OPINION: Green is the new black

By Kim Bartenfelder, Contributor

The idyllic model that a majority of college students are versed in the literature and implementation of environmental matters is heavily dramaticized. While not entirely our fault, we as students live by a one-day acknowledgment and instant gratification. Our global and local environments only matter on one day

Illustration by Mary Jane DeCarlo

Illustration by Mary Jane DeCarlo

– Earth Day. On any other day of the year, students are wrapped up in the bind of mundane routines, disallowing themselves the opportunity to take an active part in the environment that surrounds them.

Here at Mason, students and faculty take pride in the scholarships, internships, departments, programs and student run organizations that hone in on ongoing environmental controversies. However, students whose majors do not revolve around sustainability, health, conservation and management fall extremely flat in replicating this energy and practice.

According to University Policy 1406, all individuals of the Mason community are to be held responsible for their academic involvement with the natural world so that they do no harm but rather positively impact one another and the environment.  

“In addition to personal conduct, it is expected that individuals will familiarize themselves with the relevant environmental health and safety policies and procedures related to their work or activities on campus” (Environmental Health and Safety | University Policy | George Mason University).  

In theory, this policy exudes perfection. However, in practice, many students fall short of this expectation.

On Sunday, Monday and Thursday mornings I walk to my on-campus job way before daybreak. Despite the low lighting, I see my university in direct contradiction of the environmental policies it supports. One specific area that goes overlooked is the bridge between the student apartments and the RAC. Discarded materials like styrofoam cups, beer cans, trash bags and random items strewn about advertise this practical shortcoming. Maybe an easy fix would be to hire more staff as campus clean up, but what about pushing for living greener and putting that into practice rather than just talk?

Knowledge is power may be a cliche, but it rings true regardless. According to the Sierra Club, a Cool School is determined by a set of specified criteria including co-curricular, energy, investments, food, innovation, academics, planning, purchasing, transport, waste, and water. Each college or university receives points for their success in each of these categories. Mason is rated as the 96th Cool School out of 227 colleges and universities during 2017. To compare within the D.C metro area, George Washington University is ranked 18th and American University is ranked 36th in the same calendar year, indicating that even universities within proximity of each other do not level up. However, this approach targets the information that the university provides from their organized projects and not the general student body, who drastically account for land misuse and abuse.  

Being a tree hugger, an environmental activist or someone who simply appreciates the environment tends to have a negative connotation among students. The day we acknowledge that caring for the global, national, and local environments is much broader than one poster board sign, one march, or one button to add to a bookbag, real change ensues and we create the sustainable and progressive environment we think we need.