Zong Moua sorts through recyclable materials at the University of Colorado’s Intermediate Processing Facility last summer.

What to recycle

Paper: newspapers, junk mail, paperback books and cereal boxes

Containers: plastic bottles, aluminum cans, glass and paper cartons

Cardboard: brown paper bags and pizza boxes

Other materials: cell phones, batteries and MP3 players

For more information about where and how to recycle on campus, visit

Sororities and fraternities at the University of Colorado are working to implement recycling operations throughout the Greek community, but they are surprised to find it a pricey and daunting task.

Greek students began working with the university’s Environmental Center more than a year and a half ago with the hopes of making recycling a trend among chapters, and their expectations are slowly being realized as eleven of the nearly 30 houses at CU have attempted to join their efforts.

Five fraternities and six sororities are currently working with a recycling awareness group created by the city of Boulder and CU Recycling, called the Green Team, to encourage students living off-campus to conserve resources at home.

The Green Team, a group of four CU students, is working with the Greek community to educate members and establish recycling routines. The team provides each house with free indoor recycle bins and helps Greeks communicate with their waste hauler to determine proper disposal of recycled materials.

During the fall semester of 2008, CU environmental studies major Justin Ptasnik began working with his fraternity, Sigma Nu, and the Environmental Center to implement a recycling program — an effort that gained few devoted followers due to unexpected complications.

“There are several challenges that make recycling difficult for houses to put into action,” Ptasnik said. “There are increased monthly costs on your trash bill, fees for improper disposal and creating awareness among members.”

Ptasnik said once the recycle bins were in place, the fraternity’s monthly trash bill increased by about $70 per month to include regular collection of the extra Dumpster. While the cost is only a small increase once split among the 43 Sigma Nu members living in one of the four fraternity houses, the additional fees for “contaminated waste” continued to increase, as the members continued to struggle with what to recycle and where.

Once the initial challenges settled and recycling became a habit for most members, the school year was approaching an end and with a new fall semester came new recruits who would have to learn the recycling routines of the house.

Though Ptasnik is no longer a Sigma Nu member, he said the program continues to face peaks and valleys of popularity as new recruits replace graduating seniors and the passionate contributors of green efforts move on.

“That is the biggest problem most houses are facing,” Ptasnik said. “Maintaining the program permanently requires someone to step up and take on the project in each house and without that advocate the green habits of Greeks get lost in the mess of school and social life.”

Dan Baril, program manager for CU’s Environmental Center, agreed that it has been a challenge to get the Greek community to adopt good recycling habits and while only 11 chapters are currently cooperating, it is an improvement from previous years.

“When we started looking into what the houses were doing, we found that none of the fraternities were recycling,” Baril said. “Most of the houses, both fraternity and sorority were improperly disposing of waste, whether it be trash or recyclable materials.”

Now that a few houses are on board, Baril said he hopes they will set an example for the rest of the Greek community and for the 20,000 to 25,000 students living off-campus.

The Green Team is also working with chapters to develop a new leadership position within each organization, called the environmental chair, which would be responsible for ensuring the continuation and upkeep of recycling within the house, and other sustainability initiatives like energy audits. This position is intended to create the advocate Ptasnik suggested was necessary for successful recycling among Greeks.

The participating chapters are Alpha Delta Chi, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Chi Omega, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sigma Nu, Theta Xi, Alpha Phi Delta, Delta Delta Delta, Alpha Chi Omega, and Pi Kappa Alpha.

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