Pittsburg State University students and faculty did some dumpster diving this week to see how the university’s recycling efforts are affecting what’s going into the trash.

Pittsburg State University students and faculty did some dumpster diving this week to see how the university’s recycling efforts are affecting what’s going into the trash.

Wednesday on the Oval they sorted bags of trash collected over two days from four campus buildings: Heckert-Wells Hall, Yates Hall, Kelce Hall and Hughes Hall. The event was scheduled to coincide with national Campus Sustainability Day on Oct. 26.

The goal of the sort, which was done by faculty and members of the PSU Honors College — President Steve Scott even donned a pair of latex gloves and jumped in to help — was to separate recyclable items into categories and weigh them at the Southeast Kansas Recycling Center. The results will be tabulated and compared to the results of a similar sorting event five years ago.

“It’s about awareness,” said Brian Peery, Pitt State’s research grants and sustainability coordinator. “Recycling is important, sustainability is important, and we want the students to realize that.”

The sort was part of a broader campus event that was geared to promote green policies and education. In addition to the sorting of trash, several other groups held activities designed to draw attention to Campus Sustainability Day. The Residence Hall Assembly conducted water taste testing to see whether people could taste the difference between filtered, tap and bottled water.  The Student Government Association sponsored a contest challenging students to guess the number of recyclable plastic bottles in a large bin. Additionally, Joey Pogue’s small group communication class survey passing students to gauge their knowledge of recycling and sustainability — Pogue’s class also is creating an on-campus advertising campaign to encourage recycling.

Pitt State has taken an aggressive attitude toward sustainability, going so far as to incorporate numerous green initiatives into its recently-approved master plan, Peery said. There are 80 classes that are sustainability-related, more than 15 classes that are focused on sustainability, and 15 sustainability-related research programs. And there is a brand-new degree track, in which students earn a bachelor’s degree in integrated studies with an emphasis in sustainability, society and resource management.

“Everyone thinks sustainability is on the operations side,” Peery said. “But the education part is also important, and that’s what PSU is responsible for.”

Kathy Benard, a member of the PSU Sustainability Committee who oversaw the event, said there was significantly less trash collected compared to five years ago. And students, she continued, have shown plenty of enthusiasm for recycling.

“A lot of high school students are ingrained with sustainability when they get here,” Benard said. “Hopefully they can point out where we can improve and what we’re missing. We hope to get a lot of things going and get more people involved.”