Student Joe Chapman (right) and Barry Wilkins, WCC manager of recycling operations, sort through paper and plastic at the college’s Recycling Center. (Photo by Jessica Bibbee)

Student Joe Chapman (right) and Barry Wilkins, WCC manager of recycling operations, sort through paper and plastic at the college’s Recycling Center. (Photo by Jessica Bibbee)


Washtenaw Community College student Joe Chapman transfers to Wayne State University in January, but in his final months here he’s working to reduce everyone’s carbon footprint, including his own, as much as he possibly can.

On a mission to make WCC a “greener” campus, Chapman and his friend, Austin McIntosh, recently started the Students for Sustainability Club, where they serve as co-leaders.

The new club has already established several initiatives, including banning bottled water across campus and adding separate containers in various buildings for recycling solid food waste.

“A lot can be done with just a small group of dedicated people,” Chapman said.

Part of the long-term plan to make WCC a bottle-free campus includes introducing more water bottle refill stations and establishing an incentive program. Participants would receive a reusable water bottle marked with a sticker that they scan each time they use a refill station. Over time, they accumulate points and receive rewards.

“Climate change is the single most important issue of our generation and by using sustainable energy and increasing sustainability on college campuses, businesses and homes across the world, we can make a difference,” Chapman said.

While he seems to have made a home for himself at WCC, Chapman’s educational journey actually started a couple miles away at Eastern Michigan University.

After spending one semester studying biology, he realized he wasn’t passionate about the subject, so he took the following semester off to do some soul-searching.

“I started working at the nonprofit Clean Water Action when I became inspired to dedicate my studies and life to preserving the environment and reversing climate change through pushing new environmental and green energy policies at the state and federate level,” he said.

Chapman plans to double major in political science and public policy next year at WSU. Afterward, Chapman plans to study environmental policy at the graduate level.

“I’d like to start off my career as a sustainability or recycling manager for a college campus because they have so much potential to lower their carbon footprint and increase their waste diversion,” he said.

As vice president of the Political Science Club, Chapman is confident his experiences will help him prepare for his dream job of becoming mayor of Detroit someday.

One thing he’d do as mayor?

“I’d create jobs by clearing out the 20,000-plus abandoned homes in the city and replacing them with urban farms, parks and self-sustaining grocery stores because food access is a major problem in the city,” he said.

Until then, he’s enjoying making his mark at WCC.

“Lots of students want the college experience and great professors—you get both here [at WCC] without the debt. There are so many ways to get involved,” Chapman said. “WCC is not an ordinary community college. Everyone here really cares about the students.”

The Students for Sustainability Club meets on Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. in LA 150. The Political Science Club meets on Mondays from 4-6 p.m. in LA 138.


  • In 2015, Washtenaw Community College recycled approximately 354,600 pounds (177 tons) of material, including paper, cardboard, plastics, electronic waste, insulated wire, used cooking oil, assorted metals, Styrofoam and plastic bags, among other items.
  • About 1,200 pounds of organic food waste is collected and composted each month. By weight, food waste is the largest item in American landfills.
  • WCC recycles about 200 gallons of used cooking oil annually.
  • The college is paid for the used oil, which is processed into renewable fuel.
  • The college competes in Recyclemania, a national competition among colleges and universities. In 2016, WCC ranked fourth in the country in the Waste Minimization category and 50th overall with a recycling rate of 46

By Princess Gabbara
Writer, Public Relations