EMCC Goes Green with Student-Led Recycling Pilot Program

October 1, 2007 marked the start of an important campaign against waste and in favor of environmentalism on the campus of Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC). Beta Alpha Xi, EMCC's chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society; EMCC's facilities planning and development division; and the City of Avondale partnered to roll out the college's first student-led recycling program since its opening in 1992.

Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), an international honor society for two-year colleges, offers opportunities for its members to participate in chapter development programs, which focus on four areas - scholarship, leadership, service, and fellowship. This year, Phi Theta Kappa's service project was themed, "Operation Green: Improving Our Communities."

Estrella Mountain's PTK chapter, Beta Alpha Xi, chose to initiate a college recycling program as their "Operation Green" service project. They began their journey by petitioning students, faculty and staff at the college which resulted in more than 650 signatures in favor of campus recycling. The next step was gaining approval from campus administration and inviting other student groups to participate as part of the college's service learning initiatives. When the initiative was approved, the students looked to Randy Mauldin, director, college facilities planning and development; Randy Naughton, director of facilities; and the City of Avondale for help.

Randy Mauldin has extensive experience in environmental studies and volunteered to take the students through the process of choosing a responsible recycling partner. He took the students on an informational tour of the Avondale recycling facilities so that he could educate them on what happens to the materials after they are collected from the campus and what the operational practices of the facility are. "I wanted our students to fully know the processes involved in recycling. I think it's important to understand our individual and institutional responsibility to recycle correctly - from putting the materials in the bin, to knowing what will ultimately happen to them. At the end of the day we must know what happens to these materials and if we did the right thing," he said.

The City of Avondale enthusiastically participated in the process to get the program up and running. Avondale's Field Operations Director Janet Stewart said, "The City of Avondale is proud to partner with Estrella Mountain Community College for the recycling pilot program." She continued, "This partnership is a true testament to the forward-thinking minds at the college. Not only will we be diverting tons of waste from area landfills with the pilot program, but students and faculty can feel good knowing that they are building good habits and an environmentally sound legacy."

The pilot program began October 1 and is concentrated in Estrella Hall. It will last for approximately three months and then will be evaluated by the students.

Not only does the program benefit EMCC and the environment, but it's a personal and important project to Nansi Hageman, EMCC student and Beta Alpha Xi recycling coordinator. Hageman is majoring in Organizational Management and would someday like to be a city manager. "This project gave me some experience working with city employees to help our community. By working with people in and outside of the college, I have gained the experience and confidence to speak and relate to superiors without being intimidated," she said.

So far, the project has been well-received by students, faculty and staff and has collected more than 500 gallons of recyclables.

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Estrella Mountain Community College is one of the 11 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the nation. EMCC offers academic courses leading to associate degrees, university transfer, certificates and short-term job training to more than 14,000 students annually. The flagship campus is located on Thomas and Dysart roads in Avondale and is home to the SouthWest Skill Center. Classes are also offered online and at EMCC’s Buckeye Educational Center, located in downtown Buckeye, Ariz.