Winter break is always a joyous time for college students with the stress of schoolwork alleviated, promises of fun times with family and friends and the ability to sleep in past 8 a.m. While many students make the most of this time by staying at home surrounded by loved ones, others are fortunate enough to spend this time traveling.
This year during the hiatus for winter holidays, I took a few days to escape to the mountains of Hunter, New York to go skiing and snow tubing. The road from Mercer County to the mountains is one less traveled — a scenic, narrow, winding road up the mountain, after the blaring noises and glaring lights of the highways fade into the distance.
The road less traveled is certainly a beautiful one, however, there is an unsightlier characteristic of this road that cannot be ignored: litter. There is no denying that the trash suffocating the landscape is entirely in the hands of humans to deal with, as it was created by our hands alone. Litter is a serious issue that contributes largely to the degradation of the environment, a trend that cannot be disproven or ignored any longer.
Responsibly disposing of trash in receptacles so as to reduce environmental pollutants and wildlife contaminants is crucial for the sake of the individual’s carbon footprint, as well as in contributing to the “big picture” of a mindful and sustainable lifestyle. In combatting this issue, it is vital to be conscious of the facts and how humans are ultimately responsible. For example, the Keep America Beautiful campaign conducted a study of 240 roadways across the country and found that there are approximately 6,729 pieces of litter per mile on each side of the roadway. Moreover, litter spreads germs, effects water quality and is costly to clean up.
Regarding trash on the side of the road, sophomore environmental science major Rahul Mehta says in his hometown of Livingston, as well as here in Lawrenceville, “Roadside litter is unsightly, unclean and needs to be addressed. This is a problem that begins with the individual to change.”
Still, there is hope. Graduate student Lexi Reynolds said she’s been to Hunter for the Mountain Jam festival, that they have in the summer. The festival partners with a non-profit to promote recycling and refillable water bottles to reduce waste. Increasingly, festivals are calling attention to recycling and waste reduction efforts, so that litter is not a by-product of attending these events and hopefully, proper waste habits can be learned by the attendees.
This is a call to action, Rider students: Sort your trash and recyclables and dispose of them properly. Be mindful of ways you can reduce your waste altogether, like utilizing reusable cups, mugs and bags. Next time you take a drive, look around the sides of the roads and you’ll be astounded by the severity of the litter issue. It is right under our noses and right in our hands to do something about. Be it the highway or the road less traveled, it’s time to consider the bigger picture and where you fit into it. Be the change you wish to see and make this semester the best and greenest one yet.
Melissa E. Willhouse