April 7, 2011 — A University of Virginia student video has won the top prize in RecycleMania's video contest.
Parodying a ubiquitous insurance commercial and lampooning cinematic love scenes, "U.Va. Recycling Love Story" was "liked" by 1,215 users on Recyclemania's Facebook page, beating two much-larger schools: the University of Houston, which garnered 1,192 votes, and Michigan State University, which drew 296 votes.
U.Va. has a total enrollment of about 21,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Houston has 37,000 and Michigan State approximately 41,000.
The 59-second film depicts the University's affection for recycling through the courtship of two anthropomorphized boxes, one labeled with Athletics' crossed-sabers logo and the other the three-arrow recycling symbol.
"I am so excited the video won and our hard work making and promoting the video paid off," said Kelly Laustsen, a fourth-year civil and environmental engineering major who worked on the film. "It was neat to have lots of students and faculty recognize the video and saying they had seen it playing in the dining halls or received an email about it."
Laustsen and other students promoted the video heavily around Grounds.
"We had been losing from Thursday, March 31, until Sunday, April 3, so we knew we had to take action," said Rebecca Oppenheim, a fourth-year environmental sciences major and a member of U.Va. Sustainability Students, an environmentally focused student group that produced the video. "A group of Sustainability Student employees tabled on Sunday night in Runk Dining Hall for three hours getting people to vote for the video and we pulled ahead by almost 100 votes."
The University of Houston started catching up Sunday evening. On Monday, U.Va. students set up tables with laptops at the Observatory Hill Dining Hall and at the luncheon at the John Paul Jones Arena for Leonard Sandridge, the University's executive vice president and chief operating officer. Students encouraged people to watch the video and vote for it right there.
"Within the last four hours of the competition, we were able to gather over 200 'likes' on Facebook, thanks to U.Va. community members taking the time to vote for our video at Leonard Sandridge's retirement celebration," said Nina Morris, sustainability outreach coordinator for Facilities Management. "It was great to see students, staff, faculty and community members all willing to show their pride for U.Va. and their commitment to recycling."
The video will be posted on the University's sustainability website and be on exhibit during Earth Week.
"I think that the video was a fun way to communicate that U.Va. does recycle and is dedicated to sustainability," Oppenheim said. "The video was amusing and short, so that encouraged more students to watch it. I think students enjoy this type of video more than a video that is longer and more factual. They thought it was funny, so they also sent it to their friends and family to vote for."
The video also shows the students' involvement in promoting environmental issues on Grounds.
"I am especially proud of the Sustainability Students who worked tirelessly in creating, editing and promoting this video," Morris said. "It is because of their hard work that U.Va. has won this contest. They did extensive emailing to various U.Va. list-serves, postings on Facebook and tabling across Grounds to get out the word about the contest."
Oppenheim said it is important to keep environmental issues in front of the students to remind them of "all the small things that they can do to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, whether it be recycling an old notebook, donating their old clothes to charity or turning off the water while they brush their teeth."
"We have Earth Week coming up on April 18 to April 22, so this will also be a good way to raise sustainability awareness and an opportunity for students to have fun while being sustainable," Oppenheim said.
The University will receive $500 as a first prize and the money will be used to promote RecycleMania next year. Going into the final week of the overall Recyclemania contest – which includes several elements – U.Va. was ranked sixth among 14 competing schools in Virginia and 121st out of more than 600 schools nationwide. U.Va. also places No. 12 across the country for the Gorilla Prize, which measures the highest gross tonnage of recycled materials.
"I think the video was important in uniting people around recycling and getting people excited about RecycleMania," Laustsen said.