"Earth Hero" Brings Campus Recycling Efforts to the Residence Halls
RALPH NADER, MOVE OVER. Having just graduated summa cum laude in biology from Seattle Pacific University, Nathan Brouwer already owns two awards for outstanding environmental work.
Brouwer's project, "You're Throwing That Away? A Proposal for Improving Residence Hall Recycling at SPU," came about when students wondered why recycling bins appeared in campus offices but not residence halls. Seeing the need, he suggested that the University extend its recycling efforts into the student domain.
His proposal earned Brouwer the 2002 SPU Living-Learning Grant. The $3,500 grant money allowed for the purchase of recycling bins for almost every residence hall room. Better signage in the residence halls now shows students where to toss plastics, aluminum, paper and glass. And a volunteer network of recyclers, led by junior Matt Cheung, took on the responsibility of emptying larger bins on residence hall floors.
The successful project also caught the attention of county leaders. In May, Brouwer accepted King County's "Earth Hero at School" award, which applauds a local citizen's efforts to preserve the natural environment. King County Executive Ron Sims said about Brouwer and others receiving this year's award: "From involving students in hands-on environmental projects to setting up effective recycling programs at schools, our teachers, students and staff are making a difference … ensuring that an environmental legacy is left in this region."
As recycling coordinator and president of the Environmental Stewardship Club, Brouwer was playfully called to account in the SPU student newspaper, The Falcon, for creating a campus-wide "totalitarian recycling regime environment." Brouwer teases back: "My grand goal is to put recycling bins within arm's reach everywhere on campus."
The Living-Learning Grant was given this year by the Associated Students of Seattle Pacific (ASSP). ASSP supported Brouwer's project since it applied his academic work to a service program benefiting the community. "This is scholarship in action," says Kathleen Braden, associate vice president for academic affairs and dean of student life.
"I've always been interested in environmental studies," Brouwer remembers. Growing up in Bellingham, Washington, he helped monitor streams for pollution as early as in the sixth grade. "I guess I've been a little ecologist for the past 10 years," he laughs.
Brouwer wants to keep encouraging people to recycle, reduce and reuse, but now on a global scale. He hopes to get a graduate degree in forest ecology and join the Peace Corps, working on environmental issues affecting the world.
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