'Green Greeks' Take on Litter

The cool Saturday morning breeze sweeps across the backyard, making the ocean of blue Keystone Light cans ripple like gentle waves. As the wind scatters them about the lawn, the sound of emptiness resounds through the air as the aluminum cans rattle and bang together and the smell of stagnant beer lifts out of the clutter.

A group of scraggly young men with dark heavy bags under their eyes carrying black plastic trash bags are charged with the daunting task that most new fraternity members face at some point during their pledgeship: They must rid the lawn of the litter of last night's party.

"The fact of the matter is that there are going to be hundreds of cans at every party, and if they're not recycled then they are simply going to be thrown away when they could've been just as easily thrown into a recycle bin," says Scott McElroy, a new member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity at the University of Texas.

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All those cans go directly into the trash can when they could just as easily be recycled, says McElroy.

Party Litter

Every weekend at the University of Texas, fraternities host dozens of parties that create thousands of empty aluminum cans. One campus committee, Green Greeks, is committed to making sure that those cans never see the inside of a trash can, but instead are recycled and reused.

Green Greeks is a subset of the Campus Environmental Center, an agency of Student Government that promotes education about environmental issues and seeks to reduce the University's environmental impact.

The group has fostered many programs in the past on campus, such as the Trash to Treasure move-out donation program, the Orange Bike program, and the Adopt-an-Acre program.

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Overseeing Clean-Up

The Campus Environmental Center is divided into subcommittees, one of which is the litter committee, which three co-chairs head. The litter committee oversees campus clean-up efforts.

The Green Greeks are committed to raising education and awareness for environmental issues within the Greek community and, more importantly, they want to give fraternities the opportunities and resources to take an active stand in preserving the environment.

Caitlin Eberhardt, a sophomore anthropology and history major at the University, is a co-chairwoman of the litter committee and the Green Greeks committee.

"This year we really want to get more fraternities involved in the program, because it is such an important and tangible contribution that they can make," says Eberhardt.

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The committee has a structured plan to get the fraternity organized on the recycling goals tailored to their fraternity.

Before getting any organization involved, the group first discussed the benefits of recycling with each of the fraternity's presidents and housing managers.

Setting Up a Plan

Once a fraternity agreed to participate, its officers filled out a survey that helped the Green Greeks set a plan for that house's needs and goals. A fraternity liaison was established so that one member would be responsible for carrying out the plans and then would report back to Green Greeks on the organization's progress.

The goals were tailored to meet the fraternity's needs and, once agreed upon, were put into a year-long contract. The Green Greeks believe that having the fraternity's officers sign the contracts would help them take the program more seriously and hold themselves accountable to follow through with their commitment.

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