Opinion: Why CA isn’t Green

Andrei Shpilenok ’19

I watched the same student take a paper plate instead of a normal one for the nth time. The Stu Fac wasn’t running low on the ceramic ones, the plates weren’t too dirty, and the student wasn’t even on their way to eat elsewhere— the ceramic ones were simply “too far” and “mad effort”. It’s no secret that CA isn’t a “green school” but the any determined observer could find many, many simple ways in which CA is lacking. Lights are left on, food is needlessly wasted, and many printed handouts do not last longer than the class period before being tossed in a bin. Many people simply don’t care enough about making small changes. It’s long been said that the enemy of change isn’t stagnation, but apathy.

So, why the apathy? It’s not as if our community isn’t aware or educated enough to understand climate change. Multiple academic departments present classes on the topic, and despite the obvious lack of a widespread initiative, occasional announcements and programs surface periodically remind the students that yes, the environment does in fact exist.

Apathy towards the environment is not unique to CA. It’s not like some people don’t know about or don’t believe in climate change; it’s that they don’t care enough to overcome the inertia and make even simple changes to their lifestyles. Our attitude towards climate change reflects a global issue.

Because of course, why would someone care about something as mundane as the environment, when presented with other issues, so much closer to the hearts of the people? Like, how the stu hasn’t learned to sufficiently refill the hot chocolate machine yet, or why the vending machine doesn’t accept cards, or why can’t normal breakfast be as good as breakfast for dinner. After all, the effects of those issues are immediate. Climate change sneaks up from behind.

The root of this issue stems from the fact that climate change is simply too large to comprehend. It’s hard to imagine that throwing something away contributes toward the growth of a giant trash island in the Pacific, or that keeping the light slowly increases the heat of the planet. It’s hard to care because it’s hard to grasp such a distant effect.

Recycling duty was created in an attempt to make it easier to care. If you threw something in the wrong bin, you would directly suffer during recycling duty when sorting. If you printed too many piano sheets for an IMI lesson, you would have to face the music later. The intention of recycling duty was to present students with a direct consequence to environmental irresponsibility, which would make it a lot easier to make the right choice. While recycling duty has achieved this effect to some extent, it’s hard to send a strong, impactful message twice a year. Thus, apathy prevails.

As an Environmental Co-Head, I have the honor of being reminded of my environmental responsibilities every week. I care, a lot. I found myself desperately avoiding paper plates and increasingly annoyed at the number of unnecessary handouts I was receiving in classes. I am constantly reminded of CA’s recycling process, which has the byproduct of encouraging me to remind other people to be more mindful of their own recycling.

I am not advocating for weekly recycling duties for everybody; that would be a surefire way to foster hate rather than care. However, as CA continues to develop more environmental policies, like the GreenerU initiative(CA’s new effort to make the school all around more sustainable), the administration’s biggest challenge will be to convince students of their personal stake in the issue. This extends beyond recycling to energy waste, food sources, and many other topics.