Author Archives: Danielle Cotter

Results for the RecycleManiacs!

The “March madness” of the second half of RecycleMania has come to an end, and we at TR would like to thank all of you who helped to make this year’s RecycleMania such a success. Whether it was by signing the Recyclemania pledge or simply taking the extra second to place old papers or bottles in the correct recycling receptacles, we truly appreciate your commitment to making Tufts a greener place! We’d especially like to thank and congratulate this year’s winners, Carmichael and Haskell Hall, which tied for first in the dormitory competition, as well as 10 Winthrop, which placed first amongst the small houses.
While the competition may officially be over, this is by no means an invitation to stop the great recycling that’s been going on. With the end of the semester rapidly approaching (sorry to remind you!) and the flurry of papers and other assorted items that make their way into the trash after finals and move-out, we would like to remind everyone to please reuse, reduce and recycle. It really does make a difference, and you can never do too much of a good thing (at least not when it comes to recycling)! Thank you again, and check out the scores below to see how your residence ranked in RecycleMania 2012, Tufts edition.

For individual scores, please click below.
Detailed Dormitory Grading Sheets:
Blakeley Hall
Haskell 10s
Haskell 20s
Haskell 30s
Haskell 40s
Metcalf East
Metcalf West
Wren 10s
Wren 20s
Wren 30s
Wren 40s
Detailed Small Campus House Grading Sheets:
10 Winthrop
12 Dearborn
92-94 Curtis
Arts House 
Jewish Culture
Latino Culture
Muslim Culture



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Need Work, Will Recycle

Are you looking for an internship that doesn’t require you to sharpen pencils or file papers? The Massachusetts Recycling Coalition seeks both undergraduate and graduate students to work as interns, whose duties would be to assist with marketing MassRecycle, organizing educational events, and conducting research. MassRecycle is accepting applications on a rolling basis, and cover letters and resumes can be sent to Amory Sivertson. For more information about the position, see the official  MassRecycle Intern job description.
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RecycleMania – Recycle Strong!

With the start of the new semester comes the beginning of everyone’s favorite competition–the MANIA of RecycleMania has arrived at Tufts! Between February 5 and March 31, Tufts Recycles! interns will be visiting each of the dormitories and university-owned houses to grade each facility on how correctly and thoroughly its residents are recycling. Interns will collect scores twice during the competition–once at the beginning and once at the end–with the goal of bringing out the competitive nature of each dormitory to recycle strong. These two sets of scores will be averaged along with the preliminary scores from last semester in order to crown the campus winners of both the dormitory and small campus house categories!
Check our website frequently to see which dorms and off-campus houses take the lead, as well as to see how Tufts stacks up against the other participating colleges and universities in the competition! You can also visit the official RecycleMania website to learn more about the competition.
The preliminary scores from Fall 2011 are posted below. Congratulations to our winners, the West wing of Metcalf Hall for the dormitories, and 12 Dearborn and the Crafts House for the small university houses!

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Where in the World is the Great Garbage Patch?

Could you pinpoint the North Pacific Gyre on a map? In which country is the world’s largest landfill located? Don’t feel bad if you can’t answer either of these questions–you’re certainly not alone if you can’t. In today’s throwaway culture, most people don’t give their trash a second thought; as soon as they place a plastic bottle (incorrectly) in the trash, it’s out of sight and out of mind. But for Captain Charles Moore, who first discovered the islands of floating garbage back in 1997, the images of marine wildlife strangled to death by plastic rings will forever be burned into his brain. I had the opportunity to hear him speak a few weeks ago at Boston University, and am now able to answer the two questions above.

If a plastic ring gets caught around the shell of a young snapping turtle, as the turtle grows older the ring will constrict growth around the center of the turtle's shell (because they have soft shells when they are young) and cause the Barbie Doll effect. This leads to deformities and/or death of the snapping turtles.

The North Pacific Gyre is the site of the world’s largest landfill, which is a swirling garbage patch floating on the ocean’s surface between Japan and Hawaii. The Great Garbage Patch is split into two sections – the Eastern Garbage Patch is between San Francisco and Hawaii, and the Western Garbage Patch is between Japan and Hawaii. It has been estimated that the garbage patch is the size of Texas, but Moore believes the size is closer to one and a half times that of the United States. In 1999, there were 900,000 pieces of trash per square kilometer. I shudder to think of what that number is for 2011, and what that number will be in 2019.
So how did we get to this point? As usual, “it’s the economy, stupid.” After the factory boom

Plastic in our oceans

during World War II, there was demand from consumers and factory owners alike to keep the factories running. Eisenhower urged the American public to “buy anything” and manufacturers followed suit, creating products with shorter life spans and boosting sales. The American economy was booming, and this new throwaway culture eliminated the guilt that comes with consumerism through the marketing of new editions of products. This engaged many Americans in a race to keep up with the Joneses–where do you think all of the outdated products ended up?

What scared me the most was the realization that the majority of the waste was generated during the latter half of the 20th century, and that 90% of it is plastic waste. Our world did not enter the “age of plastic” until the late 1970s, yet it will take thousands of years for the plastic waste of the past forty years to fully disintegrate. Captain Charles Moore urged all of us in attendance to make a change by:
  1. Discontinuing use of disposable plastic products, such as plastic water bottles or plastic bags, despite their convenience.
  2. Donating usable items instead of impulsively throwing things out.
  3. Disposing of trash and recyclables properly—if we are going to be selfish enough to use disposable plastic products, then we need to ensure that they end up going to recycling facilities instead of our oceans.
I would encourage everyone to purchase Moore’s new book, Plastic Ocean, or to at least look at some of the photos from his voyage. The islands of trash, which exist at the mouths of rivers of most urban centers around the world, are enough to make you never want to see plastic again.

Due to ocean currents, trash from the Great Garbage Patch often makes its way to the shores of small Pacific Islands. This photo is of the trash littering the shoreline of one of the Thousand Islands of Indonesia.

If you are interested in taking a small step to keep our oceans clean, please check out Milo Cress’ website.  Captain Moore introduced 10-year-old Milo at the start of the talk, and Milo spoke about his Be Straw Free campaign, which encourages restaurants to offer straws instead of automatically putting them in drinks. 500 million disposable straws are used in the United States each day, and they contribute substantially to the pollution that ends up in our oceans. If you really must have a straw, look into metal straws like these that can be reused!

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Turn That Trash Into Treasured Gold!

…Or at least into a golden “A” for your dormitory or on-campus house. That’s right, it’s preliminary grading time for Recyclemania, and it’s time for you to start stepping up your recycling game!
Over the course of the next two weeks, Tufts Recycles! interns will be coming through each dorm and campus house to do the preliminary grading for this national competition, which takes place in the spring. Don’t be alarmed if you see students “digging through your trash”–we’re not judging you for the plethora of Pizza Days boxes! Instead, we’ll be looking at what percent of your trash is made up of things that actually should be recycled, such as plastic/glass bottles, aluminum foil, and PAPER–please recycle paper, that’s what those blue bins are for! We’ll also be checking out your recycling bins to make sure that contaminants aren’t ending up in there; things such as pizza boxes unfortunately cannot be recycled and must be trashed instead.
It’s important that every dorm and campus house put its best foot forward so we can show the rest of the nation that recycling is one of Tufts’ priorities! For a bit of history, in 2010 Tufts ranked 56th out of 267 participating colleges and universities nationwide. And one year earlier in 2009, Tufts placed 38th out of 206 colleges and universities. If we all take a bit more care to make sure that waste ends up in the right receptacle, I’m sure we can beat our previous record. Let’s go, Jumbos!
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Biodegradable Balloons: Better for the Environment?

Balloon releases are beautiful in the moment, but they leave an ugly legacy

Since I was a little girl, I have been afraid of balloons for fear of accidentally letting one slip through my fingers and inadvertently causing the strangulation of an innocent dolphin or bird.  Upon finding out about an impending balloon release on campus, I shuddered to think of all of the wildlife it might impact. Initially I was reassured that the balloons used would be biodegradable ones, but upon further research realized that all latex balloons are biodegradable, since they are comprised of a mix of organic compounds.

“Biodegradable” is one of those words used by companies to trick consumers into thinking that what they’re purchasing has a neutral, or even positive, effect on the environment. While looking at several sites clearly operated by balloon manufacturers, I repeatedly came across the same claim: “latex balloons biodegrade at the same speed as an oak leaf.” There aren’t any oak trees in my backyard, but leaves seem to disintegrate pretty quickly, right? Wrong! Oak leaves take at least six to eight months to biodegrade, and latex balloons are no different. In fact, when in saltwater, latex balloons can take up to a year to completely degrade. In the meantime, these balloon fragments make their home in major waterways and pose a serious hazard to various types of wildlife that live there.
In the oceans, these floating fragments of balloons end up as “food” for birds and marine

A bird tangled up by a balloon and the string

animals. Because balloons are often brightly colored and drift along the surface, many marine animals, such as turtles, dolphins and whales, mistake them for jellyfish or squid. There are many reports of these animals dying after ingesting fragments of the balloon; the balloons get lodged in their stomachs and block the normal passage of food, so the animals die of starvation. Birds and marine animals are also often strangled by the tails of balloons, which do not decompose.

Many balloon companies claim that these effects on the environment are negligible, since most balloons fly five miles up in the air, freeze, and shatter into tiny pieces that are rarely consumed by animals. The problem with this statistic is that a majority of balloons do not rise this high, as strong winds and fair weather is necessary for the balloons to make such a journey. Instead, balloons fall to the ground, littering land and ocean alike.
While the sight of hundreds of balloons headed toward the heavens is poignant, the negative environmental side effects are too serious to justify holding a ceremony of that kind. There are many other symbolic observances that can be just as touching, and much less risky. Try a candle passing, or tie notes with messages of support to a tree (make sure to take down the notes after a few days). For people who have already purchased the balloons and publicized the event, participants could instead write notes and put them inside of the balloons before inflating them. Then, everyone could pop the balloons in unison as a cathartic exercise (of course, make sure they are disposed of properly, but this is much better than releasing them into the air!). If you hear of a planned balloon release in your area, please forward these ideas to the organizers of the event. The dolphins and birds will thank you!
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Reach Out and Reduce Waste!

Last Friday at ten in the morning, a time when most college students are still sound asleep, a group of girls from the Tufts chapter of Alpha Phi, along with Tufts’ Recycling Manager Dawn Quirk, were outside battling muddy slopes and mosquitoes. The girls were working in conjunction with Tufts’ first annual Reach Out! Service Day, an event cosponsored by Leonard Carmichael Society and Tufts Hillel that attracted over 300 people this year.

Trash behind Somerville High School

Dawn and the Tufts Alpha Phi girls were working with GroundWork Somerville at the second annual Green-A-Thon. Their task? To clean up sites that community members have categorized as none other than “dirty” and daunting.  By the end of the day, they had removed 15 bags of litter from the woods behind Somerville High School and the Commuter Rail tracks.
Tufts Recycles! would like to extend a special thank you to the girls of Alpha Phi who supported this effort, Dawn Quirk, and to the organizers of this event. We can all dedicate a few hours of our time to help make our planet a little bit greener!

Tufts Alpha Phi girls smile after the tricky task was completed!

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Composting at Matriculation 2011

The class of 2015 was admitted to Tufts in its strongest undergraduate admissions cycle yet, and on their first day on the hill, they learned how to compost.
This year’s matriculation meals were almost completely compost-friendly; plates and napkins were compostable, and the menu was made up of primarily vegan selections, which made the process easier for all involved (avoiding meat and cheese is the way to go). Plastic water bottles were given out at the event, but parents and students were very mindful about recycling them!

Potential contaminants were kept on a table away from the buffet.

The utensils used at both meals were made of bio-plastics; unfortunately, these were thrown in the trash because the company that processes our compost does not accept bio-plastics.  Other contaminants such as salad dressing bottles were kept in a separate container away from the buffet, so waste from that was minimal. Some campus groups tried to hand out candy during the matriculation lunch, but we asked them to not do this on the lawn because those candy wrappers could have contaminated the compost!

Tufts Recycles! workers were scattered across the president’s lawn at both the matriculation luncheon and the opening night dinner to lend a hand to freshmen and their parents who were composting their food waste. This year, matriculation ceremonies were nearly zero waste (while the ice cream truck at dinner served some delicious treats, the plastic wrappers impeded us from achieving our goal this year).
And now, for the grand totals from the two events!

Intern Danielle Cotter gives a thumbs up to some of the composted material from the luncheon!

During the matriculation lunch, 45 bags of compost were sent to Save that Stuff!, weighing a total of 900 pounds. There were also 10 bags of trash at the end of lunch; there was 300 pounds of trash combined. There was also one truck filled with four yards worth of cardboard from the boxes that many of the food came in. During the opening night dinner, we composted a total of 1000 pounds of food. There was about 500 pounds of trash collected from this event. We also composted 25 bags of composted plates and napkins that collectively weighed 500 pounds. As during the lunch, there was also one truck filled with four yards worth of cardboard from this event.

Tufts Dining workers made sure to break down cardboard boxes used for the event so they could be recycled! Thank you, TUDS!

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Workers Needed for Matriculation 2011 Luncheon

With just a few hours of your time, YOU can help make this year’s matriculation zero waste efforts successful, and get paid doing so!
Just three years ago, food waste was composted for the first time during freshman orientation. Tufts Dining Services, the Facilities Department, the Tufts Institute of the Environment and the Office of Sustainability have teamed up with the Orientation Committee to ensure that meals served at matriculation are both low in waste generation and compost-friendly (e.g. no plastic films to contaminate the compost). Click here to learn more about composting at Tufts.
This year’s matriculation ceremonies will take place on Wednesday, August 31st. Please fill out an application form, and email your completed applications to To learn more about shift duties and receiving payroll, please read this information sheet.
You will be briefed on what your specific responsibilities are before your shift and will be compensated nine dollars per hour worked. Most shifts are between two and two and a half hours long.

We need many people so please consider getting your friends involved! Thank you!
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Adventuring in Alaska

Tufts Recycles intern Rose Eilenberg is spending the summer in Alaska. Below is a photo of her on a recent hike.

Check back soon to learn more about Rose’s Alaskan adventures!
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