Earlier this year, we asked our faculty and staff to tell us who among them were taking actions or driving initiatives to advance sustainability at the university. This is part four in a five-part series recognizing sustainability efforts at UBC.
Most UBC buildings are equipped with recycling stations to sort food waste, containers, paper, and garbage—but what do you do when your pen dries out?
Like many returning to the office after the pandemic, Daniela García, Geography Department Assistant, was decluttering her office and figuring out what she needed in the new world of working. As she sorted through dried-out pens and markers in her office cabinet, she felt compelled to find a recycling solution for stationery—one that was easy and accessible for everyone. By repurposing a discarded cardboard box and inviting others to take part in keeping pens, mechanical pencils, highlighters, and dry-erase markers out of the landfill, Daniela established the Department of Geography’s very own stationery recycling initiative.
Her enthusiasm for recycling stationery has inspired collaboration and collective action within the Geography department. What started off as a personal project has expanded to include a Faculty-wide digital awareness campaign inviting students, faculty and staff to get involved and help create a more sustainable campus.
“People are really busy, and with so many competing priorities, I wanted to help them think about sustainability and what they might do automatically, like throwing everyday office supplies in the garbage,” Daniela says. Making a box to collect stationery and bringing it to Staples for recycling is a simple idea, but having it in the office reminds everyone that there is an option to recycle each time they come in, she adds.
Daniela was first inspired to take climate action as a UBC student when sustainability became a guiding principle in her life. During her studies, when her pens ran out of ink and there was no obvious way to recycle them or time to research options, she felt she had no choice but to throw them in the garbage—a decision that fueled an inner drive to find a better solution in the future. Now that she is in the early part of her career, Daniela continues to feel empowered to take steps to tackle climate change—she believes that each person's actions are important and can make an impact on their community and the planet, no matter how small.
“When I started my role at UBC, I wanted to implement sustainable solutions in my day-to-day work,” Daniela explains. “If I have an idea, I’ll do what is within my capacity. I love collaborating with students, faculty and staff to turn ideas into action,” says Daniela.
“When I started my role at UBC, I wanted to implement sustainable solutions in my day-to-day work.”Daniela García, Geography Department Assistant, UBC Vancouver
To help the community learn about the new stationery recycling initiative and take part, Daniela worked with her department’s communications team to launch the initiative in different buildings within the Faculty of Arts. “I wanted to promote it broadly, because when I was an Arts student, many of my English classes were in the Geography building, so I knew other students would also have classes here. I wanted to get everyone involved, Faculty-wide.”
“I was surprised at how people showed excitement and commented on Instagram. One student collected stationery throughout the semester and dropped off a bag at the end of the year!”
By following her curiosity, Daniela created a new system to recycle stationery in the Geography department—what started as a simple recycling initiative grew into something bigger, connecting her with a community of like-minded advocates.
“We want to find ways to get together and be more sustainable, but also have fun,” Daniela says, which is why she joined the department’s Climate Action Committee, working with faculty and staff to come up with other ideas to reuse and recycle.
For example, when faculty members retired and staff were clearing out their homes over the summer, Daniela suggested ways to repurpose unwanted furniture and books. This is how the Geography Shared Library began, a place to give and take books or magazines. There are also plans to host a swap event in the fall so incoming students can get to know faculty and staff better.
“I think it’s fun to chat with people and learn through the belongings they share—maybe I’ll discover a new skill or get inspired by a story,” Daniela continues.
“People see me as the ‘recycling ambassador.’ To me, it means a lot because I get to do what interests and inspires me on a day-to-day basis. I get to research ways that work for our department and help our community take climate action.”
As Daniela looks to the future, she is excited to launch the campaign for a second time this fall and meet others who are also eager to take climate action and achieve a collective impact.
Do you have an idea to advance sustainability at the university? Find out how you can help tackle climate change with these Take Action Tips by the UBC Sustainability team.
Written by Alpha Lam, UBC Internal Communications
Interviewed in August 2023
Read more in this sustainability story series
Getting down to the business of climate change (Sept. 18)
Planning and planting ideas for a more sustainable future (Sept. 25)
Turning the taps to clean water from Kelowna to Kolkata (Oct. 3)
Fuelling a sustainable solution to save energy and preserve food (Oct. 16)