Over the next two weeks, more than 4,500 new freshmen will enroll at NC State University.
That crush of new students – and the 28,000-plus returning students who will join them – could generate a lot of waste.
But organizers of Wolfpack Welcome Week 2011 have taken steps to reduce the environmental impact of this year’s slate of back-to-school activities.
Water is at the center of Welcome Week sustainability efforts. On Aug. 14, 5,000 refillable water bottles will go out to students attending RecFest, the unofficial kickoff of welcome activities. The hope is that students will reuse those bottles for the rest of the week and longer, said Deb Luckadoo, director of campus activities.
At subsequent events, students will be able to refill their bottles from the Blue Green Machine, a trailer serving cool water that will be present throughout the week.
Welcome Week organizers are also using as many compostable and recyclable materials as possible, continuing a trend they began two years ago.
“We really feel good about what we do,” Luckadoo said. “So little of (our waste) goes to the landfill.”
At FridayFest, the largest event of the 2010 welcome, organizers composted or recycled 90 percent of the 2.3 tons of waste generated. They distributed 310 gallons of drinking water to reusable bottles – the equivalent of more than 3,300 12-ounce disposable bottles.
The Welcome Week theme of sustainability goes beyond ecology – participating students will be encouraged to help sustain those in need, too. Back-to-school activities close with a 1,000 Pint Blood Drive on Aug. 19 and Service NC State: Stop Hunger Now, where students will pack 100,000 meals to feed the people of Haiti.
Sustainability efforts have short- and long-term aims, Luckadoo said. They immediately limit the environmental impact of welcome activities. They also plant a seed of awareness for students from their first days on campus.
Making Welcome Week events more environmentally friendly has also allowed students to apply what they learn, according to Union Activities Board (UAB) President Matthew Woodward.
“By applying the level of innovation learned in the classroom to how we manage campus events, the Union Activities Board has shown that programming for both the planet and students can be successfully accomplished,” said Woodward, whose organization is sponsoring many of the Welcome Week events.