Helping the environment isn’t a one-person job. Only with a significant amount of people working together can we make a big impact. Getting people together to do this is sometimes hard, but every action counts toward the conservation or the destruction of our planet.
Lehigh is not immune to these actions. Our campus has student Eco-reps who bring initiatives like putting recycle bins in every single dorm room or knocking on doors so students can change their light bulbs to more energy-conservative ones. But even then, students have to put in the effort to contribute.
It’s not that all students plainly don’t care, it’s that they’re either ill-informed or lazy. But something as easy as separating trash from recyclables can go a long way. In the dorm rooms, students should practice turning lights off when they don’t need them, as well as taking short showers. Even though they don’t pay bills, it not only helps conserve planet resources and diminish pollution, but can set up the habits they will have as utilities-paying adults.
You might think individual actions don’t have an impact, but they do. If one person recycles, then promotes it to others and they start changing their habits, that’s impact. We all have to work together to be more sustainable.
One way we can do this is to make sure there are Eco-reps talking to students in each residence hall and Greek house and teaching easy ways to help the environment. More direct programming targeted at changing habits could help establish a culture of awareness.
One can only imagine the amount of crumpled up beer cans that get pulled out of basements after a party. What if all of those were recycled? That surely would have an impact.
But it’s not just students who need to step up to change. Lehigh, as an institution, could do more to establish itself as a greener campus. Some initiatives, like the sustainable office program, are paving the way for administrators and offices to become more sustainable. But there is a lot more that could be done.
End-of-the-year teacher evaluations are still done on paper and create waste amounting to 25,842 sheets of paper. Moving more of these evaluations online could reduce the amount of paper used for this purpose. Some services, like billing, have moved entirely online to reduce waste, and Lehigh should evaluate if other services could do the same.
How much paper does the Office of Admissions waste when sending out information, application decisions or their information packets to prospective students? How much does the Office of Financial Aid waste when they send students their loan breakdown for the semester? Are there things we can just do online?
Reducing paper waste is just one way we can become a greener campus.
There could be a benefit in installing automatic lights in certain classrooms and spaces, so that if someone forgets to turn a light off when they leave, it can shut off by itself. There also needs to be more education about the programming that Eco-reps and other organizations put on campus and what students need to do specifically to help.
Right now, being environmentally aware isn’t a part of our campus-wide culture, but it could be. If sustainability efforts were targeted at first-year students every year, the campus culture would slowly begin to change. Instead of focusing on all the campus, they could try focusing on the youngest part of it and that way more people would be made aware as the years go by.
But it’s not all on the institution. Although it needs to be more communicative and educational about its programming, students also just need to listen. Only by paying attention to what’s going on around us will we be able to change.
You may think your individual water bottle in the recycling bin doesn’t matter, but it’s a start.