MC faculty,students recycle to promote climate change

Just before leaving campus for the Thanksgiving break, Maryville College students cleaned up litter on Court Street, finding an appropriate home for nearly 60 pounds of trash along the campus’ west side.

Students from Dr. Mark O’Gorman’s ENV101: Introduction to Environmental Issues course, completed the trash cleanup as part of the class. “After this activity, students get a vivid reminder of how trash could literally consume our lives,” said O’Gorman, associate professor of political science and coordinator of the college’s environmental studies major. “By taking a brief inventory of the trash that our students find, and then weighing it, the numbers do help suggest that each American probably creates five pounds of trash per day.”

Students found hubcaps, food containers and beer bottles this year and have found rebar and appliances in past years. Fifty-eight pounds were recovered Nov. 19, lower than totals of 72, 67 and 65 pounds gathered in the same location in previous Court Street Clean-Ups.

“Although Monday’s numbers are slightly lower we, sadly, can count on finding on average about 65 pounds of trash along this one-mile stretch of road with just one hour’s work,” the professor said.

Earlier this month, O’Gorman’s ENV101 class calculated the energy saved from the 267 plastic bottles picked up by the professor and his two children at the recycling activity they sponsored in Chattanooga as part of the national StepItUp action day to promote global climate change.

“My wife was rowing in the Head of the Hootch Regatta that day, and we made it a family event. Realizing StepItUp was that day, the kids and I sponsored the event,” O’Gorman said. “My kids are ages 6 and 8, and they were real troopers, picking up bottles and hauling the bags around. And the college kids at the event picked up on what was happening right away and brought their bottles to us.”

Following a reward of ice cream for a job well done, O’Gorman and his children loaded up the plastic to be sorted and weighed by his students, then recycled, keeping the materials out of landfills.

Using U.S. Department of Energy calculations that the energy saved by recycling one plastic bottle is equivalent to 25 minutes of computer power, the ENV101 students helped calculate that the O’Gorman family StepItUp activity offset the energy consumption for their professor’s office and classroom computer use for the fall semester.

“We used online energy calculators, which are great. They help clarify how such acts can make a difference in your life and in reducing global climate change on the planet,” he said. “Any one person can affect change that can help the growing issues impacting our planet. Their only requirement is a desire to do just one thing.”

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