By Hana Skoblow
On Monday morning, students on their way to class were greeted in the quad by giant mounds of garbage surrounding two small tents next to a sign declaring “Home Sweet Home.” The Face Your Waste campaign, organized by the OEC, had collected all of the trash produced by the residential side of campus and piled it together to make a statement: This is what you consumed in less than three days.
The U.S. is known for its consumerist lifestyle, and we are good at ignoring the impact our trash has on the environment. There are 3,091 active landfills in the country and over 10,000 old municipal landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. These landfills not only take up a great deal of land space with products that often are not biodegradable, but can also leak toxins into the ground water, harming citizens who depend on water sources near landfills.
Reducing consumption has financial benefits as well. Sierra Anseeuw’12, Co-president of the OEC with Jon Stone’12, said, “In the last year the school has produced over 400 cubic feet of just trash (not including recycling, yard waste, etc.) which is well over $22,000 in just collection fees, which doesn’t include the fuel surcharge or equipment rental. Just think of what we could be doing with the money we could save if we cut our waste at the college.”
Watching what products you buy is one of the easiest ways to make a difference in the environmental world. Instead of buying the latest trends at the mall, share clothes with friends, shop second-hand (Salvation Army, for example), or invest in well-made, timeless pieces that will last a long time before they go out of style or the fabric wears down. When grocery shopping, buy in bulk to cut down on packaging. “Every year, there are more and more individually packaged snacks, and it just seems so silly to me. Like, do you really need your baby carrots to come in single-serving packages, which are then all packaged together? Does it really save you that much time and effort? I just don’t get it,” Anseeuw says. Also, never underestimate the value of reusing old materials to create something new. “Rethink what you consider to be ‘disposable.’ On this campus, a lot of what we throw away is actually recyclable, compostable, or just reusable,” said Steven Jackson’12, another participant in the campaign. Use jars for pencil holders on your desk, make old bracelets look new by wrapping strips of leftover fabric around them and securing them with glue, or turn that old sweater you’ve grown out of but cannot bear to part with into a pillow case.
Face Your Waste helped to remind students that their trash does not disappear when they throw it in a trashcan; in fact, sometimes it ends up on the quad.