The next time you throw that empty plastic water bottle in the trash can instead of the recycling bin, beware-you could have just lost yourself free LocoPops, a new bicycle or a host of other prizes.
Duke Environmental Alliance, the student group responsible for the annual Eco-Olympics, has begun a new campaign called "Get Caught Recycling," which will continue to run through April.
Members of EA have been staking out recycling bins on campus and rewarding environmentally conscious students with free gift certificates, entries into grand-prize raffle drawings and praise.
"For most people, waste management-dealing with the material consequences of our consumption-is an invisible process," EA President Vanessa Barnett-Loro, a junior, wrote in an e-mail. "If we don't have to see it, smell it or confront it in any way, then that just means it's working properly. [Members of the recycling campaign] are working creatively to change that misconception."
Soon, pictures of the recycling Dukies will also be displayed each week on "Look who got caught recycling!" fliers in the Bryan Center and the Marketplace, said junior Jamie Gordon, recycling coordinator for the EA.
"The idea is basically to get people to think about what they're doing, how they are disposing of their trash, what they are using and to really realize that they're making a big difference when they are recycling," Gordon said. "It's a fun, high-energy way to get people involved."
It may be fun, but it is also a bit of a shock for those who are "caught in the act," said junior Winston Wilde.
"I was in the Bryan Center typing up a paper on my laptop, and you know, as you're typing a long paper you need a drink," he said. "So after I got it and put it in the recycling bin, all of a sudden two people jumped me and said, 'Hey, you got caught recycling.' It was all very covert and sneaky. but it was pretty cool."
Wilde noted, however, that despite raising his own recycling awareness, he was not sure how effective the campaign would be on influencing those individuals who do not already recycle.
And for many of the "EA catchers," there have been more non-recyclers than were expected.
"I'm just a little bit surprised with the low number of people who recycle," said freshman Peter Heisler. "You think you'd get at least 10 people an hour, but it's more on the order of two or three-and I usually watch pretty busy areas, too."
Gordon said it was difficult to see people not recycling, but noted that the goal of the campaign was to change all that, both by rewarding dutiful recyclers and sometimes, by showing others what rewards they just lost.
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"I've seen people not recycle in front of me. and turned to [them] and said, 'Wow, you know if you had put this is the recycling bin right next to the trash can, I would have given you a prize. That's a bummer,'" Gordon said. "People are saying, 'Oh wow, I'll really try and recycle next time'-so even if it's not for the best motives, at least it's getting people to think about it. and once you start getting people thinking in those habits, I think the idea is that it's encouraging those behaviors."
The "Get Caught Recycling" campaign is just one of many ways EA has been working to change the face of sustainability on Duke's campus, Barnett-Loro said.
"EA's overarching mission is to minimize Duke's ecological footprint," she said. "Essentially, that's an acknowledgement of the fact that all of us, in our everyday lives, consume resources-and that consumption translates into a real environmental cost that has an impact on the planet's systems and on its other inhabitants."