Conservation: Sustainability at Elon
Anyone who's been at Elon long enough to hear about the "green" initiative has also been around long enough to realize maybe the campus has yet to really put it into practice. Does maintaining a vision of sustainability coincide with watering the grass multiple times a day? How does conservation of the Earth's resources relate to keeping Lakeside's lights on all night? I took it upon myself to ask around one evening to get a more overall consensus on the idea. Five out of five students I asked agreed that Elon was not doing a good job at conserving the environment. They all agreed that Elon projected a sense of environmental conscientiousness, but is missing the mark. My friend down the hall (Global 5) called maintenance early in the school year because she had no hot water. They advised her to leave the water running for about twenty minutes to in hopes of making it hot. I think this way of thinking overshadows the Sloan "green" toilet features that have been installed all throughout campus and flush more efficiently.
Before I started this paper roughly two days ago, I hadn't been emailed or contacted with information about sustainability at Elon, but today (October, 7) I was asked to fill out a survey. I must not be the only one digging. The email read "please take 10 minutes or less to complete a survey to assess attitudes and behaviors of Elon University students related to sustainability. We value your input. Results from your participation will help shape Elon University’s sustainability initiatives. Everyone is encouraged to participate in the survey – those familiar and unfamiliar with sustainability.The survey is being conducted by the Environmental Advisory Council and Office of Sustainability. Your responses will be confidential, and all results will be reported in summary form and in no way will results be released that can identify any individual." The survey was what I thought that it would be. It was more of a self evaluation than an evaluation of how Elon can improve. Anyone can go onto the elon website and read their mission statement. It reads, "the Office of Sustainability's mission is to advance sustainability at Elon by helping to streamline and improve university operations and developing and fostering educational programs. The Office works toward this mission by collaborating across the campus and overseeing and coordinating sustainability programs and initiatives. Key areas of focus include: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving resources and educating the community. It is hard for me to read into that all the way because if we truly aimed for a "green" campus would not be so green and our lavish sod carpet that spans across campus would be supplanted with rock gardens! I am not and will never be a sustainability Nazi. However, if we cannot begin at the fundamental level of grass versus rocks, I'm not sure we are ever going to hit the nail on the head with the whole save mother Earth thing. One of the reasons I came to Elon was it being considered for the most beautiful campus in the country. That is a great thing but that title will forever compromise true sustainability.
Elon does do great things in support of environmental responsibility. The Elon Community Garden is a place for Elon students, faculty, staff, children, and community to come together. It was initiated by an environmental ethics course in the fall of 2006 to foster education, spirituality, service, community discussion and sustainability and was fully established by a student as part of a senior thesis project. Another group here at Elon that is interested in sustainability is The Sierra Club, who's mission is to discover, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources, all the while educating and enlisting humanity to restore the quality of the natural environment. The Elon University Biobus provides transportation to all Elon students and also to the public in the surrounding community. The bus is more efficient than all the passengers driving separate vehicles and the bus runs biofuel. The fee based car rental service, Zipcar, can also be helpful in that it offers another opportunity to carpool. The "Don't Trash It" initiative takes unwanted items that would other wise be put in landfills (clothes and such) and makes use of them at the school. POWERless creates competition among different residence halls to see who can conserve the most energy.
With all these things in mind, how can students make a difference? What are some sustainable living tips? Staff member Michele Guthrie says "Invest in reusable bags and containers. When you go grocery shopping bring bags along so you do not have to use new plastic ones. And the next time you order Chinese take-out, save those little plastic containers and use them to store other food in the future." Summer intern Kyle Graham makes note to turn off unnecessary electrical devices if you leave a room for greater than 15 minutes. A freshman and soon to be activist in sustainability, Nic Nelson says he would love to see the campus adopt more acts of environmental friendliness this semester. He, like many others, notices the great advancements Elon is making towards global responsibility. He also notices that Elon has much room to improve and is eager to see just how "green" Elon University becomes by his senior year.
* Sustainability explores the dynamic interconnections among environmental (planet), social (people), and economic systems (prosperity) in order to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
"Elon Bio Bus." Elon University - Organization WebSites. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2013. <http://org.elon.edu/transit/biobus/index>.
"Elon University Community Garden."Elon University. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2013. <http://www.elon.edu/e-web/org/communitygarden/default.xhtml>.
"Mission." Elon University. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2013. <http://www.elon.edu/e-web/bft/sustainability/policy.xhtml>.
"Student Programs: Student Groups."Elon University. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2013. <http://www.elon.edu/e-web/bft/sustainability/sp-studGroups.xhtml>.
"Student Programs: Sustainable Living Guide." Elon University. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2013. <http://www.elon.edu/e-web/bft/sustainability/sp-sustliving.xhtml>.
edited by Anna Dorsey, Thomas Fazio