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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Frontline: Limited sustainability

Whether it’s in the Viking Union or The Atrium market, we’ve all been there — staring at a wide selection of garbage cans, wondering what’s recyclable, what goes in the landfill and what goes in the mysterious unlabeled can at the end.

Oftentimes, we make the wrong decision, we’re only human, right? However, the problem doesn’t stop there. Western has a reputation of being an eco-friendly school — we have a solid college of the environment, multiple waste receptacles in some buildings and an entire office centered around campus sustainability.

Still, there are a few things we aren’t thinking about as an environmentally-minded student body.

Walk the halls of some academic buildings, the Communications Facility for example, and you only have one option for your trash on most floors – landfill. As it turns out, if you don’t have the option of a food resource in your building, like the Starbucks in Arntzen Hall or the Panda Express in Viking Union, you can’t choose where to put your trash. Realistically, you probably won’t walk to another building just for the purpose of recycling a plastic Gatorade bottle.

“It seems our heart was in the right place, but we really only got rid of a fraction of the issues plastic bottles present.”

The Western Front Editorial Board

In April of 2014, Western banned the sale of plastic water bottles on campus. “Bottled water and water privatization is detrimental to the environment, to human rights to water and simply doesn’t make sense in a region where we have clean, amazing tap water,” said Carolyn Bowie, a member of Students for Sustainable Water at Western, in the press release for the bottled water ban.

Instead of selling plastic water bottles, there are filtered water refill stations in select buildings on campus, such as Arntzen Hall. However, in this same building, plastic bottles of Gatorade, Sobe, iced teas and flavored Aquafina water bottles can be found for sale in The Atrium market, as well as other food facilities and every vending machine on campus.

It seems like a step in the right direction to eliminate plastic water bottles, but why not stretch the initiative across the board? It seems our heart was in the right place, but we really only got rid of a fraction of the issues plastic bottles present. As a school priding itself on sustainability, we should commit to getting rid of the plastic bottle option as a whole, what’s the point in the middle ground?

Another inconsistent choice Western’s campus makes is refusing to divest in fossil fuels. According to the Associated Students website, “the WWU Foundation Endowment, via its investments in certain commingled investment funds, maintains an indirect ownership interest in certain energy companies that are involved in the production or distribution of fossil fuel related products.” As a campus “committed to carbon neutrality by 2050,” it seems absurd we choose to spend our funds on direct contribution to fossil fuel production.

With what seems like a sustainability paradox surrounding our campus, there are ways to contribute to becoming a green student body with individual action. Wait until you’re near an appropriate receptacle for your trash, recyclables or compost, become an active member of Students for Renewable Energy, take time out of your schedule to send an email to the WWU Foundation urging them to divest from fossil fuels. They can be reached by phone as well, at (360) 650-3027. The Western Front Editorial Board sees that it’s important to add compost and recycling bins to all academic buildings. We also think getting rid of all plastic bottles would hold true to the ideals that Western has expressed.

It’s a common misconception that one person saying something about resolvable issues such as these isn’t effective. Eventually, one turns into a few, a few turns into many. Having a voice is simple if you choose to actively use it.


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