Corps competes in
Story and photo by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Feb. 6, 2014) — The time has come for the U.S. Military Academy to get on the winning side of recycling.
At least that’s what Class of 2014 Cadet McKenzie Hudgins is thinking. As the brigade’s energy and environmental officer, she said the Corps of Cadets has a good chance at not only improving their efforts but also winning the 2014 RecycleMania Tournament.
This is the Corps’ fourth entry into the national collegiate recycling tourney, where hundreds of colleges across the U.S. and Canada enter divisions of competition like paper, corrugated cardboard and bottles and cans.
“Our number one goal is to win in the Per Capita category this year,” Hudgins said. “We earned seventh place last year and 10th the year before that, so I think that’s the category for us to win.”
West Point was also first in the cardboard category in 2013 until the final week when Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., pulled ahead for the win.
RecycleMania is designed to be a friendly competition designed to:
• Motivate students and staff to increase recycling efforts and reduce waste generation;
• Generate attention and support for campus recycling programs;
• Encourage colleges to measure and benchmark recycling activity in their effort to improve their programs over time.
Last year, 523 colleges and academies participated and recorded 90.8 million pounds in recycling and composting.
Since their first entry in 2011, cadets have done more than just improve in standings. The Corps recycling program has transformed from being a nuisance into a habit.
Hudgins, like many of her colleagues in the E2O program, were plebes when the academy’s green initiatives were just taking root. With the establishment of an Energy Council in 2010, cadets became more involved in research and studies related to energy and environmental issues, and a year later the E2O program created cadet leadership positions to affect change in the Corps.
Hudgins can’t recall participating as a plebe when the Corps first competed, and said it was probably due to a lack of communication. It wouldn’t be until the following year when companies would have E2O representatives when the efforts gained focus.
“I remember weighing cans a few times but didn’t know why,” she said. “I didn’t know there was a competition. Definitely, since then, we’ve come a long way because now every company knows we are competing in RecycleMania.”
While it may have become a way of life at West Point, Hudgins believes it hasn’t fully been embraced in cadet culture yet. For as many people who will recycle because it is the right thing to do, there are those who need incentives to get involved more.
“It hasn’t become a part of our philosophy here that we’re going to recycle because sustainability is good,” Hudgins said. “I definitely think companies are recycling regularly now because they’ve developed it into a practice—it’s habit now.”
Col. Irving Smith, the Sociology program director and associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, said recycling has become more than just habit-forming.
“It may be behavioral even, to protect our environment not just in the Corps of Cadets but society at large,” he said. “It has become much more normative in American society and it’s important to us.”
RecycleMania serves as a good enforcer of this habit because recycling at West Point always seems to peak during the eight-week competition.
“Our recycling during the competition does ‘spike’ because the whole community wants to work together for a better outcome,” Stanley Brown, West Point Recycling Center manager, said. “Our diversion numbers are increasing every year as the community is more familiar on who to call and where to go to recycle at West Point.”
The drive to succeed in RecycleMania has already begun, as the E2O program integrated an inter-academy competition, an energy-saving competition between barracks and the recycle sculpture contest to keep cadets in the right mindset.
Cadets got creative and roughly 20 entries were submitted in this year’s recycling sculpture contest in the Corps of Cadets. The winning entry was submitted by 1st Regiment’s Company C, “The Celts,” which features an arboreal theme. Second place was awarded to Co. F-3 and third place went to Co. G-4. Judging was conducted Jan. 31 and winners announced Feb. 3 at the Cadet Mess by Dirtman, the mascot for the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering.
USMA competes against the Air Force, Naval and Coast Guard Academies, in a recycle contest sponsored by the Can Manufacturers Institute. The inaugural competition, which ran from Nov. 15 (America Recycles Day) through April 22 (Earth Day) ended last year with a win by the Air Force Academy.
Hudgins doesn’t have current data in this year’s contest but said the Corps was ahead prior to winter leave. Third Regiment, she said, is leading the way in recycling as they have for the past few years.
“We want each of these things to be seen as one integrated effort but in different ways of reaching our ultimate goal,” Hudgins said.
That goal was conceived in April 2011 when the Army announced that West Point would be among six pilot net zero energy installations, with the end state of consuming only as much energy as it produces.
“We want to help reach that net zero goal and also create an energy and environmentally-informed culture,” Hudgins said.
To find evidence of that, Hudgins said it is no longer unusual to see commander’s time being used for sustainability lessons or classes on energy conservation during afternoon company time.
“I think we’ve definitely put out more information than ever before and not just during RecycleMania,” she said. “I think there’s more connectivity year round.”
The E2O cadets work with Brown throughout the year to improve recycling in the barracks. Hudgins said the recycling manager sometimes gets more competitive than cadets when it comes to getting people to reduce, reuse and recycle.
If Brown is excited by the competition, the numbers have something to do with it. In fiscal year 2013, overall tonnage diverted from the waste stream was 874 tons, 190 tons more than the previous fiscal year.
“During this eight-week competition, we hope to show our progress in recycling cardboard, paper and plastic at West Point,” Brown said.
The tournament began Monday and cadets have until March 29 to make West Point a national winner in recycling. The RecycleMania website will post weekly updates to track each school’s progress.
Visit www.recyclemaniacs.org for details on the competition. To learn more about the West Point Recycling Center, visit http://www.westpointmwr.com/recycling/index.htm.