Students overlook need for ‘greener’ campus

September 8, 2008 — by Lyka Sethi

A student rushes to class after lunch and looks up at the sky to see a flock of seagulls circling the quad, waiting for a chance to fly down and devour the leftovers that are strewn across the concrete. Lowering his glance to ground level, the student slows his pace and looks around at the multiple lunch tables. There are recycling bins and trash cans beside every few tables, yet none of them are teeming with garbage. Instead, the garbage lies on the ground and on the tables, creating a tedious job for the custodians.

This daily occurrence is not inevitable or acceptable; the custodians, who already do enough service for the school, should not have to sort out garbage from the trash cans and the surrounding areas into recycling bins due to the carelessness of a student. Saratoga High should be kept in pristine condition to make for a healthier environment not just on campus, but also in the entire community.

“Although the custodians do some separating [of trash from recyclable items], it’s not possible for them to sort through every bin,” said Maintenance Head Brian Moran. “If students placed their garbage in the right cans to begin with, more items would be recycled.”

According to Moran, every two to three weeks the school sends approximately 20 cubic yards of compressed garbage to the dumpster. On a weekly basis, the grey recycling bins are emptied, amounting to only about 50 gallons of recyclable waste.

It is by no means believable that students cannot differentiate between the paper recycling bin and the one for bottles and cans. Any problems on this front result from laziness, not ineptitude. There are about 30 mixed paper and beverage container bins on campus, and they are not at all inconspicuous. Students should be encouraged to use not only recyclable items, but also to reuse items ranging from lunch bags to hard plastic bottles. Also, each classroom should have a strict recycling policy, and every student should follow it.

Last year, the Environmental Management System (EMS) attempted to engage students in several eco-friendly activities, including Bike to School Day and a school-wide recycling competition. Few of the club’s efforts received sufficient attention from the student body. The fact that only a small fraction of the students took EMS’ message seriously does not bode well for the future of the environment.

The administration should give awards and punishments for “green” behavior to provide incentive for students to be more eco-friendly. If a student is caught recycling or picking up trash after lunch, he or she should be rewarded, whether it is by a Jamba Juice card or small cash prize. Also, an after-lunch clean up group should be established to ease the unnecessary work that’s placed on the custodians.

Although there is not much that a single student can do to repair the state of the environment, there is still a small duty each person owes to the world around him. Recycling on campus, encouraging teachers and administration to use energy effectively and joining EMS are a few of many ways one can take part in the global movement to better the environment. Whether students start on campus or at home, every act of eco-friendliness is worthwhile. So get started–reduce, reuse and recycle!

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