Oklahoma State is Making a Difference…Will You?

Who would’ve thought a more rural university like Oklahoma State would have such a passion for sustainability like they do?  I know I sure didn’t!  The trip to the sustainability office made me proud to go to this school seeing that so many individuals dedicate their careers to make the Stillwater campus just as green as it is orange!

The upholstery shop especially caught my eye during the tour of the sustainability office facility.  I never realized how old some of the classic furniture across campus was, and a lot of that is due to the incredible work they accomplish there!  It’s truly impressive to see how much is reused and revived into its former glory in that small upholstery shop, even down to the beautiful 50-year-old sewing machine!  Looking at this small operation made me think about how this practice could be applied to almost everything on this campus, including the architecture itself.  What if we utilized all of the older buildings on campus and adapted them to better fit our needs rather than simply tearing them down and throwing their materials into the dump?  The Donald W. Reynolds Architecture Building is proof that adaptive-reuse architecture is possible for this campus!  It is like the upholstery shop’s work…just on a much larger scale.  It would be keeping the most important parts of the building like they keep the most important parts of the furniture and updating the worn-out pieces.  Like I heard multiple times in the upholstery shop by multiple individuals, this practice “keeps cost down and quality up”.  That sure sounds like a win-win deal to me!

Aside from the upholstery shop, there were many areas of the sustainability office where I learned so much about all the amazing green work being done at OSU.  I’ve always wondered why we only recycled plastic bottles, aluminum cans, white paper, and cardboard instead of the full recycling scope, and it all became clear after taking a look at the recycling center.  It absolutely blew my mind how hard those men work to recycle all the paper products in the center…and it wasn’t even nearly as full as it could be!  When they described that cardboard sometimes was piled as high as the 30+ ft roof at the beginning of the school year, I could not even picture how different that location would look.  It truly made me think about how different our campus would function if we didn’t have the recycling center.  I still remember seeing the giant blue dumpster outside of my dorm filled to the brim with cardboard boxes after moving in as a freshman.  To think that all that cardboard would end up in the dump instead if we didn’t have the recycling center makes my stomach turn.  The campus would ultimately lose money in the long run, and our environment would hurt severely as well.  The gasses from the decomposing cardboard would give off would eventually make their way back to OSU’s campus and affect all the students’ lungs, doing who-knows-what to our bodies.

Looking at the piles of paper in the recycling center also made me think about how many times I choose the lazy route and simply throw away my extra pieces of paper of failed designs at my desk in the architecture building rather than walking the 20-30 steps to the white paper recycling bin.  I could’ve been looking at some of my draft floor plans that day, but I instead saw others’ good decision making to recycle their white paper.  I felt guilty at that moment… very guilty.  I wondered how many other students in the class felt the same during that time.  I know now every time I pass that recycling bin, I can see the piles of paper in my mind.  It reminds me of how each little action does add up in the end.  One decision to recycle instead of throwing away can truly make a difference.  Turning off your computer after completing an assignment can make a difference.  Choosing to ride a bike instead of driving your car on a nice day out can make a difference.  It makes a difference in sustainability, in the wicked problem of climate change, in the wicked problem of construction waste, and in many other areas of life.  The smallest action MAKES A DIFFERENCE!

Now the next step is just to ask yourself…

What small action am I going to do take towards solving the wicked problem of climate change through the use of sustainability in my life?

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