Trinity College: A Campus Culture of Eco-Indifference

By Isabelle Moore
Contributing Writer
From the day I arrived at Trinity, the lack of engagement and general attitude of apathy towards issues of sustainability came as a real shock to me. Having come from the strict anti-waste culture in Portland, Oregon, I was floored by the extravagant plastic consumption on this campus along with people’s apparent disinclination to recycle. I became acutely aware of Trinity’s waste dilemma at the end of my first year when I came across a packet of unopened, white printer paper sitting beside the trashcan in the hallway of North. (To clarify, this happened during finals as students were moving out, and the only reason the packet was not inside the trash was because the bin was already brimming with other dorm room castoffs.) While that incident of thoughtless waste is so absurd it is borderline comical, it is not far off from the careless attitude towards disposal that I observe here on a daily basis.
If you cannot already tell, I am that person who reaches into a trash bin to retrieve a misplaced recyclable. As the “resident recycling expert” among my friends, on a daily basis I am subjected to the question: “Is this recyclable?” (Answer: YES paper, aluminium, plastic, and glass all go in the same bin and NO pizza boxes cannot be recycled because of the grease.) A floor-mate of mine once complained to me how there is no recycling bin in our dorm, to which I replied: “Actually there is one and it’s just around the corner!” My attitude is that it is each student’s job to know where the recycling bin is, just as it is this school’s job to make sustainable waste disposal easy for its students.
I feel that I am qualified to speak on this topic as a result of my own experience doing sustainability work at Trinity as a student organization leader and employee of the Community Service Office. I can attest that presently, the bulk of this responsibility falls on the shoulders of a small handful of passionately eco-conscious students, faculty, and staff. The fact of the matter is that this arrangement is neither fair to those individuals, nor is it an effective way to further the college’s sustainability agenda. For the most part, the overwhelming impression I get from the staff and faculty who stand at the forefront of these issues at Trinity is a sense of frustration and exhaustion after years of inaction on the part of the administration.
But it is not just the faculty and staff that find themselves worn out, case in point: the Green Campus composting project. Honestly, I adore composting and admire these students for their dedication to the sustainable disposal of food waste. However, half dozen students responsible for driving a community service van full of fruit scraps to a nearby farm twice a week to be composted is laughably small scale. I say this, particularly in the face of the massive trash bags of wasted food that are hauled out of Mather after each meal.
It is time for the administration to not only take an actual stand against waste, but also back it up with action. I believe the first step is to hire a Sustainability Coordinator. We have had one in the past, but not for at least three years. I see three main responsibilities of this position. The first is the archiving and dissemination of information related to sustainability and resource consumption on campus. This would include maintaining the Sustainability page on the college website, which is currently inactive and out of date. Secondly, this person would act as a liaison between student activist groups and the administration. Finally, he or she would be responsibly for organizing sustainability related programs. I, personally, would love for this to include training in “single stream” recycling at New Student Orientation to go along with the sexual assault awareness presentations and library tours.
I fully recognize that creating this position would cost the school money. However, I urge the administration and trustees to recognize sustainability as an admissions concern. Simply put, aren’t active, compassionate, and aware students who want to attend a sustainable college the kinds of students we want to attract?

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