Sustainability: Behind the Scenes

This past week, my sustainability class, Wicked Problems of Industrial Practice, visited the Oklahoma State sustainability office and recycling center. It really opened my eyes to what goes on behind the scenes in recycling. I learned more about what the campus is doing to promote sustainability and what we as students can do to be more sustainable. A presentation we received from the head of OSU sustainability stated that over 200 classes at OSU involve sustainability, OSU transportation uses eco-friendly fuel, OSU food services offer vegetarian and vegan options while recycling also, and 70% percent of electricity on campus is powered by wind. I thought the most interesting part was the fact that 70% of our campus’ electricity comes from wind. I’ve always seen wind turbines when driving but I never knew that was where OSU got its power from. Along with this presentation we also visited the OSU upholstery shop where they take old furniture from campus and re-upholster it instead of buying all new furniture. Some things that stood out to me about the upholstery shop were the fact that it takes only three days to flip the furniture, some of the furniture they flip can be up to 100 years old, and the sewing machines they use are 50 years old and have no plastic parts, only metal. After all of this, we visited the recycling center and compost area. Some things that stood out to me about the recycling center were bottles and cans get bagged and put in a roll out container that goes all the way to Oklahoma City and the cardboard and paper get compressed and bailed separately and auctioned off to the highest bidder. Some things that I found interesting about the compost area were the things accepted into the area are trees, brush, stumps, sticks, and shrubs and all of these things are mixed with horse manure. 

After we left the sustainability office and recycling center, I found myself thinking “What if these efforts did not exist?” Sustainability is all about conserving nature’s ecosystems, not saving the planet. The planet will survive no matter what, but the question is will we? I believe if none of these efforts ever existed the human race would be well on our way to extinction. These efforts help us to preserve the world we live in today so that it is still habitable for humans. Without recycling and sustainability efforts, our landfills could be overflowing with trash and our air could be much dirtier than it is today. 

Something the OSU head of sustainability mentioned in her presentation was that there are fabric recycling boxes around campus and Stillwater. Considering that I plan on starting my own clothing line when I graduate college, I think this would be a great addition to my company’s sewing centers. Sewing produces a large amount of fabric waste that just gets thrown in landfills and doesn’t decompose. With these fabric recycle bins we could do our part for the environment and keep fabric scraps from being thrown in landfills and reuse the scraps that otherwise would’ve gone to waste. 

All of my life I’ve always recycled all my paper, cardboard, cans, and bottles. Through this visit, I learned what happens when those recyclables leave my house! It really helped to open my eyes and make me mindful of how much trash people actually produce. One problem with promoting sustainability is most people never see the effects of their unsustainable practices, and showing people this would be a great way to boost their mindfulness of sustainability. All of this being said, the question I ask the class is:

What are some good ways our generation could help the younger generation be mindful of sustainability?

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