Personal awareness can help college sustainability effort

Illustration by Cayden Bullock

By Can Altunkaynak

The word “sustainability” is used a lot to describe facilities at Lewis & Clark, but it is not always clear what makes something “sustainable” or “unsustainable.” The answer is not very straightforward, as there are different ways of evaluating sustainability.

The Sustainability Council is a group of students, faculty and staff from the that promotes sustainability through education and initiatives on three of these campuses.

In addition to working on curriculum and other on-campus activities, the Sustainability Council tries to implement innovations around campus. “See, for example, the push towards a campus-wide ban on single-use plastic bottles,” Professor and Sustainability Council member Katharina Altpeter-Jones said via email. “Initiatives include reducing the use of plastic on campus both in vending machines and the dining facilities.” The initiative seems to be working, as over summer, the products in plastic bottles were exchanged for metal and glass ones in dining facilities and vending machines.

The Sustainability Director, Amy Dvorak, said that LC is working to reduce the use of plastic for two main reasons.

The first reason is that plastic causes pollution, especially in marine environments. The second reason is more political: the trash and recycling materials produced in the Pacific Northwest used to be sent to China, but in the recent years Chinese government has put restrictions on what they were willing to take.

Dvorak added that there will be a greater focus on recycling around campus due to changes in the international market. The focus is not only on projects but also is on teaching students how to recycle.

”We are really working on improving recycling across campus and mostly trying to get people to recycle correctly, not necessarily more,” Dvorak said.

Despite the initiatives, some members of the LC community still think that there is still a lack of awareness on campus about sustainability.

“I find it surprising that we don’t engage in campus-wide conversation about sustainability on a regular, sustained basis,” Altpeter-Jones said via email. She is not the only one who thinks that way. Students also emphasize the need for personal awareness about sustainability at LC.

Lana Gevorgyan ’20 is a member of the Sustainability Council.

“My high school was really strict about sustainability,” Gevorgyan said. “Here I feel like it is not controlled that much.” This lack of control could be due to the higher student population at colleges. Still, Sustainability Council addresses the lack of education, and some students have ideas.

Tobias Varntoft ’21, an ENVS major, said that LC is doing well on a greater scale, but added that there was a need for sustainability on an individual scale.  This could have been encouraged during NSO and certainly can be encouraged for the upcoming generations.

“One thing that is lacking here is getting educated about it,” Varntoft said. “If you do not follow the sustainability newspaper, you do not get informed about how the school is dealing with it. It is should be mandatory to know how your school is dealing with such an urgent issue like sustainability.”

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