This past weekend several members of the Rider community attended a three-day conference in Denver, Colo. The conference, sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, featured dozens of seminars on implementing green initiatives on college campuses with keynote speakers ranging from a prestigious Tufts University professor to a Hollywood actor.
We heard about the experiences of other students and faculty members from across the country about the green initiatives running on their campuses. For instance, Bowling Green State University in Ohio has established green tailgating during each home football game, where student volunteers collect trash to recycle. Swarthmore College composts food waste and organic material from dining and residence halls.
It was, at times, easy to become discouraged upon hearing about all of the innovative projects occurring on other college campuses. I wondered why Rider is not following suit with similar initiatives. However, I found that this disheartenment usually occurred during presentations from large universities. It was easy to forget their vast resources to accomplish these projects.
In comparison to campuses of similar size to Rider, we actually have several novel programs established. We have efficient single-stream recycling; our food waste is turned into organic fertilizer. We also are committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
Despite this, there is still plenty for us as a community to do in coming years. I have come back from the conference more enthusiastic than ever to begin implementing more initiatives at Rider. But the most important lesson I took with me was that I cannot do this alone. There are countless ways to reduce our impact on the environment, but unless the entire Rider community is willing to undertake that endeavor together, there is only so much that can be done.
It would be impossible to carry out every possible method to go green on Rider’s campus, but the programs we do implement must generate enthusiasm throughout Rider. We must realize that each of our actions and choices has a direct impact on others. Hearing these words all the time can have a reverse effect and make us apathetic to the consequences of our actions.
Ultimately, we need to reject this indifference and embrace simple changes that can have a substantial impact. We should be proud that our university is taking action to combat climate change, but true change is limited by how willing each member of our community is to adjust our own behaviors and habits. It would take more than a trip to Denver to be inspired to help the environment, but hopefully as a community we can agree to look at all that Rider has accomplished so far and become empowered to strengthen that change through personal action.