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Monday, August 3, 2020

OPINION: Don’t Hate on the Hippies

For any new students not from Western Washington, the full extent of Western’s commitment to sustainability should be becoming abundantly clear at this point in the quarter.

If there was ever a campus to earn the name “hippie,” Western would be it. But this isn’t a title given to mock or diminish. On the contrary, Western’s passion for the health of the planet is extremely admirable, whether you share its enthusiasm or not.

But if you’re interested in learning more about green living, October is the perfect time to do it, as it’s Vikings for Change Month hosted by Western’s Office of Sustainability. Farm 2 Fork lunches in the dining halls, idea labs for future projects and an award ceremony to celebrate past accomplishments will all be taking place.

The point of going to university is to learn. Where else can you find larger, more diverse groups of people all working toward the goal of expanding their knowledge?

You learn a tremendous amount from your classes, yes, but learning from your peers is even more rewarding.

Even if you’ve never recycled before, even if you didn’t know it was possible for an entire campus to ban plastic water bottles, you can still take a chance and learn something new.

For instance, did you know Western adopted a campus-wide plan to net zero carbon emissions by 2050? Or did you know all those recycling bins around campus are part of a larger plan to eliminate 100 percent of university waste?

Hippie or not, that’s pretty freaking cool.

But to students who’ve never experienced this level of enthusiasm, Western — and Bellingham in general — can seem intimidating.

A lot of very passionate people living in one place can lead to some occasionally overzealous impressions.

But don’t worry. You may get some hard looks if you throw your Red Bull can in the trash, but you will not be kicked out of school. You won’t be banned from Fred Meyer if you don’t have any reusable bags either, you might just have to deal with the sales pitch every time you need to buy Hot Pockets.

If you’re curious in any way, take the time to check something out. If you don’t like it, so what? When will you ever get the chance to go to events like these again?

It’s a concept that goes beyond just sustainability. With about 15,000 students enrolled at Western, different lifestyles and perspectives will never be in short supply.

Political affiliations, religious views, stances on social issues and hobbies all influence our ways of life. But there’s only so much you can experience on your own.

So next time you see a banner in Red Square for an event or club you’ve never heard of, give it a chance. You never know, you may discover a new passion of your own.

When it comes to sustainability, the choices Western and Bellingham have made are not just to please Mother Earth, there’s actually some tremendous logic and scientific research behind them. So don’t judge the lifestyle before you’ve been informed.

Embrace the diversity of lifestyles Western has to offer and don’t judge them until you’ve taken the time to learn about them.

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