How can we get people excited about reducing waste? This is a question that many environmental enthusiasts struggle to answer. While the importance of waste reduction, reuse, and recycling are critical to ecological sustainability, mobilizing the masses to make necessary lifestyle changes is easier said than done. In this day and age, encouragement and education are simply not enough. In recent years, innovative organizations have combined environmental stewardship with community involvement to create waste reduction challenges and competitions. What better way to encourage waste reduction than to turn it into a fun group activity? It’s genius!
Kanu Hawaii, a group working to ignite positive environmental and economic change, launched a “No Waste Challenge” in December 2011. By publishing a series of challenges and goals to their website, the organization was able to help divert approximately 33,000 pounds of waste through the collective efforts of those who joined the movement. Members were encouraged to audit waste, recycle, compost, and follow online guides and tips to use just one bag for the last week of December. Over 300 people reported recycling during the month, over 200 reported composting, and over 130 reported a reduction in waste during December, a typically waste-heavy month! Kanu Hawaii’s community involvement model of engagement has proven to be incredibly successful and will hopefully inspire other groups to work together to ignite change. To join one of Kanu Hawaii’s other fun challenges and learn more about their organization, visit their website!
Another group using goals and challenges to encourage waste reduction is RecycleMania, a national organization that pits universities against one another in a large-scale recycling competition. Each spring, hundreds of schools across The United States and Canada submit weekly trash and recycling reports and are ranked in various categories. Regular updates on school standingsallow participating colleges to follow their performances and compare them to their competitors. At the end of the 8-week period, national and divisional awards are given to winners in categories such as “Greatest Amount of Paper Recycled” and “ Most Waste Minimized”. Last year’s competition resulted in 91 million pounds of recycling and composting across 630 college campuses. The 2012 RecycleMania Tournament is currently underway and will run through March 30.
While environmental activism may not fit the classic definition of a sport, the fact that it is becoming an engaging and enjoyable activity is a great sign. By challenging participants to attain goals and offering prizes and rewards, waste reduction and recycling can be transformed into a desirable way of life that appeals to the masses. Thanks to groups like Kanu Hawaii and RecycleMania for leading the way!