College fraternity life and making sustainable living choices don’t always go hand-in-hand, but one group on the University of Michigan campus is implementing programs to change that. The U-M Greek Life Sustainability Team (GLIST) is providing incentives to fraternities to increase their annual recycling rate in exchange for a discount on single-use plastic cups, a staple for many fraternity parties, through a program called Trust for Cups. Among the items the fraternities are encouraged to recycle are polystyrene foam cups, or Styrofoam® cups. Styrofoam® is a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company.
Kevin Kononenko founded GLIST to expose the U of M Greek community to the idea of sustainable living. He noticed on the campus “that the sustainability community… [was] very exclusive in the sense that people tended to work with people they already knew, or with people they knew would be allies….” Because of this tendency, Greek life participants throughout the campus had generally not been exposed to the issues of sustainable living or recycling waste. Trust for Cups is the first program offered by GLIST, and rewards fraternities that meet a recycling rate of 35% or more with a discount on the single-use plastic cups used at many fraternal parties.
GLIST has teamed up with Dart Container Corporation for the Trust for Cups program. Dart Container provides the discounted cups to the fraternity houses that meet the 35% recycling rate, which ends up saving them hundreds of dollars each semester. Dart Container’s Director of Recycling, Michael Westerfield, said in a statement, “We support recycling efforts in a number of ways, including the Trust for Cups program at the University of Michigan. It is exciting to see students making a difference to reduce waste in our landfills and we believe it is an important step to a lifetime commitment to recycle, reuse and reduce waste.”
The members of GLIST are currently working with 40% of the fraternity houses on the U. of Michigan campus to install the Trust for Cups program. Delta Kappa Epsilon, one of the fraternities taking advantage of this initiative, was able to save just over $500 on party supplies after its first semester of signing on to Trust for Cups. They have also managed to maintain their 35% recycling rate, and are looking forward to receiving more supplies at a discount. As their next project, GLIST is looking to tackle energy efficiency within the fraternity houses.