Growing up, many of us spent our early mornings sitting in front of the television waiting for our parents to schlep us to the school bus. One of the cartoons most of us will remember watching is Captain Planet. After all, he was the superhero who would take pollution down to zero and save the world. But as we get older, we lose the naiveté and innocence of childhood that often shields us from a sometimes cold and hard reality. Making Rider more sustainable and taking care of the environment surrounding us is a monumental issue that we must all confront. Unfortunately, there won’t be a hero swooping in to save the day.
One of the highest barriers preventing Rider from becoming more environmentally friendly is the mentality that grips the minds of most students. How much is it to ask that on the way out we shut off the light and television in our rooms? How about shutting off the computer at the end of the night? If you said, “IDK, my bff Jill might send me an instant message,” tell her to call you instead and save a little bit of energy. Better yet, unplug the cellphone charger if you aren’t using it. There are lots of little things each of us can do to make a difference.
What’s holding Rider back? Sometimes, they say, we are our own worst enemy. “I pay more than $35,000 to come to Rider,” some students will complain, thinking that entitles them to leave the light on and live as they see fit even if it’s environmentally destructive. On top of that, Rider hasn’t made it so easy for students to help in the sustainability effort. The trash rooms in the residence halls do in fact have yellow recycling bins, but we well know what usually ends up happening — the bin becomes another trash can for students to throw out garbage, and the collectors most of the time mix everything together anyway.
At last though, Rider does seem to be taking some credible steps in the right direction. Pledging to reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide and using recycled paper are just some of the conscious efforts that are under way. Rider’s cleaning service, UNICCO, is now using environmentally friendly cleaning products and 100-percent-recycled paper towels. The administration has even initiated discussion on building a certified-green residence hall in the future. Students interested in the environment and sustainability can take an honors class offered on the subject or join peers rallying for the cause in the Sustainability Club. Of course, no one has to take the class and receive an A or pledge support to an organization to know that more must be done.
As it is, Rider is late in the game. Since 1990, Cornell University has decreased the amount of waste it sends to the landfill by 40 percent. It creates 4,100 tons of compost, and recycles 2,300 tons. University of California, Davis acts preemptively to recycle before the trash builds up by collecting the cardboard and Styrofoam disposed of during student move-in. Rider is also outdone by universities that dedicate a portion of their Web sites to informing students about their ongoing sustainability efforts.
Still, actions speak louder than words. Students, faculty and staff should have some trouble sleeping at night over the dire straits of our environment. The fact that it has stayed this warm so late into October and that there is evidence that polar ice caps are melting are signs that global warming is in fact occurring. To students, this is a direct challenge. Will we rise up to the demand facing our generation as the leaders of tomorrow and fight for a sustainable Rider? Or will we stand by idly with a pompous smirk and a shrug of the shoulders?
It is time we all take a stand. There should be a proper recycling system in each residence hall and academic building. Making sure lights and computers in academic buildings are off when not needed would be another easy method of conservation. Let’s follow what some other universities have started doing and widen the paper’s margins. Just think of the number of trees that will be spared from the chopping block.
In the end, if we all truly “bleed cranberry” then let’s show it where it matters the most — our community.
Written By Opinion Editor, Jamie Papapetros