Campus / News / November 6, 2008

Building a culture of sustainability

As the environmental sustainability movement dubbed “Going Green” continues to sweep the globe, Knox College students have been increasing their efforts to help preserve the planet. From establishing a Sustainability Task Force that funds long-term “green” projects, to raising environmental awareness through a variety of clubs, there is no doubt that Knox has found its place in the global movement striving for sustainability. Professor Peter Schwartzman of the Environmental Studies Department at Knox suggests that “in order to recycle, you need leadership.” While groups like KARES, Student Senate Sustainability Committee, Outdoors Club, and the Knox College Community Garden lead Knox students by raising awareness, some students feel that members of the Knox community could collectively do more to fuel the passion that drives the sustainability movement.

Walking through the hallways of Seymour Union, the Knox community can observe endless posters and brochures informing the public about how to make sustainability a way of life. Although students at Knox are becoming increasingly interested in “going green,” a number of students express the concern that students and faculty are not working collaboratively enough to tackle the issue of recycling on campus.

Despite the implementation of “green projects” in the cafeteria, such as the elimination of Styrofoam containers and the use of “grab-and-go” trays, students who work in the cafeteria are shocked by the lack of recycling that occurs. In response to sub-par recycling efforts by students and faculty, freshman Amy Miller said, “People seem to use recycling bins for paper, but that’s about all they think they can do for the environment in most cases.” While some individuals might view lack of recycling as an example of negligence on the part of students and faculty, others suggest that ignorance is the larger issue.

Even though students and faculty know that “recycling is about instilling good habits, people don’t always know exactly what they can and cannot recycle,” Miller said. It is true that the Student Senate Sustainability Committee has been working to create resolutions and bring ideas to administration, besides pooling efforts to educate the public about sustainability. Junior Abby Pardick, Chair of the Senate Sustainability Committee, said, “Our main responsibility is to educate people on campus. Recycling is more of a habit-forming process.” She went on to say, “Until you get the money for projects, you have to find ways to be sustainable.”

It does not seem right for any student or faculty member to pursue dirty tasks like digging through garbage for the items that individuals did not realize they had to recycle. Pardick stresses that “the responsibility of the sustainability committee is to raise awareness about the fact that recycling is an individual responsibility.” However, this will not be achieved until an increase in student-faculty and club-student interaction releases a campus-wide understanding of the importance of sustainability.

The broader goals pertaining to sustainability seem to deal with communication and education, as communicated by both Pardick and Miller. In order to form habits like recycling, and to generate more conversation on campus higher sustainability feasible, it is necessary to realize that “no change will be more important than establishing a culture of sustainability on our campus,” according to President Roger Taylor. A culture of sustainability must revolve around the idea that “to move into a more sustainable world, we need people, in groups, to do more than is expected of them,” said Schwartzman.

Although the Knox community as a whole could improve upon smaller efforts to be more sustainable such as recycling, large-scale “green” projects have been carried out over the years. From the “campus wide energy audit” of 1999 to the student-run community garden of 2007, Knox has shown that its leaders can truly make a difference in upholding the values of sustainability. There are even plans for this year to “improve the prairie plot on campus” and to “look into the DART Recycling Program,” according to Cafeteria Chef Helmut. In the meantime, working toward Knox community awareness about sustainability can be furthered by paying attention to the little details, like the extra can in the cafeteria that could be recycled.

Elise Hyser

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