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Downsizing the Big Red Pawprint @ Mann

Drawing of bear wavingRecycling Rules​April is around the corner, and with that comes the prospect of all the great Earth Day celebrations that happen at Cornell each spring (which, after all, was named one of the top 20 “Coolest Schools,” by none other than the Sierra Club in 2018!). For the spring semester, Mann is getting an early start on celebrating green-minded thinking with a series of special activities focused on reducing the waste “pawprint” made here at the Library.


Why the waste focus? Most members of the Cornell community have probably heard: A decades-long boom in the market for recyclable paper, cardboard, glass, plastic and metals—driven by the flow of over 40% of American recyclables to China just a few years ago—took a sudden nosedive as China announced its 2017 decision to stop taking recyclable materials from the U.S.. The key reason for the new policy: The problem of contamination (food residue, wax, often also hazardous substances) plaguing American recyclables, which seriously gummed up the recycling process in China and in some cases made it dangerous. The key impact: A steep drop in the market for American recyclables and a corresponding hike in the cost of recycling for U.S. towns and cities. Where towns like Ithaca may have once actually seen an income stream from the recyclables gathered by their residents, in many cases they are now facing growing net costs. Faced with a 50% drop in the price it can garner for recycling materials, the Tompkins County Recycling and Materials Management Center has issued some new guidelines for our area.


So what’s the implication for us here at Mann Library, where a considerable amount of trash piles up in both the recycling and the trash bins located on all floors of the library? The way we see it, it’s an opportunity for us to work with our library users to do better—both in terms of recycling correctly and, even more importantly, reducing what gets thrown away in the first place.


With that in mind, here’s what we’ve been up to and what we have in store for the weeks ahead:

  1. New reusable mugs (covered ones, so they’re OK to use in the Library) have gone on sale at the Mann Service Desk—Between their low cost ($10 a piece) and the discount you get at Manndible Café for bringing your own mug, you’ll very likely recoup the full cost of one of these beauties within the year!
  2. A display of interactive booths in the Top Shelf Gallery through 3/23, created by Ecology House, Student Assembly Dining, the Cornell Society for Natural Resource Conservation (SNRC), Epsilon Eta and Cornell Sustainability Consultants to raise awareness about about how waste can be more sustainably managed on the Cornell campus;
  3. New signage all around the library is guiding our users in proper recycling practices to minimize contamination;
  4. Earth Week program activities to include:
  • Monday 4/22 & Thursday 4/25: Reusable snack bag making sessions in the mannUfactory makerspace
  • Wednesday 4/24: A one-day-only fire sale of reusable Mann mugs ($5 per mug–get ’em while they last!)
  • Thursday, 4/25: A fun craft activity re-using old glassware to create some very cool drink-&-lunch jars, in collaboration with Manndible Cafe and the mannUfactory makerspace (all children and parents on campus for Bring a Child to Work Day welcome to join us for that activity too);
  • Friday, 4/26: Look for our table at CALS Day on the Ag Quad–for tips and prizes to promote recycling awareness.

With these initiatives, Mann hopes to do our part towards a smaller waste stream on our beloved Cornell campus—and we hope to have a little fun doing it. We’re pretty sure good old Touchdown is game. Are you?