UMSU recently spent a week, from March 18 to 22, promoting sustainable practices through a variety of diverse workshops and games. This week was a good opportunity to expose students to one of the biggest issues that society, and the world, is facing.
I believe, however, there is a fundamental flaw with how the university is tackling sustainability. Dedicating a week to promoting environmental sustainability simply is not the solution to such a big issue.
I am aware of some of the solutions the university has implemented to minimize our ecological footprint and impact on the environment. For example, in response to the plastic straw movement, restaurants at the Campo no longer give out straws unless requested. That seems like a good way to reduce the amount of plastic disposed of each day. However, considering that plastic cutlery is still offered and is probably used more often by students than plastic straws ever were means alternative types of cutlery need to be considered.
The majority of drink machines offered around campus dispense plastic bottles. Most people do not think twice about this. They have their drink and then place it into a recycling bin. This practice is taught to students at a young age. However, with China’s recent restrictions on foreign waste, many more of recyclables can end up in the landfill. The university should consider switching to alternatives like aluminum cans due to the greater market for recycled metals than recycled plastics.
The university has done an excellent job at giving the students the opportunity to recycle. Next to virtually every garbage can is a blue recycling bin. These bins are unfortunately often misused, with items that are not recyclable being thrown into them.
To increase the effectiveness of these bins, the university should better inform students on what can and cannot be recycled.
Lastly, walking around the university, there is an exorbitant number of posters pasted up on the wall, advertising and promoting various events and positions. Many of these posters go unnoticed by students. It would be virtually impossible, or, at the very least, quite challenging to fully eliminate the use of paper posters.
However, further encouraging the use of electronic promoting and advertising, would eliminate the amount of paper used daily.
I know there are various student groups around campus working extremely hard to introduce sustainable practices on campus and their efforts and activism should be recognized and applauded.
However, sustainability is an issue that needs to be addressed by each student and the university needs to continue evaluating current practices to better help the environment.