Too School for Cool: In conclusion

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May 102013

Author: Allison LeCain

The time has come to write my last column of the year. As my graduation approaches, I can’t help feeling overwhelmed by emotions.


English: Cadets of the Air Force Academy Class...

English: Cadets of the Air Force Academy Class of 2003 celebrate at graduation ceremonies on May 28, 2003 as the Air Force Thunderbirds fly overhead. The 974 students marked the academy’s 45th graduating class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lucky for me, when I’m overwhelmed by emotions I tend to shut them out, so they have not interfered with my work and school performance.

Still, I would like to get a little sappy. Graduating college is a big deal, and I’m even more proud to say I’m graduating with a job.

As myself and other senior rams flock into the real world, I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom.

I recently read 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said. I recommend it to all seniors, as it lays out some points and words of inspiration that will get you through this transition.

Here are my favorites:

  1. Don’t try to fix the world. The author, Charles Wheelan, explains that it too much of a burden to try to change the world. We should simply have a goal to not mess up the world. If I can do that, I think I’ve succeeded, (although fixing the world would be cool).
  2. Always marry someone more intelligent than you. This way, you will never get bored. On the other hand, if I marry someone smarter than me, does that make me the stupid one? Or does it make them stupid for marrying someone less smart than them?

In conclusion, it’s ok to not have any direction. The next few years of life will be the hardest, but we’ll get through it.

I love you all for reading. Go Rams!


Re-Framing the Education Conversation

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May 092013

Author: Mary Willson

          In the US, the average life expectancy is 83 years, according to the US Social Security Administration.

       A college semester is four months, which is .6 percent of that average. A university bachelors degree is generally obtained in four years, just 4.8 percent of the general American life.


            Personally, I am finishing up my sophomore year. I have given 2.4 percent of my live to higher education to date.

 This identity of what I have become: class, exams, papers, extracurricular, jobs; internships seem to define me sometimes. All of the scholarly labels seem to be the aspects of me that my parent’s friends ask about. They don’t go around asking what I believe in, what I am passionate about, or what my favorite way to spend a sunny Colorado day is. They ask what I am studying, and what I want to do with the rest of my life. I find myself challenging this, wanting to lash out and rebel.  And then I remember, they are asking this because I am lucky. I am in college.

            As finals week comes into full swing, I notice social media highlights this negative conversation. Instagram snaps the scene of Morgan Library at 3 am, Facebook statuses about the burdens of hard tests, and twitter posts dedicated to hating chemistry or anatomy class. I am definitely guilty of this in one form or another as deadlines; finals and classes take their toll.

 Yet, the high traffic of this negativity we all show and feel toward the end of the semester causes an uneasy feeling every semester, and particularly this semester, as my life view has been rocked recently.

            This semester, I have completely been re-taught what education means to our world. I am from an education-focused family, my dad is a professor here on campus, my sister graduated from CU, and I have always been on the path to graduate from CSU. It is just how my middle class, Fort Collins raised life has been set. And there is nothing wrong with that, until I found myself forgetting I am lucky.

Francis and Isaya pose in December in front of a local school. Francis is finishing up his High School education this year and wants to get a degree in Agriculture and Tourism and become an educated tour guide in order to bring income back into his village.

Francis and Isaya pose in December in front of a local school. Francis is finishing up his High School education this year and wants to get a degree in Agriculture and Tourism and become an educated tour guide in order to bring income back into his village.

Brett Bruyere, Warner College of Natural Resource professor and Samburu Youth Education Fund founder talks with local teacher at a scholarship award ceremony in December.

Brett Bruyere, Warner College of Natural Resource professor and Samburu Youth Education Fund founder talks with local teacher at a scholarship award ceremony in December.

     In December, I traveled to Kenya, Africa through SLiCE’s Alternative Break Program. As cliché as it is to narrate how students will give anything to be in a classroom, to get the opportunity to have education–it is actually true. That played up sentence is not just from the Compassion International commercials. In fact, it is the reality of millions of normal college-aged students around the world.

     It is fun, energetic young adults, just like us—that are in love with education. The CSU group I was with became close with four students. These students have had their education funded by the Samburu Youth Education Fund—a donation based scholarship program set up by CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources professor Brett Bruyere.

A doctor, professor, tour guide, and chef they want to become, and they all travel hours to days to get to school, where they stay for five consecutive months to learn. And they know they are lucky, because they are the only peers from their village to get this education.

            The passion felt for having a future outside of their environment in the rural bush area of Archers Post, Kenya was invigorating after I felt worn out from a rough semester of 18 credits.

            An additional wake up call I felt mid-college experience this spring is visiting my sister, who has dedicated two years to teaching low-income students in Charleston, South Carolina through the non-profit organization Teach for America (TFA). TFA places passionate post-grads or professionals and matches them with failing schools, in order to keep skilled teachers in the system. My sister’s sixth graders are all extremely low-income, extremely below grade reading level and math due to lack of school funding, limited parental support and little educational influence. These students have never felt they even have the option to get a higher education and most don’t know anyone who has other than their teachers. They aren’t on the college track like I was, and most unfortunately will not ever be.

         My sister works hard to remind her students they can go on to be a college student, her room is decked out with Buff swag, her alma mater, and she is constantly highlighting students who have beat the odds like she believes they can. Yet, the culture shock she has felt moving from her college-dedicated life in Colorado to the juxtaposed life in South Carolina has sparked my realization as well: we are all an exception.

My sister, Laura, also coaches a cheerleading team as a TFA teacher.

My sister, Laura, also coaches a cheerleading team as a TFA teacher.

            I am currently in a mentorship program through CSU’s Access Center called the Dream Team, which was started at Washington State University, and has grown nation wide throughout the last years. The program’s objective is to give guidance, support and resources to higher education to first generation high school students in the community. Through this program, we have a weekly class in which we learn about the education system, identity and ourselves.

        Through the astonishing statistics about the nations true education system is daunting after growing up in suburbia Fort Collins, with the excellent Poudre School District.

            Overall, through these experiences, the reality of my college experience seems damn great compared to what the majority of countries, states, demographics and individuals face. I am in college, and I will graduate—just like most of us reading this.

            While the stress of school is real, and the dedication to education is widely apparent on campus, I cant help but think what if we all reframe the conversation. Together, we could change the conversation from negativity, to positivity. Instead of “finals will be the death of me,” what if we all reframe it to be “I am lucky to be working hard to get my education,” because the reality is, we are lucky.

Everyday Explorations: CSU’s Forestry and Natural Resources Buildings

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May 082013

Author: Kelsey Contouris

If there’s one thing I learned from this week’s exploration, it’s that bridges make buildings infinitely more awesome. I originally set out to explore Forestry, but when I found the second-floor bridge to Natural Resources, I couldn’t resist. And seeing as this is my last post of the semester, I figured the bigger the exploration the better.

A large variety of leaves and branches are on display near Forestry's main entrance.

A large variety of leaves and branches are on display near Forestry’s main entrance.

With the trees around campus finally sprouting their leaves, it felt like a good time to check out the forestry building. I went in through the main entrance off of West Drive and was greeted by a shockingly new space for a building constructed in 1937. The walls were painted a pleasant, soft green; the hallway floors were done in a shiny, beige wood with stone tile running along the edges; round, modern light fixtures hung from the crown-molded ceiling down the length of the main hallway. This was quite possibly one of the newest old spaces on campus that I’ve had the pleasure of viewing.

This second-floor bridge is a convenient way to travel between Forestry and Natural Resources.

This second-floor bridge is a convenient way to travel between Forestry and Natural Resources.

Immediately to my left and right were hallways lined with tiled squares displaying the preserved leaves of probably a couple hundred plant species. After admiring some of these, I ventured down the main hallway. Old black and white photos hung on the walls in sharp contrast with a large TV screen displaying department information.

As I was busy taking pictures, someone came in through the front doors. Fearing that he would ask me what I was doing or if I was lost, I scurried around the nearest corner and happened upon the basement steps.

Not wanting to turn around and look more lost, I decided I might as well check it out. It was a strange space that seemed more like a basement you would find in a normal house. The ceilings were much lower than in the rest of the building, and they were crowded with an unsettling array of pipes that led into a room with even more unsettling building guts. The rest of the space served as storage.

I crept back up to the first floor and found a stairway leading to the second. These hallways looked a bit older, with the exception of the nice wood and tile floors. I was surprised to find that even the classrooms in Forestry looked newly renovated.

The second floor was unexciting until I remembered that from the outside I had seen a bridge connecting Forestry with the Warner College of Natural Resources. A woman I saw in the hallway pointed me in that direction.

Eagerly, I walked through the two metal doors out onto the bridge. The north side had windows, but the south side was open and provided an excellent view of Sherwood Forest and the sidewalk below. I drank in the fresh air for a moment and continued on into Natural Resources.

The main entrance area of Natural Resources has many earthy qualities.

The main entrance area of Natural Resources has many earthy qualities.

I explored the second floor for a bit, noting that the classrooms looked much older than those in Forestry. The walls were covered with all sorts of maps and posters, and display cases were filled with weathered equipment and geological artifacts.

I went up to the third floor through one of the cavernous concrete stairwells. It was up here that I got the best view of the front entryway. The space is somewhat difficult to describe – industrial, yet earthy. Cold, yet inviting. I think I got this feeling from the concrete coupled with the more natural elements. A small garden and pond sat beneath the gray, twisting staircase; sunlight filled the space from skylights up above; dark wood covered some walls, while others were covered in jagged stone bricks. A collection of tables and chairs sat below, and I realized that this would be a great place to come and relax.

I toured a few more hallways and decided to end my double exploration. Judging Forestry and Natural Resources from the outside, I had never expected to find what I did on the inside. The same has been true for all of the buildings I explored this semester. They’re all on the same campus, yet so wildly different from one another. The best part is that even though I’ve seen so many buildings, there are still so many left to discover.

Too School for Cool: To share or not to share… dessert

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May 032013

Author: Allison LeCain

It happens to everyone. You’re on a date with someone special – maybe you’ve just met or maybe you’ve been together for years – and the common question comes up.

“Would you like to split a dessert?”

This is a seemingly simple question, but it can be more complicated than you think. If you chose not to share, is that thought of as selfish? And if you chose to share, will you be able to fulfill your sweet tooth?

Luckily, through my own experience I have devised dessert relationship stages for you to follow.

Stage One: Skeptical Sharers

English: unrecognized dessert.

Decadent dessert. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When dating someone new, at first you’re unsure of where your future is heading. You’re not committed, so why commit half your dessert to them? It’s perfectly acceptable to not share a dessert when you first start dating someone.

Stage Two: Sharing Sweethearts

As your relationship reaches official status, you become more apt to share. The sun shines every day, the birds chirping at dawn sound like a melody, and you can’t get enough of your lover. You want to share your whole world with them, which means it’s time to share dessert. You should always offer the last bite to your lover to show how much you care.

Stage Three: Stingy Sweeties

When you’ve been dating someone for a year or more, you know each other well and are completely comfortable around each other. At this point, you become a little stingy. Whose turn is it this time to get the last bite of dessert? Who gets to pick which dessert you have this time? At this point in your relationship you are ready to get separate desserts again. This doesn’t mean you care less about each other or that you don’t love each other anymore. It simply means that two desserts are better than one.

Everyday Explorations: CSU’s Education Building

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May 012013

Author: Kelsey Contouris

Unless you study education or social work, the education building is probably just one of those buildings that you often walk past on your way to classes. But what lies within those weathered, vine-covered walls? The question had been nagging at me for much of the semester as I passed by the building on my way to Clark C, so I finally decided it was time to go exploring.

The cozy lounge area lies on the north side of the second floor overlooking the Eddy lawn.

The cozy lounge area lies on the north side of the second floor overlooking the Eddy lawn.

I entered the education building through the door on the west side, which I quickly realized was not a main entrance. I found myself in a white concrete stairwell, not sure where to begin my journey. Tentatively, I walked up to the second floor, figuring I would start from the top and work my way down.

Like many of the older academic buildings on campus, the inside was mostly filled with offices and small classrooms – nothing too exciting. These hallways felt especially school-like to me, though – the office doors had cute comics and signs on them, poster projects hung on the walls and colorful bulletin boards advertised department news. Perhaps aspiring teachers can get used to their future work environment while still in college.

I also found a quaint lounge area on the second floor – every building on campus seems to have one. Large windows overlooked the grassy area between Education and Eddy, and clusters of cozy-looking chairs filled either side of the space. There was even a small kitchen in the hallway right before the lounge area. It all felt very homey.

The lounge area also had a staircase in it, so I took that down to the first floor. As I explored, I found more classrooms and offices, but these were mainly related to the department of social work. I also found what must be the front entrance to the building (on the south side) – the space was filled with tables and chairs, a couple of computers and signs for navigating the building. Finding nothing else of note, I went down to the basement, but it turned out to be even less exciting – mainly just stark, white walls and a handful of classrooms.

Two of the benches on the north side of the building memorialize Sean William McGowan, who was a freshman in 2011.

Two of the benches on the north side of the building memorialize Sean William McGowan, who was a freshman in 2011.

It was the outside of Education that I found most intriguing. You’ve probably seen the east side – a few tables and chairs sit in front of a waterfall feature near the side of the building, and students can often be found hanging out there when the weather is nice. The wooden benches on the north side are also a somewhat popular place to relax, and I also noticed that they’re memorials to a couple of people who have passed away. I think it’s a touching gesture, and now I’m curious about whether or not the other benches on campus serve the same purpose.

I snapped a few more pictures of the north side of Education (and the random primate painted under one of the windows) and went on my way. While I probably won’t have a reason to go in there again, at least it’s now something more to me than just another building I pass by. Hopefully this will be true for all or most of the campus buildings by the time I graduate – I just have to keep exploring.

Too School for Cool: Is North Korea making you fat?

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Apr 262013

Author: Allison LeCain

Fresh vegetables are important components of a...

Fresh vegetables are important components of a healthy diet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently watched a documentary called Hungry for Change. It’s a film about healthy, natural eating and what effects it can have on a person’s lifestyle.

I’d like to start by saying that my friends and I watch a lot of documentaries, like A LOT. If you have Netflix, you’ll understand. Over my many viewings I’ve learned various things about the film industry, sushi, war, and food, but Hungry for Change is the first documentary that has truly inspired me to make a change in my life.

I’m not an unhealthy person – I’m not overweight, I don’t eat a lot of junk food or sugar, and soda is not a part of my diet. The lifestyle change outlined in the film isn’t about weight for me. It’s about putting things in my body that will help my energy, skin, and organs in the long-run.

The diet idea that the film presents is that people should not eat any foods that have additives and chemicals. All foods we consume should be found naturally in the wild. If there’s an ingredient you can’t pronounce, it doesn’t belong in your body. This is how our bodies were made to eat, so why shouldn’t we honor that?

Hungry for Change reveals secrets that the food industry doesn’t want you to know, such as addictive food additives. Many people crave sugar or salt on a weekly, or even daily, basis. That’s because some companies put in artificial ingredients that act like nicotine to make you want more. The reality is, if we stop eating those foods, our body will quickly learn to live without them and we will stop craving them.

The film interviews people who have survived cancer and obesity due to changing their diet. As I said before, I’m not unhealthy, but I do get frequent headaches and bouts of stress. The documentary explains that when people are stressed, they tend to eat. That is the opposite of what a person should do to control stress levels.

The fact is, there are a lot of stresses in our world today. Our country is in constant fear of being bombed, our economy is still at a halt, and school work piles up to an uncontrollable level. In our world today, stress is all around us. By eating natural, organic foods, you can be sure that whatever you’re putting into your body is helping your overall health and wellbeing.


Learn more about Hungry for Change at

Everyday Explorations: CSU’s Visual Arts Building

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Apr 242013

Author: Kelsey Contouris

It’s gray. Dreary. Dull.

From the outside, that is.

The west entrance of the Visual Arts building

The west entrance of the Visual Arts building

The Visual Arts building may not appear to be the ideal place for fostering imagination, but the inside tells a different story. Just walking through the main stretch of the building, you’ll find an impressive array of artwork on display – drawings, paintings, sculptures, pottery, photography, you name it.

Constructed in 1974, Visual Arts stands on the south side of Pitkin Street across from Braiden Hall. The sprawling complex is home to a number of classrooms, studios and workshops where students can build and master their artistic skills. Having enjoyed art classes in high school, I was particularly excited for this week’s exploration.

Colorful pipes run along the ceiling in the main hallway.

Colorful pipes run along the ceiling in the main hallway.

I entered the building through the west doors as several other students were making their way to 8 a.m. classes. Again realizing that I would look like a strange tourist for taking pictures in front of everyone, I cut into a hallway off to my right until traffic died down. It wasn’t the most spectacular first impression – just a bunch of lockers, offices and some studios. It actually reminded me very much of the art hallway in the high school I attended freshman year.

This thought struck me again as I toured other parts of the building – the slanted skylights, exposed pipes zigzagging across the ceiling, quaint courtyards outside and numerous projects lining the walls were all eerily familiar. If my high school’s art department were to take over the rest of the building, this is what it would look like.

Paintings line the walls.

Paintings line the walls.

As I made my way down the main corridor, I noticed a sign directing students to room F113, which, oddly enough, is where one of my journalism classes will be next semester. I followed the signs past some more offices and classrooms only to find an average-sized lecture hall, pointlessly far away from the rest of my classes next semester. At least I can look forward to admiring some of the artwork while I’m in the building.

I continued down the main stretch, snapping photos of some paintings and pottery. I passed a small counter called the Sova Cafe, which advertised bagels, cookies, coffee and more. I imagined what the place must look like on a normal afternoon – students hanging out on the hallway benches or lounging in the courtyards outside, probably drawing in sketchbooks as they have lunch. Being an art student in this building must be pretty nice.

Even the landscaping is artsy.

Even the landscaping is artsy.

I eventually came to another entrance area facing Pitkin Street. An old, red telephone booth stood by the doors, as well as a wiry sculpture of a human body. As I kept walking down the hall, I saw a few weathered pieces of art equipment and more projects filling display cases. I came to the east doors and turned right into a hallway containing more drawings, lockers and studios. I was amazed at how tall the studio doors were – they practically went up to the ceiling!

After I took a few more photos, my exploration was over. I was pleasantly surprised to find such a vibrant, artsy environment inside that cold, gray brick exterior. If you have time to check out the visual arts building, or if you end up with a miscellaneous lecture there, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed with what you see.

Everyday Explorations: The CSU Bakeshop

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Apr 162013

Author: Kelsey Contouris

Two to four hundred dozen. That’s the number of cookies the Colorado State University Bakeshop doles out to campus dining centers each day, in addition to a wide variety of cakes, pies, doughnuts and other sugary treats. And it all happens from a fairly obscure location – the back of Edwards Hall.

The bakeshop has a separate room for making gluten-free goods.

The bakeshop has a separate room for making gluten-free goods.

As a freshman who eats (and works) at the dining centers, I’m quite familiar with the vast quantity of available desserts. Since I’ve always been curious about where they come from, I finally decided to set up a quick tour with the bakeshop manager, Joan Smith. So while this exploration wasn’t as everyday as the rest, I still found it equally fascinating.

Bakeshop employees prepare dozens of hoagie rolls for Braiden.

Bakeshop employees prepare dozens of hoagie rolls for Braiden’s kitchen.

As you would expect, the first thing that hit me upon entering the bakeshop was the delightful, sugary smell. The second thing was the flurry of activity – just about every area of the kitchen had a staff member or two prepping a different mixture or dough. I found Smith and she began showing me around.

We first passed by a station where banana cream pie was being made, which I noticed in Ram’s Horn later that day. According to Smith, everything goes out fresh each morning – employees arrive as early as 2 a.m. to begin baking breads.

We then stopped by a student hourly who was placing cookie dough onto baking sheets. Seeing as the dining halls have a seemingly endless supply of cookies, I had always wondered whether or not the bakeshop makes them from scratch. Not surprisingly, they don’t – the pre-portioned dough comes from Otis Spunkmeyer and gets baked at the bakeshop (or even at the dining halls if they happen to run out). Because the dining halls order so many cookies, Smith said, the bakeshop itself wouldn’t be able to handle making them all from scratch. They do, however, make some cookies themselves, such as the popular hippie cookie (which happens to be a favorite of mine) sold at Ram’s Horn Express.

Smith showed me a number of other baked goods being made. There were hoagie rolls being prepared that would be sent to Braiden’s dining center, large chocolate chip muffins to be sent to Ram’s Horn Express and T-Dex, as well as cookie bars, tiramisu cakes and chocolate cake – all from scratch. And all of this gets done by a total of nine student hourlies and nine state classified employees.

Freshly baked tiramisu cakes

Freshly baked tiramisu cakes

“We wouldn’t be able to do it without them,” Smith said.

She also told me that students studying food and nutrition sciences occasionally do practicums at the bakeshop, and she said she feels privileged to provide such an experience.

I feel privileged myself just being able to get a firsthand look at where CSU’s delectable treats are crafted. I had never imagined that such a large operation could take place in the back portion of Edwards, let alone practically in secret – I’ve asked several of my friends if they knew where the bakeshop was, and most of them had no idea. But from the wee hours of the morning all throughout the year, CSU Bakeshop employees work their magic to provide campus with its fresh, sugary staples.

Summer abroad, don’t mind if I do

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Apr 162013

Author: Cassandra Whelihan

It’s been nearly three years since Rebecca Robinson last took off to travel the world. The expression on her face as she

Rebecca Robinson experiencing the culture of Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Robinson.

Rebecca Robinson experiencing the culture of Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Robinson.

describes her summer plans for Florence, Italy radiates pure excitement.

“I traveled by myself at 19 which was almost three years ago and you get the travel bug the first time you really go out on your own. It doesn’t go away, you’ll be infected with it your whole life and so I’m like, ‘yeah I really wanted to go to Italy.’ I really wanted to live in Italy and just experience it rather than jumping from place to place,” said Rebecca Robinson, a journalism and history double major. “You learn so much about yourself — you learn how much strength you actually have to be independent and to do things on your own. You realize the skills you can pull on when crisis happens, when you get lost. Leaving Colorado is just a really good opportunity to grow as a person, I suggest it for everyone.”

Also leaving Colorado for the summer, Jennifer Robinson prepares to embark on an adventure to Freiburg, Germany. Jennifer Robinson will be practicing her German while taking roughly 12 credit hours.

“We are supposed to speak in German the entire time we are there,” said Jennifer Robinson, a senior German language and international studies double major. “I think that immersing myself in the culture is going to help my speaking skills a lot. So instead of taking these courses at CSU I’m taking them in Germany. I think that I’m going to learn a little more.”

The Study Abroad Program at CSU offers opportunities to travel to almost any country in the world. According to their website, with approval, you may also study abroad through an unaffiliated program or enroll directly at a foreign university.

“We have programs in Prague, in Costa Rica, in Ireland, Japan, in Morocco, in the Bahamas, in Italy — I mean the list goes on. There are some things like advanced language courses in Spain for people studying Spanish or there’s things like criminology or criminal justice in Prague,” said Kayla Rivers, finance major and peer adviser at the Study Abroad Office. “I think summer programs in particular are really important for students who feel like they can’t fit it into their academic schedule, but who want to have that experience and want to be able to see this new country and experience a new culture.”

Mona Lisa frameless

Mona Lisa frameless (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The opportunity to be immersed in the history of unique cultures around the world is extremely moving and powerful, according to Rebecca Robinson.

“When I saw the Mona Lisa in the Louvre Museum about three years ago, I was just balling my eyes out because I was just so overwhelmed by ‘you know this is actually da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. This is the real deal. I’m standing in the same room as this masterpiece that was painted centuries before by someone I deeply admire,’” said Rebecca. “I’m really excited. I get to see the ‘Birth of Venus’ at the Uffizi Gallery and the Statue of David, so those are like the top two art things in Florence I’m excited about.”

Going Green: Recycling in your community

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Apr 152013

Author: Allison LeCain

Colorado State University Flag

Colorado State University Flag (Photo credit: tylerkron)

Colorado State University is considered a ‘green’ university, but it wasn’t always that way. In the past 15 years, CSU’s recycling rate has gone from 26 percent to 57 percent, ranking in the top 5 percent of recycle-friendly universities in America for the past 10 years, according to RecycleMania.

We’ve adopted changes over the years that make recycling easier, such as single-stream recycling, trash audits and participating in RecycleMania. Now CSU recycles almost two million pounds each year, according to CSU’s green website.

What is RecycleMania?

RecycleMania is a nation-wide competition that promotes recycling and waste-reduction at universities. The event takes place over eight weeks each spring. Recycling and trash is measured on a per-capita basis each week. CSU took 16th place out of 630 universities last year.

During this time, there’s an on-campus competition between residence halls and university apartments to see which have the best recycling rate. Each RecycleMania starts off with a trash audit. A day’s worth of trash is collected from all residence halls and sorted. Last year’s audit revealed that 75 percent of what was thrown away was trash and 25 percent could have been recycled, according to Sheela Backen, CSU’s Integrated Solid Waste Program Manager.

How CSU went ‘green’

In the ’80s, CSU didn’t have a single-stream recycling system. Nearly all materials were trashed in a landfill. In 1990, CSU received a $26,000 grant from the Colorado Office of Energy Conservation that allowed them to start a new recycling program, called Recycle Colorado State. Since then, the number of dumpsters has been cut in half and the first automated recycling truck was purchased. CSU switched to single-stream recycling in 2007, making the recycling rate go up to 57 percent.

Backen has taken the lead role in changing the way faculty and students view sustainability on campus. She focuses on educating students so they know what to recycle and care enough to do so. One of the common misconceptions she says students have about recycling is pizza boxes. She said as long as you clean the pizza out of it, the boxes can be recycled, as can bottles and their caps.

Though the recycling rate is rising, Backen thinks the university can do even more for sustainability.

“One of the things I really want to work on is compost,” Backen said. “We’re already doing some compost, but we can expand into paper towels and stuff like that to take more stuff out of the landfills. Every year they’re supposed to add another commodity we can recycle in Larimer County – anything that they’ll add, we’ll add.”

How does recycling work?

According to Backen, the recycling starts out in bins around campus. The custodial staff empties those into larger bins outside, which are picked up by trucks. Trucks pick up recycling daily from Lory Student Center and two to three times a week for other buildings. Those trucks take the recyclables to the Larimer County Landfill, where they have an Intermediate Processing Center. There the material is bailed and shipped to Denver’s Waste Management plant. Then a machine uses electric eyes to sort the recyclables.

“They can tell a white piece of paper from a pink piece of paper – it’s really neat,” Backen said. “They use magnets for steel cans and blow air at the aluminum cans to pop them over into where they want them.”

At the end of the machine’s line, there are people pulling out materials that are not suited for recycling. Backen said the recycling process costs more because of the trash people throw in. She suggests taking the time to rinse recyclables of food material so they make it through the recycling inspection.

What can you recycle at CSU?

  • Clean #1 through #7 plastic bottles, tubes, containers
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Aluminum and steel cans
  • Metal jar lids and bottle caps
  • Empty aerosol cans
  • Aluminum foil
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Office paper
  • Phone books
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Brown paper grocery bags
  • Paperboard
  • Some electronics upon request

National recycling rate according to Fort Collins Government

Aluminum cans 51.2%
Glass Bottles 22.0%
Steel Cans 62.0%


Living out the legacy

By working hard to educate future students and faculty, the recycling rate will continue to grow and CSU will become a waste-free campus.

“If we’re composting, and giving the compost back to our grounds people, we’re completing that loop so everything that we create on campus is used on campus,” Backen said.

In knowing what to recycling, the CSU community can reach this goal in 20 years, Backen explained.

“People just need to concentrate on what they’re doing – they just need to get it into the right bin.”