Bringing Gamification to Penn’s Recycling

March 17, 2014

The Green Campus Partnership awarded one Fall 2013 Green Fund Grant to a group of students in Penn School of Engineering and Applied Science for their idea of bringing gamification to campus recycling. Project leaders SEAS undergraduates Allison Youngdahl, Amber Rashid, Ahmet Arican, and Kimberly Gordon, describe their project in this way:

In order to contribute to Penn’s recycling rate goals in the Climate Action Plan and make our campus more sustainable, we have designed a Recychology Bin that uses Gamification, applying game-thinking to non-game contexts to solve problems and engage users. It is a technology trend that many of us have experienced, especially through loyalty or rewards programs. Using this concept, our Recychology Bin will involve users in the recycling process and help make them aware of the impact of their recycling habits.

To measure the potential effects of the Recychology Bin, we are testing whether its recycling rate is higher than that of a typical recycling and trash bins on campus. The recycling rate measures the ratio of total waste recycled to total waste generated. Drawing from extensive research and student focus groups, we designed and built the gamification hardware. We look forward to collecting and analyzing initial data in late March.

The Green Fund Review Board considers all applications and makes funding recommendations. Penn Environmental Sustainability Director Dan Garofalo says the Board selected this project because it is a great example of classroom theory transitioning into real-world application. “They are using the campus as a living laboratory,” Garofalo says. He also pointed out that the student team could share results with the Solid Waste Management Working Group (see article under Minimizing Waste).  “The students are working on campus recycling infrastructure, so this project could provide direction on the messaging launched by the Solid Waste Management Plan,” he adds. Read more about Penn’s Green Fund.


As of November 2014, more than 350 student Eco-Reps serve as environmental champions for sustainability efforts at Penn

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