UT attempts to build the biggest box fort to raise awareness for campus recycling

Elena Keltner

Fliers and emails educating students on which materials to toss into which bins rarely catch the attention of college students, but a group is hoping a towering fort made of cardboard boxes will. 

America Recycles Day is Friday and instead of handing out promotional fliers on pieces of paper, the Campus Environmental Center and the UT Office of Sustainability are teaming up to promote recycling by building the largest box castle ever built by a university.

“We are by far the biggest university to go for this,” said Karen Blaney, program coordinator of operations within the Office of Sustainability. 

The first university to set the record for largest university box castle was Harvard University in 2011. Brigham Young University is the most recent university to claim the title, and UT hopes to beat BYU to raise awareness for its recycling endeavors. This is the first year UT is attempting to build a giant cardboard fort and beat the current record.

“It’s really hard to get information out around campus and so we figured if there’s a massive cardboard box fort outside of Gregory you can’t really miss it,” the center’s adviser Hobson.

The groups hope the cardboard box castle will draw attention to UT’s switch over the summer to single-stream recycling, which means that instead of choosing from five different bins for one material, students will usually be able to use just one. Fewer materials will need to be separated out when recycled. 

“Since we have facilities that can process single stream, we figured it’s easier,” Hobson said. “It would be such an educational campaign. It’s a nightmare at a campus this big to try to tell people to sort everything.”

The box castle competition will also raise awareness of UT’s general commitment to recycling. Aside from the activities on America Recycles Day, the center is working on a major project called Trash to Treasure. In this program, the center will collect unwanted belongings from students as they move out at the end of the school year and store them over the summer. When school begins again, the center will recycle those materials to create one huge garage sale.  

“I think the students all know what recycling is, and I think 10 years ago not everybody was coming from a place where they would recycle at home,” Blaney said. “We’re working on getting recycling more available to them, and more convenient, so you can just look at a material and know what to do with what
you’re holding.”

The center also has programs year-round that are meant to promote UT’s mission to recycle.

“We’ll have a fair that will highlight some of the other things, like we have some Styrofoam recycling and tailgate recycling,” Hobson said. “So we’ll start to give recognition to some of the smaller programs that we have on campus.”