In last week’s edition of the Bucknellian an article was published about sustainability on campus, just in time to welcome the Earth Day festivities celebrated and implemented by University students and faculty. That article – in case you missed it – was written by the same author entertaining you now. If you missed it, you can find the first in this short two-part series by visiting the Bucknellian’s website and looking for the article “Have you Hugged a Tree Today.” Please don’t mistake the motivations behind this article, thinking that the good people over at the Bucknellian had nothing better to write about than a sequel to an already published article. But upon writing the first, we agreed on the necessity of a second. If your memory serves you right, and you did happen to come across last week’s edition, you will remember that apart from the article’s suggestions on sustainable changes to individuals’ lifestyles, it also served as a platform for various students to comment on what changes they have made to be more sustainable on campus. The idea was for students to share and exchange sustainable changes that would culminate to a much larger change on campus, causing an effect that, like a small stone in a calm pond, would ripple and reach well beyond the members of the University.
I am happy to say that I was not disappointed in the results of last week’s efforts. When I last checked, the article has been graced with the comments of a handful of students who had their own ideas or stories of sustainability. Now, admittedly – and in the interest of reporting honestly – three of these commenters did so on my behalf, after a few not-so-subtle remarks about my article and the stated hope that it would get responses. As you can see, I am far from anything resembling the term “subtle.”
Allow me to be clear on one point – then I will proceed to fill your head with all kinds of fantastic money- or space-saving sustainable changes. I, as well as most likely you, am just a student working through a competitive school while pushing myself harder with each passing year. We’re all doing our best to juggle academics with the busy social and academic lives of young twenty-somethings. I am willing to bet that we are both more concerned with our imminent finals than we are about reducing waste or the current climate change or pollution situation. That is fine – we are all making an effort to manage what we can in the present. As David Berry ’24 explains, many students are simply not that concerned about the planet. “I think part of it is the culture of just that you’re in a rush to do something so you just kind of throw trash away [instead of recycling] and it’s the easier option,” Berry said. In truth, he’s not wrong. So please read this article with a grain of salt, while understanding that its goal is to give a foundation for easy, convenient and beneficial sustainable changes rather than to judge or shame anyone.
That being said, the reader might be surprised to find that sustainable change could be right under your nose without you knowing it. The way Mackenzie Zerbe ’25 put it, in the case of sustainability on campus – a time when our main promise is to our academics – what matters most is accessibility. “[Sustainability, particularly on campus] is pretty important, but probably more in the category of important as long as [its] not a lot of extra steps,” Zerbe said. “Basically as long as it’s not a big hindrance I would choose sustainability more if I was aware of what could be sustainable.”
And thus is the crux of this article – how to make sustainability easy and cheap enough for college students. So here are the top comments left by students wanting to share their tips: firstly, by biking or walking to classes. Have you noticed a slew of nearly identical bicycles being used by students either parked outside of the Bertrand Library or downhill by the ELC?
These are bikes you can rent from the Outdoor Education and Leadership (OEL) organization on campus. By utilizing this resource, students can avoid driving to classes and creating more carbon emissions per trip, all while saving money on the ever-growing prices of gas. Biking, in addition to walking and getting in a little cardio before each class, was a popular response by our readers. These next two tips were offered by the same commenter – she suggested buying foods in bulk, which saves on packaging, and making weekly visits to the University food pantry located on the second floor of the Elaine Langone Center. The food pantry is free to students and restocked frequently. For those of you looking for some fruit or protein bars to fill in the gaps of your own pantry, this is a free and highly-sustainable resource.
Next was a suggestion to scrap the paper towels, instead utilizing reusable cloth towels. Oftentimes people make these towels out of old and torn t-shirts or other pieces of clothing which would otherwise be thrown out. It can spare you a trip to Walmart every time you run out of single-use paper towels.
Lastly, and this one might be difficult for those of you who let “aesthetic” reign supreme, don’t toss this year’s notebooks at the start of the fall term. Instead, use up every page to get the most out of what you paid for. Each Five-Star Notebook costs roughly five and a half dollars; at four classes a semester and two semesters per year, that’s at least an additional forty dollars you wouldn’t otherwise need to spend. Even better – avoid using paper notebooks altogether and join the rest of us in 2022 by taking digital notes.
But students aren’t the only ones making change and celebrating in the Earth Day spirit. The campus hosted a number of talks, lunches and events to promote a conversation about sustainability amongst members. Among the many events was a documentary on minimalist living, a climate commitment workshop with Professor Smyer, an Earth Day festival hosted at the student farm, and the university’s ninth annual Sustainability Symposium. Other smaller and more day to day changes include swapping bathroom paper towels with blow dryers, switching to wooden utensils in the Bison, and implementing a to-go container system at the cafe to reduce waste.
With continual improvements the University, its students and campus have steadily made a ripple in this otherwise calm pond. Thank you to all who have commented or plan to, and with a deep sentiment I hope that this article will do a fine job of representing the ideas of the student body in their endeavors to care for our shared home – not just our campus, but our planet, too.