In 2003, a comprehensive research study on African-American attitudes towards environmental issues was published. Dispelling Old Myths: African American Concern for the Environment laid to rest lingering stereotypes about black American ecological detachment with surprising facts – African-Americans were less likely to buy food treated with pesticides, as likely to join environmental groups, and more likely to express concern about their local environment than white Americans.

But that same survey indicated that only four out of every 10 African-Americans were likely to recycle, a trend that, 11 years later, appears to be rapidly declining on historically black college campuses nationwide.

With the uptick in federal private funding available to colleges and universities in support of sustainable initiatives, HBCU students are actively promoting recycling programs to engage participation in community sustainability. According to the 2009 United Negro College Fund’s Minority-Serving Institutions Green Report, more than 30 percent of MSIs (including HBCUs) recycled paper, glass, cardboard, aluminum and plastic at varying levels of participation and execution.

HBCU advocacy organizations like UNCF and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund have partnered with corporations to spur and incentivize sustainable campus programming, with a particular emphasis on recycling. Alliances with the Kresge Foundation and Environmental Defense Fund have benefited a number of HBCUs looking to create or enhance campus recycling programs.

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