It Starts with You

Do you recycle? I do. If you do not recycle, why not? Just curious. After a visit to the OSU sustainability office, recycling saves people money in ways they probably don’t think about. For example, our upholstery shop. They take the furniture around campus that is worn out and reupholster it, giving it a brand-new look. I found this fascinating as I never would have thought that a university would recycle furniture. Formerly, I imagined how expensive college is and how wasteful it is. While it is still expensive, it is not as wasteful as I had imagined. I was interested to learn that OSU does make their own compost as well as earn money in recycling cardboard and paper. If you attend university, where do you attend? I became interested in who the greenest campus is in the United States after hearing our tour guide state that OSU is the most sustainable campus in America, so, I looked it up. According to Forbes, it is College of the Atlantic. While other sites list the Universities in different rankings, it is still the same ten universities each time. Oklahoma State University is not one of them. While our sustainability office is doing great things, they need to begin addressing issues that these other universities are. For example, how is OSU committed to reducing its carbon footprint? Or why not use cow manure to generate electricity from its methane gas? Lastly, why not begin installing renewable energy sources with a set goal of total conversion? It is our responsibility now to educate our peers and children in the hopes of changing the future and the human impact on our precious planet.

               Within the university, it is the university’s responsibility to set the example for its students. This is also intergenerational responsibility. Currently, OSU is only half-heartedly doing so. I do not say this to put down my beloved school. I say this because there needs to be change. The efforts OSU puts forth in recycling bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard is great. However, the efforts it puts forth in using green or environmental products is lacking. For example, university dining services. Why are they using an extreme amount of plastic? The plastic cutlery is not biodegradable. Nor are the containers of fruit they sell. The containers are recyclable, if I took it home (off-campus) to do so, and the plastic cutlery is not. See the issue? The earth is paying the expense for the university. Now, I realize the university is going for the cheapest products it can in order to make more money; however, if they began with a few small changes, I bet they would find that they would save more money in doing so. Presently, OSU preaches in the classroom but does not practice what it is preaching.

               An interesting read that coincides with intergenerational responsibility is A New Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations. Chapter 1 is about Easter Island. Prior to this read, I did not know the history of Easter Island except that it had some humorous looking statues. One quote stood out to me and that is Easter Island “is a striking example of the dependency of human societies on their environment and of the consequences of irreversibly damaging that environment.” This is interesting because yes, we do heavily rely on the environment, yet we do not care for it in a way that it is going to sustain us forever. The lessen that stuck out to me the most about Easter Island is the deforestation problem. Today, we are cutting down an outrageous number of trees and not replenishing enough of them. The same products that are made from trees apart from furniture can be made from faster growing plants such as bamboo. Would you not agree? There are many lessons we could all learn from the fall of Easter Island and they are lessons we could be teaching the next generation. Especially since the rising problems we see take place in industries like construction, fashion design and interior design. The industry I am studying now is interior design. The rising problem for interior design is that interiors in homes and buildings are not being designed to last long term. They are designed based off the current trend or fad. Also, they are not utilizing more renewable resources and recycled materials so there is a great deal of waste.

               It is my goal to be an interior designer for sustainability. However, that is the long-term goal. My short-term goal is to be continuing to work on myself by learning about alternatives to harmful products used in the home and in the industry. While we cannot change what others do, we can be the example and begin with ourselves. That is why, I have made it my continued effort to change products I use in my home as well as plastic free and potentially a zero-waste household. No matter how small an impact an individual makes, it still matters. People pay attention to people so be the example for someone to see.

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