The Reusables share their superpower

Most superheroes choose to keep their superpowers a secret, but not the "Reusables." The Reusables are a group of sophomore presidential scholars who are currently in their Presidential Scholars Seminar: Sophomore Service Learning class. In this class, each group is required to design, create and carry out a community engagement project. This group chose to do something with sustainability and waste prevention.

Reusable containers

Reusable containers can be purchased on campus and used at to-go 

dining facilities such as Dashes and Café on the Way.

When asked why their group chose this, Amber Irlmeier, a statistics and actuarial science major, said, "We had a strong background from our seminar class last semester that focused on visioning a sustainable world, and we realized there is a lot of waste on campus."

The Reusables decided to focus on the use of reusable containers on campus. Reusable containers are given to each student living on campus at move-in time. They can also be purchased at locations such as 23rd Street Market and Maucker Union. The purpose of these containers is to allow students a way to fill up drinks at the to-go dining centers, Dashes and Café on the Way, without using plastic containers.

From there, the Reusables designed "The Reusable Challenge," which was a contest between Dashes and Café on the Way to see which one would use a higher percentage of reusable containers during a two-week time period.

After each person used a reusable container, their name went into a drawing for prizes. The winning side would have names drawn for prizes, including an iPad, while the other side would have names drawn for similar prizes.

Eric O'Brien, UNI's sustainability coordinator, deemed the project a success. "I thought the students did an outstanding job." Twenty-four percent used reusable containers at Café on the Way and 14 percent used reusable containers at Dashes.

"Our goal was to increase awareness about using reusable cups, since we found out most people didn't know they could use them," said Irlmeier. "Hopefully this will help people use reusable containers more often and be more aware of the waste they are putting out into the environment."

Irlmeier also noted the help the Department of Residence gave their group. "The Department of Residence was so helpful. They gave us great publicity, and the employees were real enthusiastic about the project."

O'Brien also mentioned the long-term benefits this brings to UNI. "We saw a huge reduction in waste when recycling was brought into the residence halls. The Reusable Challenge is another major step in reducing waste and furthers the values of this institution."

Through this project, the Reusables used their brainpower and service to broaden awareness and use of sustainability practices. "Hopefully this will at least get people thinking about what they are using in their daily lives in order to reduce waste," said O'Brien.