Sigma Nu is the first fraternity to find a constructive use for their empty beer cans – recycling.
Established at the beginning of winter quarter, Sigma Nu’s sustainability chair is in charge of the fraternity’s first recycling program and other eco-friendly movements. The sustainability chair was created due to the influence of Jeff Mailes, current sustainability chairman and senior environmental science and management major, when he realized that the fraternity should be doing more to protect the environment and that it could be saving money by doing so.
“We weren’t recycling, there was a lot of trash being produced and we were debating whether to get another dumpster or not, and I thought that was ridiculous. We should be trying to reduce our waste, and there was so much money being wasted,” Mailes said.
Mailes said that he has collected over $90 in refunds from the recycling he has brought into the recycling center. He used some of the money to create a composting program within the house, and the rest went toward a house-wide “Recycling Raffle.”
“Basically, I ensure that we recycle, and I’ve done that through an incentive system where people who help me do recycling tasks, such as sorting or helping to put out the bins during a party, get a raffle ticket. The raffle ticket gives them an opportunity to win a share of the recycling money,” Mailes said.
While other fraternities have made an effort to be more “green,” Sigma Nu is the first fraternity to have an official sustainability chair.
“I don’t think it’s been done before because it’s a daunting path,” said Ethan Rader, president of the Interfraternity Council. “To get to the point where you’re extremely effective at recycling takes a long time. It takes well over a year’s worth of work to get an effective sustainability program in place, so I can understand why some chapters might be deterred from putting in effort to do this sort of thing.”
Furthermore, the expenses of recycling programs within fraternities and sororities can be steep.
“It’s just been very hard to do it because a lot of these things are a little bit more on the expensive side, and each chapter has a lot of costs as it is. So we can’t force chapters to do it, but we’re encouraging it a lot,” Rader said.
While being environmentally friendly is important, it can be difficult to implement within the Greek system, Mailes also said.
“It’s my passion, and I know it’s the passion of several other people – they just don’t necessarily know where to start or they feel like they’re alone in the Greek system,” he said.
Mailes said he hopes his example will lead to a sustainability chair in every fraternity and sorority.
“If we can encourage even one fraternity or sorority to recycle or to create a program like this, we would feel that we had influenced the community and benefited the community in a positive way,” said Chris Dyer, Sigma Nu chapter president and senior mechanical engineering major.
HANNAH STRUMWASSER can be reached at email@example.com.