January 6, 2015, Cairo – Dorm students at The American University in Cairo (AUC) organized a full-fledged recycling initiative in the University Residences in New Cairo, with a future plan for green initiatives next semester. “As a residential advisor (RA), part of my job is to complete a project each semester, so I decided – along with two other RAs – to implement a green project last spring,” explained Omar Ihab, computer engineering senior from Alexandria. “We didn’t have a big budget, so we used chips cartons from the super market and manufactured makeshift bins, which were placed on each floor of the dorms. We wanted to show that no matter where you are, you could still help raise environmental awareness, and every individual’s involvement is essential to maintaining and enhancing green initiatives on campus.”Last fall, the RAs began working in collaboration with the Sustainable Campus Committee, made up of students, staff and faculty who work to bring together AUC community members interested in sustainability and the environment. With the help of the Clean and Green Committee, a group of faculty and staff committed to sustainable trash management practices, the dorm students were able to expand the project beyond its original setup. “The committee gave us more durable and effective bins for recycling and put up flyers around campus on our behalf to educate the AUC community on sustainability efforts and options available to the student body,” Ihab noted. “We collected plastic bottles for recycling, participated in Earth Hour by switching off lights at the dorms and - using our collected bottles as candle-holders - lighting candles instead, and encouraged everyone in the dorms to recycle their trash by making the bins more accessible. With the committee’s help, this small project has developed into an educational awareness campaign.” Once the bins were in place, Chelsea Estevez, intern at the Office of Sustainability and Rachael Diniega, intern at the Research Institute for a Sustainable Environment, gave presentations throughout the dorms to educate residents on the importance of recycling. "It takes three liters of water to produce one bottle of water. If we can pool our efforts in saving plastics from water bottles, then together we can make headway in ameliorating Egypt's impending water crisis," explained Estevez.
The student residents are already looking ahead to ways that recycling in the dorms can be maintained and expanded. Noting the enormous quantity of plastic bottles thrown away (and now recycled) on campus and in the University Residences, the dorm students hope to broaden the range of materials being recycled as the year draws on. "After collecting plastic for about a month last semester, we had accumulated approximately 50 kilograms of material," says Ihab. “Next semester, we want to recycle papers and other materials, besides just plastic, because this year’s campaign has been so successful,” Khalil explained. "We, as residential advisers, received a lot of positive feedback and encouragement from dorm residents throughout the recycling program. This is an ongoing project, so others will take our places in the future. This semester, we have trainees involved in the recycling effort who, I believe, will continue the sustainability campaign on our campus. If we each focus on implementing best practices in our own local spheres and communities, we would be able to positively change people’s habits. Small acts can make a big difference.”