One of the reasons I decided to come to Lawrence was it gives off an excellent impression of being a sustainable campus. From the big LEED certification plaque in the entryway to Warch, to the long list of student environmental organizations, to the green clamshells. But now here in my second year, I have a lot of questions about what Lawrence is actually doing to preserve the environment and reverse the effects of climate change.
Let’s be honest, there are some things Lawrence is doing really well. Most students really care about reducing their footprint and the amount of waste that they produce. Many use reusable clamshells when they eat, many make the conscious decision to bring a reusable bag to the corner store, and thanks to the LU Environmental Organization and SLUG, some are starting to compost some of their waste. Students have been asked again and again by Lawrence to make their own actions more sustainable, and students have gone out of their way to do so in many cases.
The problem comes when we get to sustainable action at an institutional level. Lawrence is one of the only, if not the only, four-year university in Wisconsin not to commit to decarbonizing by a certain date. Many schools in the area such as UW-Green Bay and St. Norbert’s have set goals and are now working towards meeting them; in fact, UW-Stevens Point is already carbon neutral! All of this and Lawrence has yet to make this key commitment to the fight against climate change. When it comes to reducing our footprint, the school is hesitant to take more costly measures that will have a bigger impact on our emissions but, instead, ask students to produce less waste and leave their lights on less.
Lawrence students care. That’s why I am writing this— after being a Lawrence student for just over a year and living on this campus for a little less than a year, I know many students are frustrated and upset that our school outwardly markets themselves as sustainable, but, in practice, we have a mixed bag at best. It’s time to move beyond the low hanging fruit and make our campus an example of what a green, healthy campus can look like.
Institutional challenges need institutional solutions. Students cannot keep taking on the primary burden of reducing waste and carbon emissions on the Lawrence campus; it is something that the school needs to invest in to protect the futures of
Lawrentians who are scared that they won’t have a future because of our warming climate, rising oceans and catastrophic weather events