University of Iowa Dance Marathon brings new sustainability efforts to Big Event

For the 26th annual Dance Marathon, the student organization will start two new sustainability practices — dancers will reuse their old bags and TerraCycle to reduce the Big Event’s environmental impact.


Mason Childs

Composite, Landfill, and Recycling bins were placed outside the Food Court inside the IMU during The Dance Marathon. The event took place in the IMU from Friday, February 7 to Saturday, February 8 of 2020.

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter

Hundreds of dancers and families gather together for the University of Iowa Dance Marathon Big Event each year, and new sustainable practices within the student organization aim to help reduce the waste that a group that size can create.

Starting this year, Dance Marathon is recommending that returning dancers reuse their bags from last year and will utilize TerraCycle, a waste management company, to recycle items that may not typically be considered recyclable. 

At the beginning of this academic year, Dance Marathon surveyed returning dancers on whether they would reuse their bags from the previous year, said Dance Marathon Sustainability Chair Katelyn Murhammer. While new dancers receive a bag to put things in when they get their paperwork at check-in, she said returning dancers would arrive already with a bag.=

Around 50 dancers said they would be interested in reusing their bags to help reduce the amount the organization needed to buy and divert the amount of waste the bags could create, Murhammer said. 

Dance Marathon will also use TerraCycle to recycle items such as chip bags and granola bar wrappers, Murhammer said. A special bin that the organization paid for through the green-initiatives fund will be filled at the event and sent back to the TerraCycle company to be repurposed, she added. 

“I think it’s especially important for an organization as large as ours. With more than 3,000 people here in the IMU at one time, it’s going to be really important that we’re being sustainable because what we do is going to have a big impact with that many people,” Murhammer said. “So I think it’s good for people to be aware of sustainability things we have going on and to know how to do it.” 

The organization will continue its practice from last academic year of having waste diversion stations at meals, Murhammer said. Volunteers and Dance Marathon leadership will make sure items that can be composted and recycled are put in the right bins at each meal, she said. 

The UI Office of Sustainability helps with the Dance Marathon sustainability committee with the organization’s composting and recycling efforts, said UI Office of Sustainability Recycling Coordinator Beth MacKenzie. The chair of the committee meets with the UI team in the fall to discuss new efforts for the academic year, MacKenzie said. 

The two work to incorporate sustainability into more than just the Big Event, she continued, but also into their smaller events throughout the year.

In the past, the organization has used old T-shirts to make pillows and create decor for the event using recycled materials, she said. 

“They reach a large audience,” MacKenzie said. “So when Dance Marathon displays sustainability as an important piece of their organization, that shows other people that sustainability is important.” 

First-time dancer Lauren Davis said there would be a substantial amount of waste if Dance Marathon participants brought their own disposable water bottles instead of being provided with reusable ones. She added that TerraCycle will likely be beneficial for the Dance Marathon. 

“People are probably snacking a lot, and because there are so many people here, it would just be really nice to have little, smaller things [like granola bar wrappers and chip bags], not just water bottles and paper to be recycled,” Davis said.

Facebook Comments