by Juniatian Editorial Board
Juniata prides itself on being committed to a sustainable environment. Previous President, Tom Kepple, signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment in 2007 which is a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions towards becoming carbon neutral. Juniata’s plan for action included two LEED-certified buildings, Founders Hall and Shuster Hall at Raystown Field Station. We have technically initiated our goals however we are not carbon neutral as of yet – ask the Divest group about this – nor have we greatly reduced our waste production.
Student use 2,000 plastic to-go containers every week from Eagles Landing. That is conservatively equivalent to covering the entire football field with non-biodegradable, to-go containers every school year, 90 percent of which goes directly into the trash bins in Muddy. We could save 54,000 containers a year by using plates and bowls when eating in Muddy.
Sodexo could bring in biodegradable cups, silverware and to-go containers; this would greatly decrease plastic waste. Yet what would make even more of an impact would be making the conscious decision to use a plate. Seriously, just change two words when ordering, from to go to for here. First reduce, then reuse and if nothing else recycle.
We have recycling at Juniata, but what many people are not aware of is that if there are objects like bottle caps, trash or non-recyclables in the recycling bin, the entire bin will be thrown into the trash or landfill. Mind you, Juniata College only recycles plastics with the numbers 1 and 2, not 3 through 7. Many of our “good deeds” are not even rewarded when a few people don’t take care to follow directions.
After every weekend Juniata suspiciously has a lot more trash consisting of aluminum cans and glass bottles. What a perfect example of a time were we could drastically reduce our waste accumulation. A few “crazy” eco kids digging through the recycling and trash bins to fix peoples mistakes do not actually solve the problem. Juniata can do better.
According to President Troha, over the next two years Juniata College will be spending 15 million dollars to make renovations and additions to the college campus. This includes construction of a new Integrated Media & Arts Studio and Winton Hill Athletic Complex as well as renovations of the Beeghly Library. I see this as just another opportunity for Juniata to live up to their “environmental values” and construct LEED-certified buildings.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certified buildings are resource efficient, constructed from locally sourced materials and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The US Green Building Council devised this certification process to encourage the design of innovative, solution-seeking structures that do less harm to the environment and better our communities.
LEED certification is measured through our choices regarding construction activity, water efficiency, energy use, material and resource allocation and indoor environmental quality. Shuster Hall at Raystown Field Station and Founders Hall both are LEED certified. Some positive environmental features Juniata has incorporated between these buildings are composting toilets, solar heating, geothermal energy, water efficient landscaping, water use reduction and regional materials.
There are two negatives regard to this system; the first concern is higher initial costs for, however long term gains in reduced environmental impacts, gained environmental ethos and maintaining our sustainability image outweigh the costs. LEED-certification has gotten some negative feedback as the system does not actually measure performance after completion so there are no follow-up regulations. That is really a concern for people who want to cheat the system and not live up to their standards.
LEED buildings are not just a pleasant workspace, but a learning center within themselves. The College is a symbol for the community and what we do here impacts our future, so why not make it lasting. If nothing else, let us bring in a few solar panels or divest from fossil fuels. Susquehanna University, Juniata’s athletic rival, has solar panels, as do some Huntingdon community members, and even in Ireland (where it’s always cloudy) they have solar panels.
If we talk the talk, we have to walk the walk and uphold our environmental values. As with any issue we have to hold each other accountable to make a difference. Yet first we all must start by examining our own choices. One of my major positive contributions towards a healthier environment was my choice to become a vegetarian back in the 4th grade (aka 9 years old).
Gasp! I don’t eat meat, and I haven’t eaten meat for 12 years. I’ve heard all kinds of remarks, such as “you’re un-American”. I find this a compliment; I don’t want to reside with the general public on this matter. Five years ago the UN urged the globe to move to a meat and dairy-free diet to save the world from virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future. Just to name a few: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease.
The U.S. Department of Commerce reported 56 million acres of U.S. land are producing hay for livestock, while only 4 million acres are producing vegetables for human consumption. There isn’t a lack of food problem in America, we are feeding animals more than we are feeding people. Cornell University’s David Pimentel conservatively estimates it takes 8.5 times more fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of meat protein for human consumption than to produce 1 calorie of protein from grain.
There are hidden consequences in the choices we make including but not limited to what is on our plate, what our plate is made of and where we are eating. Ultimately, our individual choices influence how sustainably we interact with the environment. At a minimum this conversation needs catch fire to make any lasting effect. As famous anthropologist, Margaret Mead, once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Categories: Volume 97 Issue 7 Oped