Why GVSU should use education as first line of defense in sustainability efforts

By Lanthorn Editorial Board | 10/22/17 10:28pm

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At Grand Valley State University, sustainability is a way of life.

Or, at least, GVSU administration and organizations are trying to make it be.

While many students at the university may already be on board with living a sustainable lifestyle—reducing their waste, recycling plastics and papers, and reusing their grocery bags instead of throwing them away—others may not be yet.

For example, the university has apparently not reached its goal of correctly organizing at least 70 percent of its campus waste into recycle, landfill and compost bins.

That's why groups like the campus dining "green team" and the Student Environmental Coalition (SEC) are partnering to spread awareness about how to dispose different types of waste campus-wide. As part of the waste bin monitoring project, green team members and SEC student volunteers are stationed at different campus dining locations to educate their peers about where different food-related waste should be disposed.

This initiative is a good example of the university actively living out its sustainability mission. A lot of students may genuinely be ignorant of how to dispose of different waste properly, and campus dining and the SEC are proving they're not afraid to get their hands dirty (literally) to divert recyclable or compostable materials from the default trash bin.

In fact, students from the SEC check and sort the different waste bins monthly to determine whether or not students are learning and adopting best practices for waste disposal. They also organize various campus cleanups, educational events and community outreach programs within the GVSU campus and greater Grand Rapids area.

Enacting these types of efforts on campus is super important. If students start to learn proper sustainability methods now, they are more likely to carry them forward in the future. Creating awareness of these topics is equally critical, too, because it generates an important dialogue and allows for students to hold each other accountable. 

Many universities and colleges around the country are participating in "going green," and GVSU is no different—perhaps even better than most. According to the university's Office of Sustainability Practices website, "GVSU is known locally, regionally, nationally and globally for applied sustainability best practices on campus and in the community." 

The sustainability office, which has been at GVSU for 11 years, offers many resources for students, including a GVSU Sustainability Tour Map and a Sustainability Guide. Through their website, GVSU community members can also access a list of the recycling locations on campus, which is extremely helpful for those who simply don't know where the bins are located. 

Sustainability is also one of Student Life's six "department values," encouraging students to engage with their respective environment(s) in a positive way. 

All in all, it is clear that taking care of the environment is a priority at GVSU, and hopefully through these various campus efforts and organizations working to foster campus-wide sustainability, going green will soon become the norm.

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