In 2016, Lehigh enacted a sustainability plan to implement environmental stewardship into all realms of campus life.
Although the university has provided opportunities for students to live more sustainable lives at Lehigh, there should be more of an effort to encourage students to develop eco-friendly habits themselves.
A large responsibility is placed on Eco-Reps, who are encouraged by the larger organization to inspire and lead the charge to a more sustainable college life.
Eco-Reps provide checklists for students in their living facilities, with tasks such as unplugging electronics or turning off lights. Participants can get bronze, silver or gold accreditations based on how well they adhere to the sustainability checklist.
But shouldn’t we be turning off the lights, regardless of a checklist?
Big-belly trash cans scattered around campus also provide a way of informing students, staff and faculty of what is considered trash or recyclable. The locations of these trash cans are not well-advertised, however, so students might not be aware of the services they provide.
But is it that hard to carry your trash a little bit farther, knowing you are disposing of it in a more sustainable way?
Furthermore, the university is aiming to replace all plastic straws with paper straws by the end of September. But will students cooperate with this change, if it means drinking iced coffee from a soggy straw?
Car-Free Day recently took place on Sept. 20. Although beneficial in theory, some students were not so willing to give up their cars considering Lehigh’s location on South Mountain. Last year, Packer Avenue was shut down as part of the initiative. This year, it remained open, which might have discouraged some from participating in the event.
In many regards, the university has shown a commitment to and awareness of the environment, though there is more to be done by every member of the Lehigh community.
As Path to Prominence continues to take shape, there should be a focused effort on making new buildings as environmentally-friendly as possible. STEPS can serve as inspiration, as it is the first building at Lehigh to be certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
We hope that administrators will seek out ways to transform or adapt older buildings to become more sustainable. Even small additions such as water bottle refill stations, such as the ones in Taylor Gym, Williams Hall and Kappa Delta, among other locations, can make a difference.
Groups on campus also make a difference by showing the campus community that it can become more environmentally friendly in small ways. We hope these groups will serve as pillars of Lehigh’s sustainability efforts.
For example, a Mountaintop project this past summer created a garden, providing opportunities for the community and students to learn how to be more eco-friendly. Eco-themed housing also has a similar goal.
Though many think of Lehigh as a school located in a more urban and industrialized area, it only takes a 10-minute drive away from campus to realize we are surrounded by the countryside and that our actions on-campus will impact our rural outer-community.