Everyone knows that recycling is important. It helps to save resources and is an easy way to lower our carbon footprint as individuals. But does everyone do it? Not everyone is willing to put in the thought or time when it comes to the small intricacies of actually being green. Separating plastics, paper and cardboard can sometimes be overwhelming. People choose to avoid the confusion by just throwing their plastic bottles away. When push comes to shove, sometimes laziness takes over and this is not helping us be green.
While laziness is not a valid excuse for making a decision you know is wrong, maybe we should take it as a cue that we need to revise how we recycle, compost and send things to the landfill. I spent my entire life in San Francisco, a city where a goal to have zero-waste by 2020 is very prominent. Recycling is a no-hassle, non-confusing system where all plastics, glass and paper products go into one bin. Mall food courts and other public places have compost bins that people actually know how to use. In San Francisco, it is so easy to make a green choice. This is not the case in Madison.
University Housing, its dining halls and other academic branches at UW-Madison should revise their trash and recycling system to be more streamlined. This is something that would encourage students to be more green by default. In the front of the dining rooms, there are no easy ways for students to recycle or compost their food. If there was a single bin for each piece of trash, recycling and compost, then that would take out the guesswork of what goes where, and also reduce the intimidation that some students may feel while trying to make a smarter choice.
Also, the dining halls should revise their own behind-the-scenes policies to be more green themselves. Currently, they do not compost all compostable products that come into their dishrooms, such as meat and dairy. However, if they were to do so, they would be removing thousands of students’ waste from landfills and put us in a position to have a more successful and sustainable way of dealing with waste. By offering students an easy and quick way to be green, many will jump at it and make a large impact in the process. Similarly, if University Housing made composting a more acceptable and accessible option for its residents, students could throw away their food from their rooms in a place where it wouldn’t immediately be funneled to a landfill.
Additionally, if the university provided more intensive ecological education, students wouldn’t be so confused by the process of recycling or composting. As I said previously, it is not with bad intentions that students choose to throw away things that should be recycled. Most of the time it is because they do not know better. If students were to learn the rules of recycling and composting, then it would soon become second nature to them and our campus would become more green.
If people are properly educated and the system is easier to understand and implement, there will be no more option for laziness and confusion to take over instead of making the proper, ecological choice. Our campus should take a few pointers from other more progressive and effective recycling and waste reduction methods in cities around the country, or even the world.
Samantha is a sophomore majoring in journalism and communication arts. How do you feel about UW-Madison’s recycling processes? What do you think the university needs to do in order to become more environmentally friendly? Please send all comments, questions and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.