Waynesburg University has admittedly never been on the cutting-edge of eco-friendliness. This isn’t meant as an attack on the school, but rather an unbiased view of the clear lackadaisical attitude from the university towards their environmental impact.
Even in 2019, dorm recycling is unreliable, with bins appearing and disappearing from halls. There are very limited recycling options located throughout campus, with occasional bins to dispose of paper. To my knowledge, there are no receptacles to recycle plastics other than the recycling shed located within the Denny Hall parking lot. While I am grateful the university offers at least one location for students to recycle their plastics, the shed is undoubtedly not conveniently located for the majority of campus.
The environmental problems presented by the campus, unfortunately, don’t end there.
The Beehive, which receives very high traffic throughout the day as students eat their grab-and-go style food, utilizes plastic utensils, cup lids and straws. Students have no choice but to dispose of their plastic waste within the trash bins, which are then collected and sent to a landfill.
For reference, it takes approximately 200 years for a plastic straw to decompose, and, even after it has largely broken down, the straw turns into microplastics which are easily accidentally ingested and toxic to all living creatures.
The only way a student would be able to properly recycle their plastic utensils, cup lids and used straws gathered from the Beehive would be to walk across campus to the recycling shed.
A disturbing video has been circulating online since early summer of 2018 depicting scientists removing a plastic straw lodged within a sea turtle’s nose. The clip, though gruesome and difficult to watch, sparked outrage from viewers as they were given a clear example of how their daily waste impacts the well-being of animals.
As younger generations become increasingly environmentally-conscious as a result of the widespread information on global warming and the harms of plastic usage, colleges have begun to make changes.
Many universities have established sustainability projects to decrease their environmental impact. Some schools, such as Penn State University and the University of Pittsburgh, have made large strides and proudly boast of their environmentalism.
Some private universities have opted to take smaller steps towards lowering their impact on the planet. For example, Washington & Jefferson College, the university’s neighbor, has adopted paper straws as an alternative to plastic.
Though these schools may be using these changes as marketing gimmicks to attract students, they are at least benefiting the environment as a result.
Environmental progress at the university has been fumbled due to a wide variety of reasons, including a lack of clear leadership.
Most places of higher education have an appointed staff member dedicated to sustainability or green initiatives, and Waynesburg University lacks this role. As a result, the responsibility of environmental change is fractured among Student Senate, maintenance, the eco stewards club and any faculty or staff members interested in the subject. With no leadership, sustainability changes will never be spearheaded and progress will continue to be sluggish.
One of the most significant reasons for the lack of environmentalism at the university is low student interest.
There simply are not enough students being loud and bold enough to demand change from the university. All schools, particularly private universities, are stubborn and somewhat old-fashioned in their ways.
Waynesburg University has clearly demonstrated to students that if left unchecked they will make no strides towards environmentalism and they have no real regard for the long-term impacts of the current practices of the university.
It’s up to us to demand change.