Sustainability has been a global hot topic over the past few years. More and more people are recognizing the effects humans have had on the Earth over time and are trying to do something about it.
According to sociology and criminal justice Associate Professor Connie Frey-Spurlock, sustainability education and awareness at SIUE is something that is existent but can be improved.
“SIUE is doing its part as far as making recycling available in most areas on campus, but we could do a much better job at educating folks on how recycling works on campus than we are currently doing,” Frey-Spurlock said. “As far as I can tell, SIUE has taken a passive approach to recycling, meaning that the bins are available with some signage, but we haven’t taken an active approach to educating folks on what goes in the bins.”
Frey-Spurlock said she is working with students in her sociology 590 class, a special topics course, and art and design Professor Rodrick Whetstone’s graphic art students to improve the signage that is paired with the bins around campus.
“Through a project in that class, we are trying to raise awareness about why we should be recycling more and increase education about what goes in the bin through tabling in Peck Hall, and social media using the hashtag, #SIUErecycles,” Frey-Spurlock said.
The budget stalemate has also contributed to the university’s loss of momentum when it comes to the education and execution of going green around campus. The Office of Sustainability, the sustainability officer position on Student Government and the sustainability faculty fellowship were all cut due to lack of funding.
“We lack the kind of leadership, coordination and planning that an Office for Sustainability can provide,” Frey-Spurlock said.
President of Students Organization for Sustainability and graduate student Dana Wynn said she encourages everyone to get involved with going green because of the mutual benefits for both the earth and people living on it.
“Our organization provides reusable green water bottles to students that participate in our activities to promote the idea of [reusing] and not creating waste,” Wynn said. “The economic benefit for students is first, their time — less time at the store or to go to the store, and also the price of refills of soda [and] tea on campus is substantially less than buying a prepackaged drink.”
As an institution, Wynn said she believes students, faculty and staff could do a better job of showing solidarity when it comes to sustainability.
“To become more environmentally aware, the first step is to examine your real, immediate environment,” Wynn said. “For students that live on campus, that includes taking a step outside.”
SOS will be hosting a campus litter cleanup from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. Saturday, April 22, to encourage keeping the campus clean. SOS will also be hosting a Zero Waste Workshop at 1 p.m. Thursday, April 27, in the Morris University Center. This workshop is a collaboration between SOS and the STL Higher Education Consortium.
For more information on how you can get more involved with going green, get involved with SOS or volunteer at upcoming events, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/SOSsiuE17.
Here are a few ways you can practice sustainability:
Turn off lights
Energy conservation is one way that people can reduce their carbon footprint. Remembering to turn off lights in rooms that you are not in can not only reduce your energy bill, but also help the planet. In addition to turning off the lights, turning off appliances and unplugging lamps and televisions can also reduce your energy usage. Opening your windows in the summer rather than turning the air on can also be a major energy saver.
Supermarkets have changed the way that some people think about food and convenience. Many forget that it requires the use of fuel and energy to get those products from where they were originally grown or packaged, to consumers. By eating at local restaurants and shopping at local markets, the middle man is removed from the equation. Not only is the food free of pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals, but local farmers and restaurant owners can also stay in business.
Start a garden
In addition to eating locally and supporting local restaurants, starting a garden of your own is also one way to help the environment. Plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen — this helps the air within our planet remain non-toxic and healthy for us to breathe. By planting in your own yard or even inside your house, you can improve the quality of the air in your area.
Being educated on what items can and cannot be recycled is important when trying to recycle while at home, school or work. Recycling allows for old and used materials to be transformed into new materials to be used again. Making recycling easy is one way to stay motivated while recycling. Having a recycling bin near your existing trash can with a list of what can and cannot go inside it will remind you when it is time to recycle.
Donate, buy used
Clothing and items around the house that you no longer want or need can still have a life after you. Through donations, items have the opportunity to live longer and get double the use. This reduces the dependence on cheaply made products that often end up in landfills after one use. There are many donation and consignment shops that will take gently used items and either donate or sell them at a discounted rate to those in need. Also, go thrifting!