You've Got Mail
by Nathan J. Lichtenstein | published Oct. 6th, 2013
You can usually tell when the post office has distributed junk mail without even checking your box. The floors of the Nathaniel Rochester Hall (NRH) post office are littered fliers while the recycling bins in Global Village are stuffed to the brim with Chinese takeout menus and coupons for Shear Global.
Mass mailings are an antiquated form of advertising that generates a lot of paper waste. We live in a digital world where paper does not pack the same punch as it used to. If ordering takeout, you can just look up the menu online. The irrelevancy of these coupons and advertisements result in them being thrown out, recycled or pushed back into the mailbox onto the floor of the post office.
In recent years RIT administrators have taken numerous steps to become a more green university. There are three LEED certified buildings (plus an additional three buildings that have yet to be ranked) and the initiative to phase out plastic water bottles campus-wide is currently in its final stages. For such an environmentally progressive university to participate in such a wasteful practice is more than a bit confusing.
Since 2008, RIT has participated in RecycleMania, a challenge between colleges to encourage waste reduction and recycling. During the 2013 RecycleMania challenge RIT participated in several categories. Among them were the grand champion category, which according to RecycleMania’s website “combines trash and each of the core recyclable materials to determine a school’s recycling rate as a percentage of its overall waste generation” and the waste minimization category, in which “schools compete to see which produces the least amount of both recyclables and trash on a per person basis.”
In the grand champion category, RIT landed 56 out of 273 competitors. Yet in the waste minimization category RIT disappointed, ending up 135 of 167 schools. These numbers show that while RIT is overall an environmentally friendly school, it still distributes a lot of waste material.
Many people know the three ‘R’s’ of being green: reduce, reuse and recycle. The R3 @ RIT campaign stands for these same principals. Yet, it seems that those at RIT need to readdress the meaning of the first ‘R’: reduce. Reduce means to stop waste at the source, and eliminating paper waste is not a new concept when it comes to being environmentally friendly.
“I honestly feel as though, even though every once-in-a-while there is a worthwhile discount in there, for the most part it really isn’t worth it,” says Tim Miller, second year electrical engineering major and employee at the RIT post office. Miller believes that discontinuing the distribution of junk mail would be a great way for RIT to cut down on paper waste.
Assistant Director of Hub Print/Postal Services Scott Boone and Manager of Campus Post Offices Meghan McDonald issued a joint statement to Reporter regarding the future of print advertisements at RIT: “If the students served by the NRH and [Global Village] Post Offices do not want or use the coupons, flyers etc. that are distributed, we certainly are willing to investigate phasing out the practice.”
The less waste that is introduced into our campus environment, the less trash and recyclables will be generated. Being green is about taking little measures every day to live a more ecofriendly life and encouraging the discontinuation of paper junk mail here at RIT is a great place for us all to start.
Illustrations by David Royka