Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fashionably Green

One of the things I've noticed upon my return to campus is how trendy being 'green' is. Several of the schools on campus have gone with electronic syllabi. There are recycling bins around every corner. Everyone carries either laptops or notebooks made with recycled paper. Graphic tee's abound exhorting every imaginable green slogan. It's all very noble, and quite trendy.


Every morning as I walk in from remote parking (I need the exercise) I cut through several parking lots and weave my way through idling cars--people get here early and then sit with their cars running. Did you know the an idling car produces about the same emissions as a car that is driving? (Older cars actually produce more emissions idling than driving.) Did you that an idling car can actually consume more gas than one that is driving? The weather is not hot or cold right now, and if it were, the climate controlled campus buildings are only a short walk away...

Every day, everywhere on campus disposable plastic water bottles are the trend. I get that people want a cleaner source of drinking water--I'm the same. But did you know that it takes 700 years before a plastic water bottle starts decomposing in a landfill? Did you know that 8 out of 10 plastic water bottles will end up in a landfill? Did you know it takes about 1,500,000 barrels of oil to produce enough water bottles for a year at our current rate of consumption? For reference, that's enough oil to fuel 100,000 cars for a year. How about filtering water at home and bringing it in a reusable container? The same can be said with food items--so many people buy their lunch here--all packaged in disposable containers.

The litter on campus is atrocious. It's everywhere. And much of it is university sponsored material, like the daily newspaper, flyers, and posters that hang around to be blown away.

I think there is a prevailing attitude that as long as something is recycled it's fine to continue consuming it unchecked. But recycling takes energy, and we have precious little of that these days. Recycling isn't lateral either, usually the material undergoes downcycling--meaning the products of recycling can't be used to make the same product over again, it must be used to make something lower in quality or purity.

As important as recycling is, it is not the cure all. The true way to impact our consumption is to consume less in the first place. We Americans have long clung to our consumer lifestyle. Now we're starting to feel the effects, neatly disguised as higher energy costs, food costs, and a less profitable economy. And while many will complain about the current state of our nation, few will start looking for ways to truly make our lives more efficient.

How long did we think we could continue on before we had to start paying back the piper?

I only hope that my fellow students here at UTA will take the initiative to educate themselves, rather than just following popular trends. Unfortunately, past history teaches this won't be the case.


  1. Write the cafeteria (as if nursing students had much extra time to be environmental advocates) and tell them to charge extra for disposable take-out containers. Suggest giving a small discount to students who bring their own reusable containers. That's what was new this year on my campus. I think it has been effective in decreasing our waste. But it is a very, very small school so change was not so difficult.

    It's so unfortunately true that Americans generally don't know how to decrease their consumption. Thanks for using your mind about "going green," and then writing about it. It's the only way things will get better.

  2. We cannot single-handly kill the planet. We trash it. I believe it's arrogant to think we can destroy the planet.

    What annoys me is the manufactures who went from glass to plastic, who put $10 cd players in that stuff you could cut a finger off with. Glass will eventually break down and is easier to recycle, plastic just sits there forever.

    I don't know if you're old enough to remember refills. You used your milk or soda or whatever, brought back the empties and got a new case or bottle of whatever beverage or the milkman came with new and took old bottles.

    The problem starts with the manufacturers.

    I've gone ahead and added this to my feed reader. Thanks for the heads up.