Campus Voices: Creating an Environmentalist School Culture


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closeup of a glass reusable water bottle on the seashore of a lonely beach

Lauren Garcia-Stille, Campus Voices Contributor

Although I have been a virtual student since March 2020, I am aware of the massive waste that we, as a school, are producing due to the more hygienic grab-and-go system that has had to be put in place due to the pandemic. My ideas written below are recommendations for our school community post-pandemic.

First of all, I propose that the students place pressure on the school Administration to immediately revert to washable plates and utensils following the pandemic. If that proves to be unsuccessful, we can all take individual action. 

Throughout my freshman and sophomore years, I brought my own reusable utensils for lunch every day.  For those who are interested in contributing positively to the environment, but do not know where to start, I would recommend starting here. I bought a set of reusable bamboo utensils online and stuck them in my backpack. Who can’t do that?

For my junior year, I realized that what I had done the past two years was not enough for me, and there was still more to be done. So, I started bringing a bento box every day which I used to get food from the cafeteria. This way, I was having completely waste-free lunches. Although it probably seemed weird to a lot of people, I disregarded them and the looks they gave me because the climate crisis is one of my top priorities. I want to note here that I almost didn’t bring my own reusable utensils or lunch box because I did not want to do anything out of the status quo. If I felt this way, there’s a chance other people want to do this too, but are too scared to do it because it’s not part of our culture. Here lies both the issue we need to tackle and the solution to this issue: our culture. 

We need to create a culture on campus that cares about the environment. I propose a school-wide and social media campaign to change our culture and make it more normal (even cool) to take action on climate change. We could have incentives for people to bring their own reusable utensils or water bottles. At MIT, students were given a reusable water bottle and had to pledge to use it at least 10 times. Besides the benefit of doing something good for the Earth, other incentives could include making it into a competition (with prizes?) to see who can bring their own water bottle, utensils, and/or lunchbox the longest. I also want to note here that it’s not about perfection. It’s about making small changes to save the planet, which will all add up over time. 

And for those doubting how their individual actions can make a difference, consider this quote by American cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”