Campus Life

Green Team volunteers sort out a way to make sustainability fun

Linda Struble, a member of the University Libraries’ Green Committee, answers students’ recycling and composting questions during the Libraries’ Open House. The committee’s sorting station game offered a fun way to educate new students, faculty and staff about Penn State’s commitment to sustainability. Credit: Jill Shockey / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- This fall, the Penn State University Libraries’ Green Team, the Green Committee, hosted an inspired and popular game as part of the Libraries’ Open House activities: a recycling sorting station. This gamification of an everyday task turned out to be a fun conversation-starter and a way to help new students and others understand the high priority Penn State places on sustainability.

Green Committee member Jennifer Funk, Interlibrary Loan information resources and services support specialist, suggested the idea as a way to involve the committee in the Libraries’ Open House events at University Park, and to help educate a new cohort of students and other new patrons about recycling and composting best practices. The Sorting Station stop on the Open House tour gave the Committee an opportunity to illustrate both proper sorting and its impact.

Green Committee member Linda Struble, information resources and services supervisor-manager at Penn State’s Engineering Library, volunteered at the Sorting Station. “The students really seemed to enjoy it," she said. "And because Penn State’s Sustainability Institute also provided us with examples of products made from recycled materials, like fleece clothing and carpeting, it helped demonstrated the value of proper recycling."

Committee members used baskets that patrons use for carrying books as “recycling bins” for the game, and as luck would have it an older green library basket was available to stand in as the game’s compost bin. Members printed sheets of recycling signage similar to those on the Libraries’ recycling bins, and also posters listing five actions individuals can take to reduce their waste.

They borrowed the Sustainability Institute’s bag of clean recyclables available for such programs and collected oddball recycling items to challenge players.

“We made sure to insert humor into the game,” Struble added. “For instance, multiple participants feigned surprise when they discovered a rubber chicken in the compostable bin, representing a real chicken, bones and all, that are compostable.”

As an incentive to play the sorting game, the Green Committee handed out candy and held a raffle, making sure the prizes were eco-friendly. One committee member, distinguished librarian and head of the Earth and Mineral Sciences Library Linda Musser, donated a plant potted with Penn State compost. Two additional raffle items provided by the Sustainability Institute -- a chrysanthemum and a bag of compost -- rounded out the prizes.

“We were able to reach out to a lot of people. Lydia and her team really helped in answering so many unknown questions about recycling,” Funk said.

The game worked out so well that the Sustainability Institute is planning to use the same concept to create a traveling show, rebranding it the Recycling and Composting Roadshow.

For more information about recycling and composting at Penn State, visit To join or create a Green Team in your department, visit or contact Lydia Vandenbergh at

For more about sustainability efforts at Penn State, visit

Last Updated September 20, 2019