All of us are concerned about living better with the earth and with our neighbors, and school is a great place to put principles into practice—so let’s get started!
|Pointing the way - Student groups—like the NCP chapter at Bridgewater College—are the key to pushing campuses to adopt better practices for earth and neighbor.
Food production, consumption and disposal is behind lots of environmental problems
- food waste: we pitch an average of a pound of food per person per day in the USA; it’s become the leading item in landfills, where it's a big contributor to climate change
- greenhouse gases, water pollution, habitat loss—our meat-centered diets are a big cause of all of these
- water depletion: of the over 700,000 gallons of annual per person water consumption in the US (water for all purposes—industry, mining, food production, etc.) meat and sugar production make up 30 and 15 percent of the total, respectively
- paper/plastic waste: a cafeteria using disposable utensils generates about 50 pounds of waste per 100 students per meal—do the math. Here’s a school aiming for zero waste
- Shipping enough lettuce across country for an 80-calorie salad can require 4600 calories of fossil fuel energy
Diet for a small planet
- to reduce greenhouse gases
—work with food service to buy local produce (this Virginia Tech study shows the benefits of local production re carbon footprint and quality; the sustainable living house at Oberlin U raises most of their own food)
—make sure there are good vegetarian options
|According to a study at Yale University comparing compostable utensils and washing ceramic plates, the plates become more eco-friendly than the compostables after 50 uses—or about a month’s worth of meals in the caf.
—washable plates and utensils are more energy efficient over the long haul than compostable disposable items
- to reduce waste
—going tray-less can cut food waste by 15-32 percent
—find ways to keep food waste out of landfills—compost onsite or send to a nearby farm for feed
—dig through cafeteria and campus trash cans to count/weigh the food, bottles, etc. that could have been composted or recycled, and report this in the campus paper or create a display in a public place on campus (students in Bridgewater College’s Sustainability Group took this as their mission, and reported fully 1/3 of the items they found didn’t belong there)
NCP carries backpacks made in Burma by a fair trade women’s cooperative. It’s a small effort to counter the coming wave of clothing factories lining up to enter this Southeast Asian country as it opens up to global corporations. Daily wage at these sweatshops? $1.25
Sports gear and school logo apparel is big business —and big profits for corporations and stockholders, but not for the young women making these things overseas. Average hourly wage in South Asia, Southern Africa or Central America is 14-60 cents an hour. Meanwhile, the CEO’s of these companies are making $10,000-$17,000 an hour.
- There are options! Check out Alta Gracia, a Dominican Republic clothing factory that pays a living wage and markets college logo and sports clothing through Knights Apparel.
- Look up United Students Against Sweatshops to learn about their latest campaigns.
- Raise money for NCP’S Give a Girl a Chance program to educate girls and give women economic opportunities.
- Visit areas where young women are vulnerable to exploitation on an NCP Learning Tour to Africa, Asia, or Latin America.
Join a Learning Tour and meet amazing people like these four young Burmese women. With the help of an NCP-funded micro loan, they plan to become rice brokers—making a living for themselves while providing a fair price for rice purchased from local farmers, who are otherwise at the mercy of greedy middlemen.
Got the power?!
Green power, that is! Reducing the campus carbon footprint can take many forms, and Goshen College took a big step in that direction by going all-green in its energy purchases, choosing to buy only electricity generated by renewable sources. The Indiana school will reduce its carbon footprint by 45 percent by this one action alone.
Pedal Power Pays
Many schools are encouraging bicycle travel on campus as a quick and emissions-free way to sleep late and still make it to class. Get this—the University of Dayton is willing to give incoming freshmen a free bike if they'll forego having a car on campus for their first two years. Who says it doesn't pay to be green!
Long showers waste both water and the energy to heat it. Taking a daily 10 minute shower creates 1000 pounds of CO2 per year. Installing low-flow shower heads can cut hot water consumption (and CO2 emissions) in half. Multiply that by the number of showers taken at your school—wow. (Oberlin College turns shower time into Short-Shower Contest Time)
Chemical treatments and regular mowing of large spaces is a huge contributor to ground, air and water pollution and greenhouse gases. Explore with campus administrators ways to reduce mowed areas by planting perennials or other ground cover, and going organic in regard to lawn treatments. (Here’s an extensive analysis of the cost/benefits of organic v. conventional lawn care at Smith College.)
End of school scavenging
Heading home at the end of the year often means ditching stuff that won’t fit in the trunk—or has outlived its usefulness. Instead of pitching it in the dumpster or leaving it for maintenance to take care of, some groups offer a sell/giveaway event. The NCP chapter at Bridgewater College coordinates their program, setting up guidelines (no books, and only things that still work), promoting the effort, and collecting, screening and posting ads.
Oberlin College is one of many that participate in an annual campus competition between dorms to lower water and electricity use.
Take NCP to school
Schools across the nation invite NCP’s David Radcliff to speak in classes, convos and other settings on environmental and global justice issues. More info about these presentations here.
NCP’s Get Organized page has info on topics related to native rights, women’s empowerment and more.
Green Grades—check out this ranking of the greenest campuses in the USA
It’s not enough to reform ourselves or even just our school—
we have to find ways to impact the broader community and society and world.
- Twelve Dartmouth College students board the bio-fuel-powered Big Green Bus each summer for an eco-promotional tour, taking their message of greenness far and wide.
- Longwood University teamed with NCP for a spring break trip to the Dominican Republic to experience life among poor communities and Haitian immigrants working on sugarcane plantations.
- Heading out into Real Life? Does your school promote the Graduation Pledge to consider the social and environmental consequences of future work? http://www.graduationpledge.org