Thunderbird: Creating Sustainable Prosperity

By Alina Buzgar, Editor-in-Chief

“We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to.” Terri Swearingen


Recycling benefits the environment by diverting waste away from landfills and by providing raw materials for new products.

What is the Council on Sustainability?

The Council on Sustainability is a newly formed student led association dedicated to promoting long-term sustainability measures to reduce environmental impacts of the Thunderbird campus in a manner that incorporates sound business practices. Some of the council’s projects will include recycling campaigns, waste reduction programs and water and energy conservation initiatives.

“Council on Sustainability is important because Thunderbird needs to live up to its mission statement, which is to create sustainable prosperity worldwide. A key component of sustainability is environmental sustainability, which is what the council focuses on. I joined because it’s exciting to work with a group of students who are energized to create positive change on campus” says Emma Livingston, member of the Council on Sustainability.

Sustainability and Recycling at Thunderbird:

“Although the school already takes great measures to be sustainable, there was a gap between recycling practices on campus, other sustainability practices and what we believed the school has the potential to accomplish”, says Marissa Burkett. Marissa along with a few other students recently started the Council on Sustainability at Thunderbird in order to harness the energy of students, staff and vendors towards implementing sustainable practices across campus.

In a recent survey conducted at Thunderbird, 78% of survey respondents said that they are either not confident or unsure that recycling bins are correctly recycled, either by the school or the city of Glendale. Indeed, we learned that contents of contaminated recycling bins will be thrown in the trash.

Courtesy: Marissa Burkett
Courtesy: Marissa Burkett


Contamination occurs when the wrong items end up in the recycling bin and consequently the entire bin goes to waste and is not recycled. 34% of those surveyed said that they recycle coffee cups and 28% recycle glass. This is an example of contamination because these items should not go in the same recycling bin: coffee cups are compostable and should be thrown in the trash and Glendale does not currently recycle glass (the council is planning future initiatives to properly dispose of glass).

Why Recycling?

Recycling can reduce greenhouse gases and save valuable resources. This is because recycled materials replace virgin materials. The acute need to recycle stems from the fact that we manufacture and use a lot of “stuff” and much of it is for a single use or has a shorter lifespan. Along with the increase in quantity of stuff is the rise in population and all this leads to greater consumption of energy, resources and materials to produce goods. This ultimately leads to more trash.

Discarded goods create a mounting pile of garbage. This is a global problem and the US response has not yet been up to the mark. In 2009, Americans recycled 82 million tons of materials. While this is a positive sign and the resulting CO2 emission reduction is equivalent to taking 33 million passenger vehicles off the road, it is only 30% of the 75% recyclable waste. The average American continues to throw away 4.5 pounds of trash every day, at least 1.5 of which is recyclable.

The increasing recycling rates and new collection programs across the country indicate that population awareness and sustainable waste management industry is growing. However, we can see that there is a lot of room for future growth and expansion of recycling programs in US and around the world.

What can you do?

✓ Recycle paper, plastic and metal using the blue bins across campus.

✓ Do not contaminate the recycling bin with food remains or non-recyclable items.

✓ Do not recycle coffee cups. The coffee cups and food containers from the commons are compostable and should go in the trash.

✓ Do not throw glass items in the recycling bins because they will contaminate the content of the bins.

Future projects include Water and Energy Savings, Glass recycling at the pub, and up-cycling when students move out. If you would like to know more about the Council on Sustainability check-out their Facebook page or contact

Related Posts