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Designed for Action: Reducing Waste on Campus

April 27, 2022
Photo of Bri Hertz

At York College, students aren’t just reading textbooks and listening to lectures. They’re working on community projects, solving real-world problems, and using their education to effect change. In Designed for Action, we meet the students who are making an impact outside of the classroom.

That cute, little park bench? It might be made from recycled shampoo bottles. And thanks to Brianna “Bri” Hertz ’23, some of those recyclables might come from York College of Pennsylvania.

Bri brought the recycling initiative TerraCycle to York College last year. She and a team of 10 classmates collect specific materials (this semester it’s Pantene and Garnier shampoo bottles, as well laundry bottles) that might not otherwise be recycled. Then they ship the empty bottles to TerraCycle, where they are cleaned and melted to start a new life as that cute park bench or a picnic table.

Recycling those materials might seem like a small effort, but small efforts add up. And it’s just one example of how York College students such as Bri are making community service a priority.

Gaining perspective

It started with laundry detergent. Bri decorated giant collection boxes and placed them in laundry facilities across campus. She reached out to resident advisors in each residence hall and asked them to text students to let them know about the program. She made posters encouraging resident students to recycle their detergent bottles. Then she waited.

It wasn’t until all 10 boxes were full and headed to the York County Solid Waste Authority that Bri realized the impact of what she’d done.

“To think that all of those would have been in the trash, it really does put it into perspective,” she says. “When you go day by day you don’t realize how much you’re using. I felt like I’d changed something.”

She’s building on the success of that program with the collection of shampoo and conditioner bottles. Those she’ll ship to TerraCycle and voilà: another park bench.

“I didn’t realize that recycling could go that far,” Bri says. “I didn’t realize that there were so many things that could be made from something that’s empty.”

Creating community

Bri’s no stranger to giving back. A participant in the Impact York scholarship program, she performs community service each semester, raising money for service animal programs; working with Olivia’s House, which helps grieving children deal with loss; and even setting up a fall festival at a local farm.

“It gives me a sense of community,” she says. “I feel like I’m part of something and like I’m making a difference.”

Scholarships such as Impact York and events such as SpartanServe –  which Bri participated in last year – clearly demonstrate that community service and providing students the opportunity to give back are priorities for York College.

“There’s so many different opportunities,” she says. “You don’t have to give money. You can get involved.”

Making a difference

If Bri’s learned anything from this experience, it’s that small changes can have a big impact.

“Something that would have just been trash will be something that will be used,” she says. “I think that’s really cool.”

Volunteering for various organizations through York College has ignited a passion for community service in Bri. She can see herself continuing to volunteer after graduation. As a Nursing major, helping others just comes naturally to her.

“Whether you’re helping a patient or whether you’re helping the community, you’re still making a difference,” Bri says.