Stand Up For the Environment

by Haskins Hobson | 5/6/94 5:00am

Here at Dartmouth, there are recycling bins all around campus. But for some students, unless the bin is right in front of them, they will throw a soda can or piece of paper into the nearest trash can. They can't be "inconvenienced" to go 30 seconds out of their way to recycle.

The janitor of my dorm put up a sign saying that other recyclables left in the hallway on top of the aluminum recycling bin would be thrown in the trash. Several of my hallmates reacted in a manner that surprised me. They thought this was a stupid policy. When I asked them why they could not carry their own waste down two flights of stairs, they shifted the blame, saying that recycling waste was the janitor's responsibility and not their own.

This attitude about the environment needs to change.

There are two ways to take care of our environment: one requires the government to set certain guidelines, such as pollutant emission rates or energy consumption of appliances. The second is to change the way people view the environment. This shift in view cannot be accomplished exclusively by the government, although the government can certainly encourage or discourage it.

Environmental concerns cannot be put on a back burner until they become a "real" problem. Managing our environment in this global economy is a problem that continues to grow and is quite real. According to the publication Environment, the daily amount of solid waste generated has increased from 2.7 pounds per U.S. citizen in 1960 to 4.3 pounds in 1990, a 59 percent increase. At this rate the average person produces 1,460 pounds annually. The current global emission rate of carbon into the atmosphere is close to 6 billion metric tons per year.

These wastes can only be controlled by the government, because the number of waste contributors is too large for any one person to change. The government has the power and resources and should use them to write regulations and laws that will establish guidelines for waste management or energy production.

Changing people's views concerning the environment requires more time than passing a law. It requires a concerted effort by the people who already understand -- many of whom have already made changes. Curbside recycling programs have become quite successful. According to the publication Environment, there are now more than 5,000 communities across the country with these programs, recycling 15 to 20 percent of their solid waste.

The main effort will come from our generation. A study done at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign showed that recyclers and non-recyclers alike were motivated to recycle by factors such as a concern for the conservation of natural resources. A study done at the University of Kentucky in 1988 found that age is inversely related to, and education directly related to, an environmental world view. The study also found that the more urban the place of residence, the greater tendency a person has to have an environmental world view. On average, younger people are more concerned with the environment than older people.

We are the ones to change our behavior. Our attitudes need to change so everyone in our generation is responsible for his or her own lifestyle. We need to make choices that will positively affect the environment and the generations above and below us.

We can reduce our consumption of electricity. In 1989, Dartmouth spent $1.5 million for more than 22.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity. More than110,000 kilowatt hours, or $7,200 per year is wasted by laser printers being left on overnight and during weekends.

We can decrease the amount of waste generated and increase the amount of waste recycled. Currently, Dartmouth leads most of the country's colleges. We recycle 22 percent of our waste. But the goal of Dartmouth Recycles is 50 percent. As Bill Hochstin, director of Dartmouth Recycles, wrote in a letter to the College in 1988, "There is no such luxury as throw-away, we merely put the problem in a new location."

We need to be the generation that takes the responsibility upon ourselves and stands up for the environment in one accord. That could start by taking the extra 30 seconds to walk to the nearest recycling bin.

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