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College of Social and Behavioral Sciences


Media Contact: Robert O'Keefe
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Psychology Students Go Green With Recycling Program



Psychology students "go green" with recycling program

by Erica Wohldmann Ph.D.

(NORTHRIDGE, Calif. March 25, 2009) Being green is all the rage. Whether out of fear for our future generations, love for the planet, or both, it seems that our society has finally realized the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling—and so have CSUN campus members.

By state law, CSUN is required to divert half of its waste from landfills, and without new construction projects, which have helped us to achieve this goal in the past, we will need to seek innovative ways of attaining this goal. Recycling bottles and cans that would otherwise go into the landfill is one way; at the same time, recycling speaks to CSUN’s renewed interest in improving campus sustainability. However, Associated Student volunteers, who manage the recycling program on campus, have been unable to accommodate all of the recycling generated by our campus members. Therefore, we are in desperate need of ways to supplement their efforts.

That is where the Psychology Department comes in. Maybe you have noticed the new blue bin next to the vending machines on the 3rd floor of Sierra Hall. It was placed there by members of Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology. Under the guidance of Dr. Erica Wohldmann, Assistant Professor of Psychology and a Core Team member of the CSUN Institute for Sustainability, Psi Chi members have begun piloting their own recycling program. Student volunteers maintain the program and have developed a system that seems to be working well.

Some kinks still need to be worked out; for example, determining what type of sign works best for getting people to use the bin properly. Cameron Hopkin and Theresa Trieu, executive board members of Psi Chi, are hoping to figure that out. Specifically, they conducted an experiment as part of their Social Psychology class with Dr. Abe Rutchick to examine what type of sign is most effective for minimizing the garbage to recycling ratio. Different signs were posted on each of 3 days and, at the end of each day, they measured the trash to recycling ratio. “It was really great to turn a class assignment into something we were already doing, and the results are really interesting,” Cameron stated.

The bin is emptied twice a week, and student volunteers take turns hauling the contents to a nearby recycling center where they trade their loot for money, not much, but a few bucks to help with their fundraising activities.  “We are only averaging a couple of dollars a week, but we’re not doing it for the money,” said Mary Chavez, Treasurer of Psi Chi. It also offers Psi Chi members the opportunity to earn service credits, which can be used for graduation regalia. Primarily, though, they are doing this because of their passion for recycling. “I always recycle, and this makes recycling on campus very convenient,” said Isabel Guzman, a Psi Chi executive board member.

If the pilot program is successful, the program may be extended by placing bins in other areas on the 3rd floor of Sierra Hall. Sully Coleman is the newly elected Chair who takes full responsibility for the recycling program. In addition, student organizers and volunteers currently include Sarine Janetsian, Cameron Hopkin, Brad Jenkins, Mary Chavez, Isabel Guzman, Theresa Trieu, Jose Rios, Laura Rasche, Laurie White, Gabrielle Ponaman, and Jordan Clarfield.