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A solar-paneled step toward sustainability

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March 28, 2016

8:29 PM

College students have a reputation for being both vocal and impassioned about social issues, yet one of the most common criticisms leveled against my demographic is that we complain without acting. We care only enough to debate, not to work toward solutions. Given the opportunity, however, I like to believe that my peers and I would jump to action and take a chance at making a dent in social issues relevant to campus. This is why the solar-powered charging station at the Terrace is so much more than a fancy gadget designed to impress passing tour groups. It is proof that the Tribe is unique in its awareness of social issues and in its desire for opportunities to act on them.

The table started as a seed of an idea, presented to the College of William and Mary’s Committee on Sustainability. It was approved for its feasibility, ability to reduce the College’s carbon footprint and energy usage, creativity, ingenuity, and educational potential. The committee seeks projects that have long-term value not just from a financial standpoint but from an intellectual one as well; with the visual reminder of our efforts to be sustainable and environmentally conscious, students may gain increased interest in similar projects and support later efforts to make William and Mary .

The solar-powered charging station is a symbol of campus commitment to dialogue, thought provocation, problem solving and action.

Environmental awareness and sustainability are some of the most talked-about and most misunderstood topics in today’s world. Americans are especially divided on whether climate change is actually occurring (surprise: it is, and we can fix it). Thankfully, a recent poll at the University of Texas at Austin shows that as many as 76 percent of Americans do believe that global climate change is occurring. This is a substantial jump from recent numbers, and climate change doubters are vanishing at a rate almost as steady as that of the polar ice caps. Whatever views someone holds on the issue, however, it is fairly easy to agree that the solar-powered charging station on the Sadler Terrace is an example of campus commitment to making a dent in major issues, and it is proof that college students actually have the capacity to act. The solar-powered charging station is a symbol of campus commitment to dialogue, thought provocation, problem solving and action.

Because it got people talking, the table is an enormous step forward for the College. The day it went up, I heard comments across a broad spectrum praising the table’s ingenuity and the presence of sustainability efforts. Criticisms focused on the fact that it won’t produce a great deal of power and that it was expensive to construct and install. While these students won’t agree on a common viewpoint, they do agree on the table’s value as a conversation starter and as a source of stimulation for student’s minds. It brings the outside world inside our Williamsburg bubble, and it plainly reminds us that there are things to talk and think about other than classes and the standard stressors of college life.

The solar-powered charging station represents a group of students who pursued an idea and stayed committed to the end.

One of my favorite quotes to remember when I am consumed by being a student is from Chris Maxey, a former Navy SEAL, teacher at The Lawrenceville School, and founder of The Island School in Eleuthera, Bahamas. He reminds his students and peers, “Don’t let school get in the way of your education.” Do I believe in recycling, composting, the power of a Prius and solar panels? You bet. But I believe even more in the power of people, especially people who haven’t been burned by the real world or developed the cynical shell that so many adults have developed.

We are in a unique position as college students. Seek out those experiences to make change and do some real experiential learning. The solar-powered charging station represents a group of students who pursued an idea and stayed committed to the end. Their efforts paid off, and so will yours. If you think something needs some changing, dive into it. I guarantee that you will make an impact.

Email Madison Ochs at [email protected]

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  • Madison Ochs