Rev Up Recycling

The summons to “go green” is all around us. Camps, though, have been doing this for years–long before it was popular. However, it can be useful to periodically evaluate ways to be even more effective in your efforts by assessing current policies, doing a “trash audit,” and improving communication with both staff members and campers/guests.

What is your camp doing about recycling?

Review Policies

First, review your recycling policy; if one does not exist, develop one. Invite a group of staff members and supporters to either review or create a policy. Include board members in the process to build support, and stress the importance of recycling in their own homes and businesses.

Prepare for the meeting by gathering information. Locate some current statistics about recycling, such as that every ton of paper recycled saves 4,100 kilowatts of electricity for three hours (EPA figures). Exact figures demonstrate the ways a camp’s recycling efforts have an impact. Web sites such as the National Recycling Coalition ( and Earth911 ( provide up-to-date data about recycling results.

Also, before the meeting, research what recycling is possible in the area. Recycling facilities differ, so before proposing recycling motor oil, for example, make sure that it can be done. Find out if recycling is picked up or if it has to be delivered and any costs to participate in a program.

Clearly state to the policy-writing group the reasons that recycling is important. The National Resources Defense Council provides a list of eight reasons (

• Saves trees

• Protects wildlife and biodiversity

• Reduces toxic chemicals

• Curbs global warming

• Reduces water pollution

• Reduces the need for landfills

• Reduces the need for incinerators

• Creates jobs and promotes economic development.

Another element to examine is how recycling fits with the values reflected in the mission statement of the camp. If you have an overall environmental policy statement, be sure to give that to the group.

The policy should be practical. It must include a “chain of responsibility” for staff members, and clear instructions on how each department will participate, as well as what exactly is to be recycled. Avoid merely naming items to be recycled. Instead, include specific items in the policy, where each will be collected, and by whom. Build as many details into the plan as possible so staff members understand the role they are to play in supporting the commitment to recycle.

Do A Trash Audit

Once the policy is created, efforts will need to be assessed. To do this, conduct a “trash audit.” Although this is a messy and time-consuming task, it is the best way to determine how well you are doing in present recycling practices and in determining exactly what to improve.

To conduct an audit effectively, involve a staff member from each department–kitchen, office, maintenance, housekeeping, etc. Each person must follow through on all the steps of the audit, or it will not produce accurate results. For a small camp, collect trash from all over, bring it to one place, and do an overall audit.

Begin by setting a time period for the audit. Explain that a designated person in each department will collect the department’s trash during that period. To reduce the mess somewhat, have the kitchen separate wet garbage from other trash when it is collected. You may decide not to search through the wet garbage.

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