Clean + Go Green - August 17, 2006

Clean + Go GreenDate: August 17, 2006

On Tuesday, Aug. 8, George Rivera and Alex Lopez came dressed for the occasion. The two veteran maintenance staffers wore their green T-shirts, decorated with the universal recycling symbol and a question, "Remember this?"

Clean + Go GreenThe question was directed at administration, faculty and staff, who'd been invited to participate in "Clean + Go Green." Under the auspices of the Facilities Department, "Clean + Go Green" was an opportunity to get rid of unusable and unwanted items in an environmentally conscious way - by keeping them out of the waste stream.

Rivera and Lopez oversaw receptacles of all sizes - from 30-yard long trash bins for bulky items to cardboard boxes for small ones such as toner cartridges. Rivera manned the station in the Wien Courtyard, while Lopez directed the activities on College Walk.

De Armond Williams, a SIPA work study student at Butler Library,Nick Derosa, CC '07, and Denis O'Hagan, an architecture student, were among many who hauled computer equipment and old or broken office furniture to the collection sites. "Hopefully we can recycle or make good use of these pieces rather than just sticking them in the ground," Williams said.

Clean + Go Green Williams, a Native American, said the "Clean + Go Green" effort was an important reflection of his spiritual beliefs centered on the relationship between humanity and all things. "The reality is the more we stick into the ground, the more we hurt ourselves," he said.

According to Richard Bussert, landscaping/grounds manager, the three-day "Clean + Go Green" project netted more than 50 computer monitors; more than 125 CPU's, keyboards, printers, fax machines, cell phones and other small electronics; and more than 25 file cabinets. Other recyclables collected included batteries, toner cartridges, aerosol and paint cans, and various kinds of metal, paper and cardboard.

The large items filled four 30-yard containers, Bussert said.

Helen Bielak, who implemented "Clean + Go Green," said that with the Environmental Stewardship website and other activity, the word is being put out that stewardship is not just a student responsibility, "but the responsibility of the Columbia community." Bielak is manager of Custodial Services in the Facilities Department.

Clean + Go Green The intent of "Clean + Go Green" was to complement the student initiative, "Give + Go Green." The student program focuses heavily on donating food, clothing and small appliances to non-profit organizations during spring Move-Out. Early estimates of this year's donations were 300 pounds of food and 1.5 truckloads of clothing and appliances.

Given the difference in materials collected from students and from administration, faculty and staff, the emphasis in the "Clean + Go Green" initiative was focused on "the proper disposal of items that could have ended up in traditional landfills," Bielak said. "Everything collected will be sorted and disposed of properly."

Also, in contrast to student contributions, most of what filled "Clean + Go Green" containers was dated or damaged and inappropriate for reuse. Nevertheless, Bielak said the educational advantage was in showing the Columbia community that "computers are not garbage, that toners are not garbage, that batteries and electronics are not garbage."

Meantime, as George Lopez received a staff contribution of old metal shelving at the collection bin, he was already thinking ahead to the new semester and continuing to promote the message on the back of his green Columbia T-shirt: "New York City's Greenest." "Lots of students don't recycle," he said, "and we're trying to teach them."