Building a sustainable and eco-friendly community is not just about recycling (though that’s part of it) — it’s about fulfilling human needs and ensuring resources for our neighbors today and the children of tomorrow.
UNLV is nestled in the Mojave Desert, a unique and breathtaking area with an abundance of biodiversity. University architects, technicians, and sustainability staff take care that campus operations preserve the desert’s resources, use energy responsibly, recycle or repurpose products, and use materials that do not harm the environment.
While their work minimizes UNLV's impact on our environment, their services extend past our campus boundaries to help Southern Nevadans go green across the valley.
Since its inception in 1995, Rebel Recycling has prioritized community. The program began as a thesis project for Sustainability Coordinator Tara Pike’s undergraduate degree in environmental studies and grew to include a dozen employees and scores of community volunteers.
Rebel Recycling promotes a culture of reuse by providing and maintaining recycling bins in offices and public spaces across campus. They also manage the Drive Up and Drop Off (DUDO) recycling dumpsters for those community members who would like to recycle but do not have bins at their homes — a pivotal service as Clark County’s central waste management provider only guarantees recycling bins for single-family homes, making it harder for those living in apartment complexes or condos to recycle.
These initiatives work in tandem with specific programs like the “Move In, Move Out” program that collects unwanted reusable items and recyclables from students moving in and out of the dorms.
In 2019 alone, Rebel Recycling recycled over 800 tons of materials. While 2020 levels fell to 344 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rebel Recycling is excited to support the university as it resumes on-campus operations this summer and welcomes back our more than 31,000 students this fall for in-person classes.
The university works with the Southern Nevada Christmas Tree Recycling Committee to recycle Christmas trees. Individuals can drop off trees at over 30 sites across the city. The program partners with sellers to recycle unsold trees and with Boy Scout troops to pick up trees from people’s houses. In 2020, this initiative diverted 18,048 trees. Most of these recycled trees are used to create mulch for local parks.
They also become food for the 15 goats that live at the All Friends Animal Sanctuary in Pike’s backyard. “They are rescue goats and they really like eating Christmas trees,” Pike said. The goats (save the youngest who was too little to eat Christmas trees) munched on 40 trees last year.
As pandemic restrictions lift, Rebel Recycling plans to refocus efforts on promoting the campus community garden. The garden’s goal is to promote learning among faculty, staff, and students while offering a space for them to produce 100% organic harvests.
Like everything else Rebel Recyclings does, this is more meaningful than reducing waste. It’s about fostering a robust community. Campus gardening groups can contain employees and students from different walks of life who, otherwise, would never have met.
“We want them to grow food at the same time as they grow relationships,” Pike said.