenhouse gas emissions inventory, the Southern Miss Office of Sustainability strives to stay ahead of the curve with regard to environmental quality. Established in the summer of 2008, the Office of Sustainability was the first fully-funded, professionally staffed department of its kind in Mississippi.
In an effort to involve more members of the Southern Miss community in sustainability efforts, Chief Sustainability Officer Larry Lee has organized a “Recyclethon” competition on the Hattiesburg campus. The contest will be held for eight weeks, beginning Feb. 1. Teams, consisting of three-to-five faculty, staff or students, will collect as much recyclable material as possible for a weigh-in to be held at a designated time and place. The winners will receive valuable prizes ranging from an Apple IPhone to a campus parking permit.
“By holding a campus-wide competition between faculty, staff and student teams we hope to improve aptitude while greatly increasing campus awareness of Southern Miss recycling, which goes largely unnoticed due to the ease of recycling on our campus,” said Lee. “Plus, we hope this will illustrate the greater need for recycling in South Mississippi.”
As part of the contest rules, all materials collected must come from on-campus locations. Examples of acceptable materials include paper products such as catalogs, junk mail, magazines and hard and softbound books, etc. Cardboard, plastic bottles and aluminum cans are also acceptable. Unacceptable materials would include glass, appliances, computers, scrap metal, electronics and food waste.
“The cornerstone of any sustainability initiative must be a strong recycling program,” said Lee. “It is the first thing people think of as ‘green,’ a gateway habit and a litmus test of sorts. With this in mind we set out to develop the nation’s broadest recycling program. Our operation has four attributes – it is universal, comprehensive, single-stream and desk-side.”
Lee points out that in its first year of operation the Office of Sustainability collected approximately 200 tons of paper, plastic, household metal and cardboard products for recycling.
The Southern Miss on-campus ‘Recyclethon’ competition will be held in conjunction with a national contest called ‘Recyclemania,’ involving more than 600 colleges and universities. Southern Miss participated for the first time last year and placed in the top 25 percentile.
“We desperately need a changed recycling culture in Mississippi,” said Lee. “Many faculty, staff and students arrive at Southern Miss with no habit of recycling due to the general culture that exists in our state. Our greatest challenge is to educate the campus population of the benefits, need and proper methods of recycling.”
For more information about the ‘Recyclethon’ competition and the Office of Sustainability visit www.usm.edu/green
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.