Martin Media Center takes recycling seriously


Sue Kobek

It’s not easy to find a paper cup at Martin Media Center, home to ND Studios. That’s by design.

When the new campus recycling program was rolled out last fall, Sue Kobek (pictured) office coordinator at the center, started thinking.

“I was dismayed to find out that coffee cups are no longer recyclable,” she says. So she decided to do something about it.

Kobek talked to Dan Skendzel, executive director of ND Studios, about making changes around the office to be more sustainable. She put together a proposal that he brought to his leadership team and the Office of Sustainability. “Then I started to put the plan in motion,” Kobek says.

Over the course of a few months, ND Studios moved from paper dishes and plastic ware to reusable and washable plates, mugs, spoons, etc. A tidy, unobtrusive dish rack sits next to the sink so people can wash up. Kobek stopped buying K-Cups, which aren’t recyclable, for the office Keurig machine and switched to Tayst coffee pods, which are compostable and made from biomaterials, water-based ink and natural bean skins. Conveniently, the new pods are compatible with the office’s existing Keurig. “The coffee tastes fresher, too,” she adds.

“It’s a process,” she says. “I think everyone wants to help, but like anything it takes some time to change our habits. I get some good suggestions from my co-workers, and it’s easy for some and not so easy for others.”

“Sue’s been a driving force in our office for promoting sustainability,” says Skendzel. “After we learned of the stricter recycling standards, she came to me with several ideas for how we could live up to our environmental and Catholic responsibilities to be more eco-friendly. Being green is just the right thing to do.”

In the past few weeks, Kobek has been working with Charlie Allen, associate program manager in the Office of Sustainability, on finding the best path forward for the Martin Media Center’s new focus on being green.

Allen leads the sustainability office’s Green Ambassador and Green Office Certification programs. “The Green Ambassadors are a group of 180 faculty, staff and graduate students who are passionate about sustainability,” Allen says. “As their name implies, we ask them to bring the message of sustainability to their respective offices and work teams. They receive newsletters and emails concerning special events. We hold quarterly Lunch-and-Learn sessions about timely and pertinent topics and also provide a forum for them to exchange ideas. The Green Ambassadors help us understand what concerns and ideas the faculty, staff and grad students have concerning sustainability.”

Kobek, who was one of the first Green Ambassadors on campus, found out about the Tayst coffee pods through Allen. 

He had a lot of ideas for how their office could stop using their K-Cups, she says, ranging from the compostable pods to using a bean grinder and pot. Kobek knew keeping the Keurig would be helpful to her office, which frequently hosts large groups of visitors. “You have to think about the culture,” she points out. “I was so darn happy when he came up with these Tayst cups.”

“The Green Office Certification program is a way for any office to improve their sustainability efforts. Even if they don’t think they are where they should be, it gives us the opportunity to help guide them along their path,” Allen says. “Whether or not an office wants to be Green Office Certified, I am always willing to consult on sustainability issues or offer ideas that may be helpful and more sustainable. We have consulted with offices on sustainable coffee choices, recycling signage and how to reduce plastic for catered events. If there are any questions concerning sustainability, our office would love to try and help resolve them.”

Allen recently worked with Megan Mancini, senior house manager at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, on introducing new “free drink” vouchers for guests who bring in their own cups. “This gives an incentive to visitors to be more sustainable while also reducing waste of disposable cups,” he says. “Ultimately, it should lead to DPAC needing to purchase fewer cups,
as well.”

In the Martin Media Center, staff are acclimating to the changes,
which also include a push toward reusable water bottles and a battery recycling program.

“It really is a very personal choice that you make,” Kobek says. “You believe one person can make
a difference.”