Let’s recommit to environmentalism

Markell Braxton-Johnson

There are many issues on campus that are worthy of concern, but there is one that remains ever-present: the environment. A few weeks back, officials sent a survey to evaluate the recycling program as well as the general environmental enthusiasm on campus. This survey, penned by the Student Government Association’s Campus Environment Committee, was an attempt to answer two simple questions: (1) What are the obstacles for environmental progress on campus, and (2) what changes could be done to make recycling easier on campus. “More bins,” “more locations” and “more visible places to recycle” were the most popular answers from the survey, but underneath that was something far more frustrating – to put it mildly.

There was a concerning number of people who expressed that they don’t recycle, not because they didn’t see the necessity in it, but because they didn’t think that recycled material was actually being recycled. Take this complaint by one survey participant: “All material thrown into the [recycling bins], from what I’ve been told, are taken to the city dump with all other trash.”

There lies the problem.

Either students and faculty don’t know where to recycle on campus or, even more troubling, they aren’t confident that even if they do recycle, the material won’t be thrown in with non-salvageable trash. If this is the idea people have about MSU’s recycling efforts, then it is no surprise that environmental initiatives are lacking on campus.

This isn’t just an issue of our campus not being “green enough.” This is a problem that directly affects recruitment and enrollment. This year, the Princeton Review surveyed college applicants and parents to understand what their biggest challenges were and what factors they considered when choosing a university. “A majority (64 percent) of respondents said having information about colleges’ commitment to environmental issues would contribute ‘strongly,’ ‘very much,’ or ‘somewhat'” to their decision on where they would attend college. While not as important as affordability or having the “right” major, more and more students are listing environmental engagement as a top priority in choosing a university. MSU has the environmentally-friendly attitude that future students care about, but we are lacking in actual projects to build on that interest.

That’s why campus events like America Recycles Day (Nov. 15) and Earth Day (April 20) are so important to our overarching culture. During America Recycles Day, the Campus Environment Committee will host group and individual competitions, lectures about recycling and information booths on environmental awareness. These events, mostly organized and run by students, are great opportunities for the campus community to promote environmental education outside the classroom. Let’s change this aspect of our campus culture and recommit to environmentalism.

Markell Braxton-Johnson is a sports and leisure studies junior.