The need to expand the College’s environmental efforts

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February 6, 2017

10:50 PM

While the College of William and Mary enjoys a reputation for academic achievement and community engagement, the College has a long way to go sustainability-wise. At the beginning of this semester, a group of students voluntarily gathered at the exit of Marketplace to help fellow students better understand recycling through garbage sorting. Whenever I pass by Marketplace, however, there are always students standing baffled by the recycling bins, with stunned looks on their faces as though someone had just declared themselves a flying, purple cow.

In speaking with my friends who are exchange students from Japan, the most frequent complaint I hear from them is that students at the College know nothing about waste recycling.

The College has one of the finest groups of students in this nation: they are smart, confident and passionate about what they are going to accomplish as the pioneers of our generation. Nevertheless, these brilliant future leaders could put more work into learning about the importance of sustainability. There is nothing wrong with being self-assured and believing we are doing great things environmentally, but it wouldn’t hurt for us to look beyond the boundaries of campus. In speaking with my friends who are exchange students from Japan, the most frequent complaint I hear from them is that students at the College know nothing about waste recycling. They often tell me how many varieties of recycling bins there are in Japan and how much they have gotten used to them.

Further, the College needs to imitate the initiative of students at Marketplace and install a variety of recycling bins throughout campus with student volunteers teaching their peers.

While students need to individually take initiative to learn about sustainability, the College should also bear responsibility and engage with its students. In recent years, the College has established a Committee on Sustainability and has launched a series of initiatives and policies tackling the lack of attention towards sustainability issues on campus. Though those policies exist, not enough has been done to engage students with the new policies.  For example, the dish return areas in the major dining halls are constructed in a way that allows students to throw away their waste without even looking twice. The College should let its students do the garbage sorting by themselves. Further, the College needs to imitate the initiative of students at Marketplace and install a variety of recycling bins throughout campus with student volunteers teaching their peers.

The central focus of college has always been anchored on teaching its students to be people that bear responsibilities as global citizens. Only when the College starts to promote its ideas on sustainability through full engagement with its students can this centuries-old university begin to refocus the way of higher education towards sustainability.

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  • Alfred Ouyang