Fort Knox, meet Fort Box.
In partnership with UT Recycling, Up to Us will work to beat the record for largest box fort while promoting economic and environmental sustainability starting at 8 a.m. on Friday next to HSS.
Carly Frensley, junior in economics and international business, is the founder and president of the Net Impact Chapter at UT and the Up to Us Creative Director. Following the two organizations' missions of linking students to careers with impact and raising awareness of the national debt, she said she believes the incorporation of the cardboard boxes will represent both the size of the national debt and the amount of waste UT produces.
"Through our box fort we would like to give the message that an average American lifestyle is not sustainable for the environment or our economy," Frensley said. "If we get just a few students to understand how much waste we accumulate, whether it is resources, money or time, and then in turn inspire them to prepare themselves for a more sustainable future, we've accomplished our goal."
A competition has arisen among university recycling coordinators, with schools using their box forts to set the record for using the most boxes. Currently, the University of Texas, Austin holds the record with 4,123 boxes used for their fort.
Jay Price, UT's recycling manager, had hoped to participate in the rivalry, but never before saw a chance. When Up to Us approached him looking for a way to facilitate a large-scale event with recycled materials for their national debt campaign, Price provided the idea to host in conjunction with RecycleMania.
"It's all coming together," Price said. "The idea has been lingering in the shadows, and now we have storage containers full of boxes."
Hoping to use all 5,000 boxes, the fort will be in the shape of a Power T that can be viewed from the top floors of Hodges Library or McClung Tower. Smokey will also make an appearance at the fort building along with food, prizes and music.
While the fort is meant to entertain – students will be allowed to crawl through – the focus is on sustainable messages. According to Price, the fort "shows a student organization sending their message in a big way."
"While we do recycle, we need to do more," he said. "We should reduce, and that's a message of personal responsibility that Up to Us is helping to send. They want to visually represent what the national debt is and what that means to students. It also shows that we are thinking about the wasted materials that we have."
Frensley said she sees the event as an opportunity to "embrace our inner kid" while addressing a heavy issue.
"Each box will represent a dollar amount of debt," Frensley said. "How big the fort becomes determines the dollar value of each box.
"This way, students can stare down a representation of the debt we will have to tackle in our future."
The 5,000 boxes are a fraction of the cardboard UT Recycling collects in four weeks. However, cardboard is only one material the organizatoin prevents from going into a landfill. Recycling on campus now includes aluminum, plastic, glass, food waste, light bulbs, electronics, scrap metal and textiles.
Bea Ross, UT's recycling outreach coordinator, stressed that waste reduction is a part of recycling which is often overlooked.
"There are three steps we can take before recycling: refusing what we don't need, reducing what we do need, and reusing what we consume," Ross said. "These are the steps that we are promoting with Fort Box and for RecycleMania. By working together, students will see the connection between reducing environmental impact and improving the economy."
In the effort to combine economic and environmental responsibility, Ross said she hopes the event is a gateway to understanding among students.
"I hope that at least a handful of students walk away understanding that planning for a successful, efficient future requires social, environmental and economic planning," Ross said. "Not just one of the three."
Lindsey Huff, SPEAK co-president, said she believes the event could "spark interest" in students who may not otherwise come in contact with the amount of recycled materials UT produces.
"It's a visual that people can see, and people like things they can look at," Huff said. "It's going to serve as something that when people are walking by, they're going to want to know what's going on. It's a fun way to get involved with recycling materials."