Columnist Calls for Change in Policy to Promote Sustainability

By: Chris Zimmer – Columnist

Discussing the environmental challenges facing our world is a cross-disciplinary experience here at the University of Dayton. You’ve probably talked about climate change in your 200 level Geology class, or you might’ve debated the pros and cons of food using genetically modified organisms CMM 100. You might’ve even analyzed the value of stocks of energy companies in finance classes, or discussed regulations in a political science class.

Regardless of your course of study, you’re not going to leave UD without having some academic work related to energy, and specifically: sustainability. If the word pops out of your vocabulary when you go home, then your parents might give you a funny look and chuckle at this neo-hippie fad (or maybe I’m the only one with Baby Boomer parents). Regardless, the term makes some uncomfortable.

There are a plethora of misconceptions surrounded by the “going green” and the sustainability movement.  Some might think it means joining the Green Party and voting for Jill Stein as president in November. Some might think it means buying a Prius as your first car.

There are even folks who think it means you have to start eating only organic food. These are all radical myths, and the definition is pretty straightforward. According to THRALL, “going green” means to pursue knowledge and practices that can lead to more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions and lifestyles, which can help protect the environment and sustain its natural resources for current and future generations.

The University of Dayton is very committed to “going green.” It’s evident in our administration’s initiatives, and are exemplified in acts such our choice to divest in fossil fuels or putting a few solar panels near the Rec Plex. We’ve just celebrated the one-year anniversary of the largest monetary donation in UD history to create the Hanley Sustainability Institute too, and why yes, it’s great those at the ‘top-of-the-UD-totem-pole’ are committed to going green.

Since then I’ve noticed students aren’t as thrilled with this as the administration and faculty, and don’t think they can contribute much. I’ve seen more students start recycling their beer cans and picking up trash around their houses after a long weekend, but there’s still a ‘glass-half-empty’ outlook. As a friend mine once said, “Regardless of whether I throw my plastic water bottle in gray bin or the blue ben; China’s pollution is still going to put a hole in the ozone layer someday. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

I imagine many students have this same ‘nihilistic’ view of sustainability, thinking there’s nothing we can do. We, as a student body, must dismiss this kind of thought because we know collective actions produce big results. One student might not be able to make the UD community more sustainable, but 11,000 undergraduate, law, and graduate students can. We must follow the actions of our university’s leaders, and make “going green” a priority. Here some of the best ways we collectively can make UD a more sustainable community.

  1. Start peeing when you shower, or go somewhere else. According to IFL Science, the average American adult will use 11.1 gallons of water when flushing the toilet a day. This is given that the average flush uses 1.6 gallons of water and that people take a leak seven times a day. If the entire UD student body were to start peeing in the shower or going in the bushes in Serenity Pines, then the 121,000 gallons of water demanded to flush the toilet would be eliminated. This practice along would save over 2.7 million gallons of water over an entire school year.
  2. Start using candles to light up the parties. We don’t need a time machine to let us know what it would be like to live in the days before Thomas Edison. It might seem stone-age, but stop using that rave-light-machine you got for Christmas for your house parties, and start using candles. Doesn’t a 19th Century themed party sound fun? Just one incandescent bulb costs 0.75 cents an hour. Imagine if for one night the entire ‘Ghetto’ used candlelight’s only to light up their homes.
  3. Start allowing students to drink in the dorms. Let’s ignore the controversial National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, and critically think what would happen the university allowed students living in the residence halls to consume alcohol. The prohibition of doing so encourages students to go do there debauchery elsewhere, and thus raising the risk of littering. No wonder why we see random cans of Natty and Keystone hidden in bushes, cardboard cases under cars in parking lots, and ‘wounded soldiers’ all over. This would also drastically reduce the burden of work our Groundskeepers take on in the Facilities Management Department. Maybe it’s time for Housing and Residence life to turn a blind eye, for the sake of saving our planet.

If our student body started practicing what was mentioned beforehand, then there’s no doubt our community would be environmentally responsible. However there are social stigmas, university policies, and government regulations preventing us from doing so—along with a variety of other sustainable efforts. If we truly want our community to be environmentally responsible, then the rules are going to have to be changed. That doesn’t just go for our UD ecosystem, but the health and well-being of the United States, but for our one and only planet, Earth.

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