University can be more green if it teaches students sustainability

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St. Edward’s University has taken steps to lower its carbon footprint and global impact.

Sustainability is more than overhead decisions to invest in LED lights, add additional recycling containers, implement compost containers and plant a garden with native drought resistant plants.

St. Edwards goes beyond these measures by challenging its students to think about sustainability. The university has its own sustainability web-page where viewers can learn how to conserve energy, read about St. Edwards’ steps toward sustainability and find information about educational events centered on sustainability.

Unfortunately, it’s the users where we fall short.

The sad truth is that the university can only control so much regarding the impact of its students. Showers will take at least 10 minutes, faucets will drip for days and food will be barely touched and thrown away. Recycle at a party and you might even be laughed at.

A defensive response from any of the accused might sound like this: “It’s not that bad! I’m only one person. How much damage could I do to the planet?” Think critically people. Confront the global issues of society. Learn the university mission statement.

I do not support only showering once a week. I believe in “Keep Austin Weird,’ but not “Keep Austin Funky.” Would making students pay for their own utilities curb usage? Theoretically it might, but it also may end up being an extra burden for parents who pay their student’s tuition. Should water usage be monitored for every shower on campus, or is that unnecessary? Should students be allowed to adjust their heating and cooling in their rooms? A lot of ideas are thrown around to try to make St. Ed’s a little greener, but which ones are realistic, effective and sustainable?

The solution to making St. Ed’s more sustainable is to help the students become more sustainable. Teach students about their individual and collective impact on the environment, which can be done through student programming or through the classroom. Incentivize sustainable living by offering discounts for reusable food containers or challenging residence halls and on-campus apartments to reduce their utilities.

While the university has already invested a great amount in sustainability, there are additional changes it should consider.

The greatest change it can make, as many students will agree, would be increasing the temperature in select buildings on campus.

In the warmer months, many students carry jackets and hoodies into the Munday Library, Ragsdale center and the science buildings.

Another large impact on both the campus and city would be encouraging students to carpool to campus. St. Edwards is a commuting campus; our faculty, staff and majority of the students drive to school.

Creating “car-pool” parking spots, ideally in the Fleck lot, and possible ride-share programs would not only help the environment, but also may encourage new friendships.

We attend St. Edwards University, so let’s put on our critical thinking hats, strive to make a difference, and lessen our impact on this planet.