Greenbean Makes Recycling Fun for College Students

December 06, 2013
GreenBean Recycle founder Shanker Sahai stands in front of a gbRecycle machine on the campus of Northeastern University.


Everybody wins. So says Greenbean Recycle in the promotion of its most recent on-campus challenge, and Boston-area students clearly agree. The environmentally conscious populations of Wellesley College and the universities of Brandeis, Bentley, Harvard, MIT, Northeastern and Tufts turned out in record numbers last month to celebrate America Recycles Day (ARD) on November 15.

For fifteen days leading up to the nationally recognized celebration of recycling efforts, students on these campuses took up Greenbean’s challenge to make recycling a fun and rewarding game. Using state-of-the-art Greenbean recycling machines on campus, students competed against other schools, vying for top honors in the largest ever cross-campus sustainability challenge.

Making it Easy to be Green

Greenbean’s reverse-vending machines accept empty plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans, and recycle the materials right on site with a satisfying crunch. The machines give students real-time feedback on the energy they’ve saved, as well as the number of containers they’ve prevented from entering landfills. In addition to eco-friendliness and convenience, the machines offer students a financial incentive for helping the environment.

Building upon the Massachusetts Bottle Bill Law, which grants a 5-cent refund for carbonated beverage receptacles or “deposit containers,” gbMachines issue refunds directly to students’ PayPal accounts, campus cards or the charity of their choice. Students are also free to use gbMachines to raise funds for approved student organizations and clubs, turning their empty bottles into dollars for on-campus activities. gbMachines issue credits immediately in the most green way possible, without receipts or a paper trail of any kind.



Eco-Friendly Competition

By using gbMachines, students enter ongoing competitions with their peers at other Boston-area schools. All recycled items are credited not only to the individual student, but also to their school. For the latest challenge, participating universities competed against each other to celebrate America Recycles Day.

“We took all the schools that had similar recycling rates, and paired them up to see which campus could do better,” explains gbRecycle founder Shanker Sahai. “It proved that the ‘gamification’ of behavior – in this case recycling – really does work. We hit record rates at all colleges and it was great to see schools like Tufts step up their recycling efforts to prove themselves against Northeastern, or Wellesley against Brandeis. Combined, schools recycled 19,651 containers – that’s more than 1,300 recyclables per day!”

Partnering for a Greener World

Earlier this year, Barnes & Noble College announced its partnership with Greenbean Recycle, to help promote sustainable practices on college campuses. As the campus store partner for over 700 U.S. colleges and universities, the company is dedicated to fulfilling the ever increasing student demand for eco-friendly products and initiatives. Across the diverse campuses it serves, Barnes & Noble College ensures that its sustainable offerings always include used textbooks, recycled notebooks and tote bags – even graduation gowns made from recycled water bottles.

Partnering with Greenbean takes this commitment to the next level, supplementing green products with cutting-edge, eco-friendly technology.  “Students are the forerunners of green initiatives on campus,” says Tamara Vostok, Barnes & Noble College’s Manager of Consumer & New Media Marketing. “They expect their school departments, classrooms and services to hold a high standard of sustainability. As we continue to innovate what we offer to students, aligning with local green initiatives is very important to us. Greenbean is a perfect example of how innovation and modern technology can revolutionize eco-friendly behavior.”

The company placed its first recycling machine at MIT in August 2011. Since then, Greenbean has expanded to include Tufts, Brandeis, Harvard and Northeastern, revolutionizing recycling in a way that makes it more Millennial friendly, and offering what Sahai calls “instant data for instant gratification.” Since the launch of its partnership with Barnes & Noble College, gbRecycle has added two new campuses to their program – Wellesley and Bentley – and recycling rates have soared. Barnes & Noble College supports each on-campus challenge, promoting the competitions through its social media channels and providing prizes for the winning campuses.  “Working with Barnes & Noble College is a really great fit for us,” says Sahai. “Our business model is about making recycling fast, easy, fun and rewarding, and college campuses have been great ambassadors for the cause. Joining with them has helped us establish stronger ties to universities and provides rewards that students truly care about.”

The partnership also makes perfect sense from Barnes & Noble College’s perspective. As the campus retail and course material provider for Brandeis, Bentley, Northeastern, Tufts and Wellesley, it knows these schools well and sees tremendous potential for collaboration with gbRecycle. “The ARD Head-to-Head challenge is a great way to encourage cross-university discourse – and friendly competition – amongst campus leaders in sustainability,” says Vostok.

To learn more about the America Recycles Day Head-to-Head Challenge, future gbRecycle challenges and to start recycling, visit