RU Green president Troy Withers prepares for the America Recycles Day event at Roosevelt University.
Corinne Chin / MEDILL
Roosevelt University recently started an electronics recycling program, explained Troy Withers.
Roosevelt University showed off its commitment to environmental sustainability Thursday at an event that featured the school’s recycling initiatives and its association with green startup Ghabit.
The university has committed to recycling 50 percent of waste generated at the Chicago campus, sustainability director Tom Shelton said. Since opening its new gold LEED-certified Wabash Building in August and receiving a state recycling grant, the school has increased the amount of waste diverted away from landfills to 43 percent from about 16 percent, Shelton said.
An important part of that improvement is engaging the student body, said Troy Withers, president of RU Green, the student-run environmental group.
Withers emphasizes understanding the “whys” more than the “hows” of recycling. “You can get into the technicalities of 'recycling ones and twos and plastic bags go here,'” he said. But “we pride ourselves on really putting the motivation into sustainability.”
“You can’t have sustainability without consciousness, awareness and understanding of what sustainability means,” he said.
At the Thursday event, which marked America Recycles Day, volunteers for startup firm Ghabit – a contraction of Green Habit – sold bracelets to fund tree planting at Roosevelt’s Schaumburg campus. Since the beginning of the week, they raised enough money to plant 22 new trees.
Roosevelt’s partnership with Chicago-based Ghabit fits into the larger goal of making the school greener. Ghabit rewards people for green behavior through a system based on a free smartphone app. After downloading the app, users can scan the barcodes on images of “Ghaby,” a green penguin, found around town above recycling cans, at green restaurants, or in stairwells. By scanning, users accumulate points towards rewards. The idea is to reinforce green behaviors such as recycling.
“It’s easy. You get rewarded for things you do anyway,” said Anthony Arzola, a student working at the Ghabit booth.
Company founder Milesh Jain, 35, said the idea “came from my own frustrations about how difficult it was to go green.” He wants to “inspire people to go green in a fun way.”
Ghaby stickers are mostly found in the central area of Chicago, especially the West and South Loop, but Jain plans to expand the program throughout the city.
Jain was able to start the project after winning a small-business plan competition at Loyola University, where he earned his MBA.
He had previously worked as a consultant and a CTA project director, but said, “I decided it was about time to give back.”