OPINION | Students have responsibility to protect environment

Gabi Liebeler, Staff Writer

Gabe Darley | Senior Staff Artist

For young adults juggling all things college school, social life, physical and mental well-being and a pandemic environmental sustainability is likely far from the forefront of the average student’s mind. While one individual’s ecological footprint may seem negligible compared to that of the county, state or country, small changes in Tulane’s community that encourage environmentally sustainable actions can produce larger effects that cut down on the university’s total waste. 

Toward the beginning of this year, President Mike Fitts and other Tulane leadership engaged in a Sustainability and Climate Action Town Hall and spoke about the community’s sustainable initiatives in progress. These included reduced greenhouse gases, increased reliance on solar energy, lower energy living, water-saving storm management and electric transportation.  

These goals are effective, yet the average on-campus Tulane student, will likely find it especially difficult to do even the most basic things to reduce their own personal waste. 

Most on-campus residence halls have a single communal dumpster, one that is often inaccessible or far for students to dump collected recyclables relatively often. An easy fix to this problem would be to place clearly divided and labeled recycling bins in individual halls of buildings, so that students are reminded what is appropriate to recycle and are incentivized to do so by proximity.  

Even in the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life, recycling cans are simply labeled “bottles and cans,” leaving it ambiguous as to whether any other typically recyclable material, like most of the containers from the food court, can be placed there as well.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the amount of single-use plastic in distribution, but once the pandemic is over, dining locations on Tulane’s campus should accommodate and encourage reusable food and drink containers so long as they are sanitary.  

While Tulane itself can take easy steps to motivate community members to make environmentally sustainable decisions, individuals are equally responsible for their inclination to change community norms. 

Tulane students are often apathetic to the amount they waste. Whether it be mass evacuation for the pandemic or sheltering in place for a hurricane, students always find a way to throw out furniture and food. These are valuable items that can be given away or donated to people within the Tulane or greater New Orleans community.  

Students must take it upon themselves not to create unnecessary problems for trash and recycling collection services as well as cleaning staff; stacking uncollapsed boxes or trash that will not fit into dumpsters or trash chutes is not a virtue — it is littering.  

Wasteful actions like these by Tulane students show that they see their surroundings as temporary and their problems as the responsibility of others.  These actions send a message that it is easier to throw things away than to give possessions they no longer need to those who do.  

Not all of this work must be done by administrators or committees; student and community governments should seek to organize food drives, furniture exchanges, compost areas, food disposals and encourage other sustainability initiatives so that our own spaces are not only kept clean, but also respectful of ourselves, those who work in our buildings and the greater community.

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