With Earth Week having come and gone, we have been reflecting on the remarkable efforts Lawrence has put forth to promote sustainability. In recent years, Lawrence has proven itself to be an environmentally conscious university, and its students and faculty are continually making efforts to increase sustainability and decrease their environmental impact.
One of the Lawrence Earth Week events, for instance, was the State of the World Panel. Freshman Brynn Schroeder, and possible environmental science major, attended this panel. One of the most important points she took away from a representative of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters was that, “Getting involved in your government is one of the best ways to help make an impact. Most of the time the only people who go to meetings are those against new [conservation] laws, so it is important to show up when something environmentally friendly is being discussed so that you can stand up for it.” Schroeder believes that the initiatives taken by Lawrence have made her much more conscious about her choices on and off campus.
An excellent force for sustainability on campus is the Student Sustainability Steering Committee, also known as Green Roots. The committee, which includes students, faculty and staff, selects one sustainability issue a year for focus. This year, Green Roots is focusing on solid waste. It has already installed hand dryers in the restrooms of Warch and LEDs in the foyer of the Music-Drama Center, both being funded by the LUCC Sustainability Fund. Kelsey McCormick, co-chair of Green Roots, said that this year the committee has noticed “the inconsistency in trash and recycling receptacles across campus.The size and color of the bins are different in almost every building. This can make it very confusing and difficult to know which bin [is which].” To find a solution, Green Roots installed clearly marked trash and recycling bins in Youngchild Hall, and did the same for every residence hall room in Trever Hall. McCormick said, “We found that these bins did indeed help prevent the amount of contamination. We are looking into expanding these projects to the rest of campus.” So thanks to Green Roots, we can now presumably expect the inclusion of recycling bins in the rooms of more dorms across campus. Green Roots has proven itself to be a force of noticeable change at Lawrence in promoting sustainability.
Lawrence also offers a Student Sustainability Fund for students looking to make an even bigger impact on environmental sustainability on campus. The fund supports sustainability-focused projects led by students that are connected to classes, research and co-curricular activities. Students can apply for the opportunity to earn competitive grants of up to $2,500 for research, internships, volunteer and service projects and student group initiatives. The project promotes learning and building real-world skills while encouraging change and sustainability. Winter Term 2018 was the first term that the fund was available to students. Projects that have already been launched include the hand dryers in Warch and LED’s in the Music-Drama building as mentioned above. According to McCormick, other projects that have been submitted include a student service trip to Badlands National Park, funding work in the SLUG over the summer and exploring composting and managing waste at sporting events on campus. Anyone looking for a larger way to help the environmental impact on campus is encouraged to submit project ideas on the Lawrence webpage under the heading “Sustainable Lawrence.”
While conscientious choices regarding waste, energy consumption and recycling are all heavily supported by Lawrence, it’s important that we as students recognise our impact as individuals as well, particularly when we’re off-campus. At Lawrence, we are provided with an ethical catering service in Bon Appetit, the SLUG garden, multiple points of access for recycling and the ability to monitor our energy consumption on campus. Off-campus, students may not necessarily have these inherent provisions, and more conscious choices will have to be taken on an individual basis. Especially in regards to conservation legislature, it’s crucial that we as Lawrentians can take our ethical environmental practices outside of the Lawrence bubble.
Individuals can make a positive impact on campus as well. Turning off lights and electronic devices when not being used as well as unplugging chargers and devices from outlets when you’re done can help lower energy use. Learning what can and cannot be recycled in the Appleton area can decrease waste on campus.
Lawrence’s Earth Week showcased some of the most effective ways to make a difference in sustainability, both on and off campus, but its most important point was that year-round engagement with and awareness of sustainability issues is necessary. Lawrence’s students and faculty have taken impressive strides recently through groups like Green Roots and SLUG as well as enterprising students utilizing the LUCC sustainability fund; hopefully we will continue to make improvements in our sustainability practices long into the future.