It’s easy; people walk to a trash can, throw their rubbish in the bin and leave without thinking twice.
But how often do people think about where the garbage goes? How often do people take steps to sort waste and recycle it properly? The waste disposal method is so simple that people often don’t know how or where they throw their trash or recycling.
This is just one situation where a sustainability mindset would be beneficial.
Fortunately, there are several measures in place at Taylor University that encourage sustainability. These measures range from reducing food waste to conserving energy and water. Many of these measures are financially beneficial and simply good stewardship of many resources that people often take for granted.
“Taylor has a really good recycling program, although the students haven’t learned how to use it well,” said Phil Grabowski, assistant professor of the sustainability program.
Grabowski explained that when waste is properly sorted, the recycled waste is sold to a company, which generates revenue for the university. Trash in the bins has to go to a landfill, which Taylor has to pay for.
Not only is recycling more financially advantageous for the university, but it is also more sustainable for the environment. If something that should have been recycled goes in the trash, it will go to the landfill and stay there indefinitely.
“The message I want students to hear is just to recycle properly, pay attention to signs, put things in the correct bin and don’t throw your salad in the recycling bin because then the whole bag is contaminated and no one has time to sort through it all,” Grabowski said. “Things get contaminated and everything goes in the trash.
There are many other types of waste, such as water waste, food waste or energy waste.
Grabowski advises against unnecessarily long showers, as a lot of energy is used to bring water from its source to the tap. Not only will taking slightly shorter showers save water, it will also save the energy used to transport and heat the water.
“When students waste food — or someone wastes food — it goes to landfill, and usually it creates methane, which is a greenhouse gas,” Grabowski said. “Not only are there those kind of pollution aspects, but there’s also all the waste that went into growing this food, processing it and transporting it here.”
Fortunately, Taylor University has taken steps to prevent certain food waste, such as peelings and scraps, from being fed to an employee’s cows and pigs, and intact pans of frozen food then donated to the community.
When it comes to transport-related energy waste, driving short distances can be convenient, but walking is generally healthier for both body and mind. Walking also helps reduce the amount of gas emissions from cars. If faster transportation is needed, bicycles and skateboards are also great options.
In fact, Michael Guebert, co-chair of the Department of Biology, Environmental Science, Public Health, and Sustainability, offers bikes for rent and runs a garage next to the Ockenga Honors Lodge where students can repair their own bikes.
Some students might be inclined to ignore sustainability metrics or ask, “Why should I care? »
James Bates, environmental science major, provided an answer.
“The easy answer to ‘why should other people care’ is because you’re human and you live on the planet,” Bates said. “And if you’re a human and you live on the planet, whether you realize it or not, you’re very dependent on everything on the planet, and you’re even more directly dependent on the specific systems that you live in close proximity to. You depend on your region’s water cycle, your region’s carbon cycle, you depend on the crops that grow around you, (and) the trees and vegetation that grows around you.
Bates explained that his concern for the environment and creation stems from his knowledge and experience with this creation.
He likened this progression of knowledge to care to how one takes care of one’s own body; we learn to know our body, we learn to take care of it and we take care of it because we realize the importance of doing so.
“If we don’t invest in these (aspects of the environment) and make sure we don’t abuse these things, not only do we lose that part of our vocation which in Genesis we are called to take care of creation, but we also don’t reap the benefits of surviving, to put it bluntly,” Bates said.
Bates relayed the importance of fostering care and appreciation for the environment by putting yourself in a place to experience and learn about the environment.
He also expressed how easy it can be to overlook the importance of resources and the environment due to the accessibility of resources such as water, food and energy.
“I encourage students here to, at a minimum, at least think about the sources of the things they consume and use, be it water, electricity, food, […] many of them are finite sources,” Bates said. “So at a minimum, think about those things, and at a maximum, take action and change your way of life to use (resources) more conservatively.”
Students interested in learning more about environmental science can explore Taylor’s Stewards of Creation Club, which actively educates and works toward campus sustainability. For more information, contact Juniper Tucker at firstname.lastname@example.org, Jared Hyatt at email@example.com or Emily Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, there are volunteer sustainability assistants in the halls of residence who promote sustainable practices. Students from all majors and departments are welcome.