In last week’s issue of Bucknellian an article was published on sustainability on campus, just in time for the Earth Day celebrations that students and faculty celebrate and celebrate. That article – in case you missed it – was written by the same author who is entertaining you now. In case you missed it, you can find the first in this short two-part series by visiting the Bucknellian website and searching for the article “Have You Hugged a Tree Today.” Please don’t misunderstand the motivation behind this article, thinking that the good folks at Bucknellian have nothing better to write about than a sequel to an already published article. But after writing the first, we agreed on the need for the second. If your memory serves you, and you happen to stumble across last week’s issue, you’ll remember that in addition to article suggestions on ongoing changes to individual lifestyles, it also serves as a platform for various students to comment on what changes they are making. has been made to be more sustainable on campus. The idea is for students to share and exchange sustainable change that will lead to much bigger change on campus, causing an effect that, like a small stone in a still pond, will ripple and reach far beyond the members of the University.
I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed with the results of last week’s effort. The last time I checked, the article had been buzzing with comments from a handful of students who had ideas or stories about their own sustainability. Now, indeed – and in the interest of honest reporting – these three commenters did so on my behalf, after some not-so-subtle comments about my article and the expressed hope that it would get a response. As you can see, I am far from the term “subtle”.
Allow me to clarify one thing – then I will proceed to fill your head with all kinds of sustainable changes that save money or space. I, and most likely you, are just a student working my way through a competitive school while pushing myself harder every year. We all do our best to adapt academia to the busy social and academic life of our twenties. I’ll bet that we’re both more concerned with our imminent final than about reducing waste or climate change or the current pollution situation. That’s okay – we’re all trying to manage what we can in the present. As David Berry ’24 explains, many students don’t really care about the planet. “I think part of it is the culture that you’re in such a rush to do something that you just throw the trash out. [instead of recycling] and that’s the easier choice,” said Berry. Actually he wasn’t wrong. So please read this article with a grain of salt, understanding that its goal is to provide a foundation for easy, convenient and rewarding sustainable change rather than judging or shaming anyone.
However, readers may be surprised to learn that ongoing change can occur without you even realizing it. As Mackenzie Zerbe ’25 puts it, in the case of on-campus sustainability – when our main promise is to our academics – what matters most is accessibility. “[Sustainability, particularly on campus] quite important, but perhaps more in the important category during [its] not a lot of extra steps,” said Zerbe. “Basically as long as it’s not a big hitch, I’d prefer sustainability if I knew what could be sustainable.”
And that’s the point of this article – how to make sustainability easy and cheap enough for students. So here are the top comments left by students wanting to share their tips: first, by cycling or walking to class. Have you noticed the many nearly identical bikes used by students either parked outside the Bertrand Library or down the hill by ELC?
These are bicycles that you can rent from the Outdoor Education and Leadership (OEL) organization on campus. By leveraging this resource, students can avoid driving to class and create more carbon emissions per trip, while saving money on ever-increasing gas prices. Cycling, in addition to walking and doing a little cardio before each class, is a popular response from our readers. The following two tips are offered by the same commentator – he suggests buying food in bulk, which saves on packaging, and making weekly visits to the University’s food pantry located on the second floor of the Elaine Langone Center. The food pantry is free for students and refilled frequently. For those of you looking for a fruit or protein bar to fill your own kitchen void, this is a free and highly sustainable source.
Next is a suggestion to throw away paper towels, instead of using reusable cloth towels. Often people make these towels out of old and torn t-shirts or other clothes that should have been thrown away. It can save you a trip to Walmart every time you run out of disposable paper towels.
Lastly, and this one might be tough for those of you who let “aesthetics” rule, don’t throw out this year’s notebooks at the start of the semester. Instead, use each page to get the most out of what you paid for. Each Five Star Notebook costs about five and a half dollars; across four classes one semester and two semesters per year, that’s at least an extra forty dollars that you don’t have to spend. Better yet – avoid paper notebooks altogether and join us all in 2022 by taking digital notes.
But students aren’t the only ones making a difference and celebrating in the spirit of Earth Day. The campus hosts a number of talks, lunches and events to promote conversation about sustainability among members. Among the many events are a documentary on minimalist living, a climate commitment workshop with Professor Smyer, an Earth Day festival held on a student farm, and the university’s ninth annual Sustainability Symposium. Other smaller and more day-to-day changes include swapping out bathroom paper towels for hairdryers, switching to wooden utensils at Bison, and implementing a container system in the cafe to reduce waste.
With continuous improvement, the University, its students and campuses continue to make ripples in this serene pool. Thanks to all who have commented or are planning to, and with deep feelings I hope this article will do a good job of representing the ideas of the student body in their efforts to care for our common home – not just our campus, but our planet. also.
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