Sea of green: Students at Binghamton University display their environmental sensibilities.
The No. 1 way to keep garbage from
piling up in landfills is to create less of it. Cornell’s Campus Life
Green Team suggests ideas with its green living guidelines, such as
using cloth towels instead of paper ones and taking only the napkins
you need at the dining hall. Almost all grocery stores now offer
reusable shopping bags, and refillable plastic or aluminum water
bottles are getting more fashionable by the minute. Skip the throwaway
Reducing energy and the use of
nonrenewable resources are also huge concerns for the environment.
Cutting back on driving can help reduce greenhouse gases. Walking or
biking to class doesn’t emit a thing or use any resources but your own.
Both Cortland and Oswego have community bicycles for anyone to use
throughout campus. Yes, SU and Cornell are expansive and treacherous in
the winter, but they also offer bus service not only on campus but to
town. Save your own gas and take advantage of mass transportation.
Buying locally is another way to reduce
carbon emissions from vehicles because the items didn’t need a
cross-country trip to get here. SUNY Oswego buys from the local farm
store Ontario Orchards, and Cornell strives to purchase produce from
farms within a 100-mile radius of its Ithaca campus. If your dining
hall doesn’t provide local fruits and vegetables, suggest it to the
Speaking of sustenance, the
“all-you-care-to-eat” style of most dining halls may seem like a great
thing, but it actually helps you waste a lot of food. We know what
you’re thinking: You’ve already paid for it, so why not load up on all
your favorites? But wasting food not only costs the school money, it
costs you money and could add to your waistline.
“All that stuff has to be paid for,”
says Caroline Tauxe, visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Le
Moyne College, of dining hall food. “And as you know, prices are up.”
Wasting food means more energy has to be
used to ship more food. If you didn’t take as much, that food could go
to someone else, instead of in the trash. Tauxe, who is also the
interim director of Le Moyne’s Center for Urban and Regional Applied
Research, noted a recent initiative in the college’s dining halls,
Trayless Tuesdays. The college’s Student Environmental Coalition worked
with the school’s executive chef, a strong environmentalist, in spring
2008 to organize a weekly event during which students collect their
meal without a tray.
“It forces them to slow down and be more
thoughtful about what they’re grabbing,” Tauxe says. Without a tray,
students take only what they can carry, and get more only if they
decide they want more. Trayless Tuesdays coincide with a food waste
weigh-in, which quantifies how much food gets tossed in a day along
with its poundage, giving students a concrete visual. The practice
helps drive the point home, and organizers hope to continue to reduce
the amount of food students waste.
It’s easy too to overlook water and
energy waste, but don’t. Save water by taking shorter showers, turning
off the faucet while brushing your teeth and reporting leaks to your
hall director (leaks can waste 20 gallons of water a day). Electronics
in your dorm room suck up more energy than you think, even when you’re
not using them. Cell phone chargers still use energy if they’re plugged
into an outlet and not connected to a phone. Most of the energy
chargers use is when they’re not hooked up to the device. Unplug them
when they’re not being used, or use a power strip that’s easy to turn
off. Leaving computers on when you’re not using them is also a huge
waste of energy.
A study by the Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy lab, reported that if
every computer in the United States was shut off overnight, the savings
would be 7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Even
using the sleep mode or turning off the monitor drops energy use dramatically.
This past spring, Binghamton University
held a residential energy conservation contest to see what dorm could
use the least energy. Dickinson, the winning community, organized
efforts such as blackout periods and low-energy night lights in
bathrooms. The community reported a 13.5 percent reduction in energy
use and won a $20,000 prize. Organizing these kinds of competitive
events is a great way to involve everyone and motivate students to
Reusing what already exists means less
landfill pileup and less energy from factories and trucks needed to
make more of and transport that product. Think about the potential of
the things you throw away; trash can often be turned into treasure.
During move-out week, it’s typical to
see the trash bins jam-packed with garbage. But is it really all
garbage? Too often, students throw out intact furniture, unopened food
and other gently used but perfectly good merchandise due to lack of
space or simply no desire to transport it. A growing organization out
of Massachusetts helps colleges nationwide find something better to do
with all that stuff. Dump and Run, founded by 1995 SU graduate Lisa
Heller Boragine, leads efforts to have students donate their unwanted
belongings. The college can choose to either give them to a non-profit-
group, or have a sale to raise money for a school club.
Boragine came up with the idea after
Dumpster diving for a lost ring at SU and discovering a whole mess of
things people wouldn’t normally throw out: a working television, an
unopened case of ramen noodles. She decided that just because a student
doesn’t have room to store something doesn’t mean the Dumpster is the
right place for it. Even things that don’t have a big market here, like
used shoes, can be sent to a place that really needs them. Donating
food to a shelter or giving away a lamp to be sold to someone who can
actually use it not only benefits you, but also fits into the bigger
picture. Less usable stuff goes to the landfill, and less new
merchandise needs to be produced.
Cornell has taken advantage of Dump and
Run’s aid and has held sales for the past five years. According to
Christina Phelps Copeland, summer intern and volunteer coordinator for
Cornell’s Dump and Run program, re-sales have raised more than $105,000
over the years and diverted 107 tons of waste from landfills.
Participation has gone way up and the sales have expanded from a
one-day event raising an impressive $9,000, to a two-day sale raising
more than $30,000. Cornell contributes to a number of organizations in
Ithaca and plans to donate this year’s leftovers to a group that sends
items to Afghanistan.
Recycling is a lot like reusing. You
drink from an aluminum can, put it in a recycling bin, it gets sent to
the recycling center and it comes back in a new form. You’ve saved the
energy it would have taken to make a new can, and the old can isn’t
contributing to our gigantic annual waste production. You’ve heard it
before, but recycling is really important, and it’s probably one of the
simplest things you can do.
SU works with the Onondaga County
Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA) to get information out to students
about recycling. The organization works closely with the residence
halls to explain what can be recycled and what really is trash. Sarah
Stewart, recycling expert with OCRRA, says the company always has a
table at open houses and orientation events to be sure every student
knows the rules and no one has an excuse not to recycle.
Bell-bottom blues: Ann Fordock of the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency holds a ruler made from recycled denim. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTO
Tina Julian of the Purchasing Department
at SU has been instrumental in the recycling initiative there. Julian
is chair of the Green Purchasing and Recycling committee, part of SU’s
Sustainability Action Coalition, which increases recycling and energy
use awareness and coordinates campus Earth Day events. She says their
current concern is getting students to recycle paper. Newspaper, copy
paper, envelopes and more can all be recycled, and a lot gets
unnecessarily thrown out. Julian adds that there are blue bins
everywhere for recycling, as well as student access to a composting
site for food waste. The general awareness and OCRRA’s involvement have
greatly increased the recycling effort but there are still those who
aren’t separating their trash, and more can always be done.
Learning curve: Syracuse University
residence hall supervisors (and students) Kimberly Williams and
Courtney Brewsters attended OCRRA’s pre-semester informational open
house on Aug. 11.
Students at SUNY Oswego are taking to
the halls to get their peers to recycle. In four-floor Oneida Hall, the
recycling room is in the basement. It may not seem like much of a hike,
but it’s easy for residents to forget, miss the hours and throw their
recyclables in the trash. Recently, Angel Rosa, assistant director for
Oneida Hall, decided to bring the recycling room to the residents. He
mans a mobile recycling cart, essentially a big gray bin on wheels, and
goes door to door to collect recyclables from everyone. Students give
him their returnable cans and bottles, and the 5 cents per item goes to
the hall’s fund, which buys movies, games and party supplies for
occasional hall get-togethers. In just one semester, Oneida Hall’s fun
fund, raised from Rosa’s efforts, increased from $55 to $375.
Rosa plans to organize competitions
among all the halls on campus for who can collect the most cans and
bottles, with a pizza party for the winning hall. “If people see others
participating, they’ll get in on it,” he says.
Recycling can be a community event; turn
it into the “cool” thing to do and you can raise money, save energy and
reduce waste. In addition to your own recycling efforts, you can clean
up things your peers leave behind. Many colleges have campus cleanup
days. Oswego leads efforts to tidy the shores of Lake Ontario.
Cornell’s Green Team held an event after this year’s Slope Day on May
2, a traditional outdoor party to celebrate the end of classes, to
collect and recycle all the plastic bottles left behind.
According to marketing communications
coordinator Kim Court, Onondaga Community College is working on a
“carry in, carry out” program, where trash cans aren’t available in
classrooms, so a student has to take out what they brought in.
Recycling containers are in the halls of the buildings, so a student
has no excuse to just throw out recyclables.
Conserving resources and reducing your
impact on the environment are things even college students can do with
a little effort. Additionally, there are lots of products on the market
now that are environmentally friendly and without harmful chemicals.
Organic foods and clothes, alternative energy vehicles and other
“green” goodies are good for you and the environment. Check out what
your school’s doing to reduce their environmental footprint, join a
green committee or lead your own recycling revolution.
Money for something: Oswego student Angel Rosa (front) gets help from dormmates for his recycling initiative.
The Green Scene
Binghamton University Student Environmental Awareness Club. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cornell University Green Team. www.sustainablecampus.cornell.edu.
Cortland Sustainability Committee. www.cortland.edu/sustainability.
Dump and Run. www.dumpandrun.org; (508) 579-7188.
Onondaga Community College Whole Earth Club. President, Kayla Spivey. Check out their Facebook group by searching “OCC Whole Earth Club.”
Oswego Sustainability Committee. www.oswego.edu/about/leadership/sustainability.