Jackson: Keep Dartmouth Clean

Dartmouth’s otherwise beautiful campus has a litter problem, and it’s time we addressed it.

by Peyton Jackson | 11/10/23 4:00am

If you’ve ever been outside for any significant amount of time on Dartmouth’s campus, it's likely you’re familiar with the concept of littering. And if you’ve spent any time engaged with the idea of litter, there’s a particular image that comes to mind of the people who do it. The careless, lazy slob who tosses their trash wherever they see fit, regardless of how it affects the world around them. Considering how disgusting, frustrating and detrimental litter can be, it’s no surprise that those who do it are judged so harshly. Seeing the place you spend every day dirtied up can be an immensely annoying experience. However, rather than quietly accepting the presence of litter on Dartmouth’s campus, the student body and staff should take steps to reduce it.

With its Georgian colonial architectural styling — save, of course, for The Cube — and its expanse of greenery, Dartmouth has an eye-catching campus. This is what makes it so upsetting to see scattered empty cans, torn plastic garbage and dirty papers dotting every step of the way as you walk around. It has been argued by some that increasing amounts of litter are a sign of a neighborhood in decline, along with shuddered businesses and a lack of community activities. Some might argue that Dartmouth too is in decline, and maybe that explains why litter seems to be an accepted part of campus life. After a weekend of fun, the streets being overrun with trash has become a fact rather than a shock.

It’s not hard to imagine littering as caused by a limited group of bad actors, perhaps students who happily toss their garbage wherever they please after a night of partying. The reality is that the image we have of the type of person who litters is, by most accounts, a bit cartoonish. Most people who litter don’t do it as malicious malcontents, but rather because they are misinformed about the impact of litter, or the nearest trash receptacle is inconvenient or out of the way. Armed with this newly updated profile of someone who litters, we see there are two simple solutions that might help us combat littering.

Multiple studies have indicated that the misinformation that leads to littering is twofold, the first misconception being that someone else will come and pick up the litter later, and the second being that the environmental impacts are negligible. This leads us to the first solution: Both of these beliefs are incorrect and could be remedied with basic environmental education. The second solution that could be used to reduce the amount of litter on campus is quite obvious, and that would be to simply make it more convenient for people to throw away their trash. It’s not hard to see where the biggest problem areas on campus are, especially after a weekend when littering is at its peak. Frat lawns and sidewalk paths are always rife with litter during these times, and oftentimes the nearest garbage can is a bit of a walk.

Considering these are the two of the most common reasons for littering, it is not a stretch to say that if the College wanted to invest in a littering prevention program, or even just set up more garbage cans, it would have an impact on the level of trash scattered around campus. After all, the fight against littering appeals to everyone. Everyone likes a clean campus for aesthetic reasons, and most people don’t want to actively contribute to pollution.

However, these aforementioned efforts would need to come from the administration. Though Dartmouth is perhaps most known for its natural beauty and focus on the outdoors, the littering issue has gone mostly ignored. There has been very little effort to keep campus litter free, or to educate people on the impact littering has. Though institutional actions would likely be the most effective, change must also come from individuals.

A lot of the work in tackling the litter problem has to come from individual students, too, because littering is a problem caused mostly by individuals. This work comes from making a concerted effort to not leave trash on the ground, and from making an effort to encourage others to properly dispose of their trash instead of leaving it out as well. No one is perfect, and there’s no doubt that there will be slip-ups when it comes to keeping our campus clean and litter free. However, as long as individuals and administration can both do their part, we can combat the issue one step at a time.

Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.