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How green is your department? Sign on for an evaluation and find out

January 10, 2012

Those blue bins aren't just for paper. Plastic lids and "cleanish" unwaxed or non-laminated food containers like the bags from the campus bagel shop can go in, too. Just remember to separate the lids from beverage bottles, say campus recycling experts.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have Oscar the Grouch plunder your department’s trash cans? The Green Department Certification Program, developed by Student Civic Engagement, can help with that.

Yes, we’re exaggerating. The cantankerous green Muppet will not dumpster dive in your office, but some very green-minded students will as part of the Student Civic Engagement program aimed at greening up campus departments.

The certification program guides department managers through an evaluation of numerous office and workplace practices. Points are awarded for green habits, from fairly simple steps like maintaining healthy plants in workspaces, to some requiring more commitment and planning, like ensuring that all department-issued apparel is made of sustainable fabric.

Even recycling habits are inspected in the evaluation. That’s where things turn trashy. A hands-on peek at all department trash and recycling bins is one step in the review. It’s not uncommon for many recyclable items to land in the trash bins, says Justin Koppelman, program coordinator for student civic engagement.

Then an online calculator totes up all the points. When completed – even if the department comes in a little pale on the green scale – all efforts are recognized with a web logo indicating the department’s participation, as well as its level of “green.”

“I think it’s important to recognize the little efforts so people will be empowered to do more,” Koppelman said.

Koppelman fashioned the program after those used at Pomona College and University of California, Santa Barbara, and has shared it with other colleges and universities at the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference held in July.

To participate in Chapman’s program, visit the website and fill out the participation form to start the process. The online calculator is there, too, but don’t worry if it looks a little intimidating. A student trained in the program will be assigned to walk department managers through the process, which can be completed relatively leisurely over the course of a semester. Students also carry out the grubby bit-by-bit look at the department’s trash and recycle bin use to make sure everyone’s on board and getting it right.

Koppelman suggests visiting the site during interterm and to consider using the spring semester for a full evaluation. Departments that have already signed on for a spring semester green up include Admissions and Facilities Management. For more information, contact Koppelman at

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