10/18/2007

WVU HSC goes green with recycling effort
Medical students at West Virginia University are doing more than learning how to save lives.  Members of the Health Sciences Center Recycling Group are working to save the planet, one recyclable at a time.

Second- and third-year medical students recently received administrative approval for a recycling organization at the WVU Health Sciences Center (HSC).  The organization, which already boasts 25 members, collects and sorts aluminum cans, glass and plastic from various locations throughout the HSC.   Club members then drive the recyclables to the Monongalia County Recycling Center in Westover. 

 Members of the Health Sciences Center’s Recycling Group (L-Rt) Jared Thurston, Elliot Palmer, Mirza Baig and Jeff Richmond prepare to take half a week’s worth of recyclables collected from the HSC to the recycling center.

 

In return for their good deed, any students who bring in recyclables are rewarded community service credit.  All HSC students are required to complete 100 hours of community service before being awarded their degree. Students who bring recyclables from home for the Recycling Group to sort receive a quarter hour of community service.  Members of the Recycling Group get hour-for-hour service credit for collecting and transporting the recyclables from the HSC.

“Recycling is something people wanted to do anyway,” Jeff Richmond, second-year WVU medical student, said.  “Many students already felt we should be recycling.  By organizing the club, we have resources to collect recyclables on a more meaningful scale.” 

The club sorts as many as 30 bags of recyclables each week. 

“Having a club allows us to distribute the work load and break it down so that it’s not such an overwhelming task for a few people to complete,” Mirza Baig, second-year WVU medical student, said.  “If everyone contributes a little, we can get a lot of items recycled.”

The initial recycling effort was the idea of Elliot Palmer, now a third-year medical student at WVU.  Palmer, who has recycled for as long as he can remember, said his idea for the project was more common sense than creativity.

 “I’d throw trash away and notice there weren’t any recycling bins,” he said.  “As a medical student, you’re always at the HSC. I was already taking my own recyclables to the recycling center. Why not put recycling bins at the HSC and take a few extra bags with me?”

The idea was easier said than done.  Palmer lacked funding to purchase the amount of recycling bins needed at the HSC.

“The efforts started out slow,” he said.  “Cindy Gay (retail manager for WVU Hospitals Nutrition Services) purchased a total of four recycling bins for the HSC cafeteria with what was left of the cafeteria’s budget.  She had one stipulation – that I empty them every week.”

Palmer sought permission from School of Medicine officials to earn community service credits for his time spent recycling.  It was also an incentive to get his classmates involved.  But the efforts were slow to build in popularity. 

The Morgantown native said he was the only one collecting from the bins until classmates Baig and Jared Thurston joined. 

“It only takes a little time to make a big impact,” Thurston said.  “I’m able to collect, sort and drop-off the recyclables in less than two hours.”

With more students on his side, Palmer applied for a $1,500 grant from Alpha Omega Alpha, the medical honor’s society.

“Alpha Omega Alpha gave us our first grant to purchase six blue recycling bins,” Palmer said.  “Once those bins were placed beside trash cans, people started to see how easy it was to recycle and make a difference.”

“These students are setting a great example for all of us,” John Prescott, M.D., dean of the WVU School of Medicine, said.  “They’re concerned for the environment and are working hard to do the right thing.  This proves to me that they will make fine, caring doctors one day.”

The medical students said inconvenience is the biggest hurdle in their efforts to get people on campus and in the community involved in recycling.  But they hope similar programs around campus will change that.

“Programs like “We Can,” are making it easier to recycle,” Richmond said.  “But until we get at-home pick-up, there’s a place for the HSC Recycling Organization to help out with recycling.”

The organization’s next steps are purchasing paper bins and trying to get other WVU students excited about recycling.

“We’ve laid the ground work,” Richmond said. “Now it’s up to individuals to help the initiative grow. “

“The HSC is an institution dedicated to the health and well-being of the community,” Palmer said.  “Why shouldn’t that extend to the environment as well?”

To learn more about the WVU Health Sciences Recycling Group, visit their link on the School of Medicine’s Student Organization Web site at www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/students/aboutSoM/studentLife/organizations/index.asp.

- WVU -


07-122
For more information:
Cassie Waugh, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
waughc@wvuh.com
cw: 10-18-07

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