Dear Lou Anna,

I am proud to say that I go to a school that is making an effort to protect our planet. I am proud that I am able to recycle in my dorm building. I am proud that at the beginning of fall semester I was provided with a bag to store my recyclables. But we’re still not holding ourselves to as high of standards as we could be.

James Madison freshman Tabitha Skervin said that the university is doing a good job by giving the students the option to recycle. She said she doesn’t know any Case Hall residents who don’t recycle, and that she thinks that’s because it’s so easy.
“It’s like a why-not situation,” Skervin said. “I already have the basket; the place is downstairs.”

Although she’s happy that she is able to recycle in her dorm, Skervin said she is often disappointed by the state of the recycling room in Case Hall. Skervin said that when she passes the recycling room the lights are often left on, needlessly using energy. When she recycles her own materials, she notices that other students do not do a good job taking care of their recyclables.

“There are cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, paper and newspaper inside the trash can in the recycling room,” Skervin said. “I don’t understand why you would go all the way over to the recycling room just to throw something away when the plastic bottle thing is two feet away.”

But we still can check recycling off the list. What’s left is to reuse, and most importantly to reduce. And don’t get me wrong: Recycling is important, but it’s not the ultimate answer. The best way to reduce our impact on the planet is to reduce our consumption of its resources.

And with that, Lou Anna, we could use some work.

Let’s take the renovation of Holden Hall for an example of excessive consumption. Holden Hall now has a game room, a kitchen and lobbies that look like the Starship Enterprise. There are 12 flat-screen TVs in the hall, many of which are often turned on with nobody watching them.

History junior Edward Daugs is living in Holden Hall for his third year. He said that only about half the TVs in the lobby are frequently used, but he said the TVs are good in some ways. If students cannot afford to have a TV in their own rooms, they have the opportunity to watch it in the lobbies. The middle area of Holden was almost always empty last year, Daugs said. He said that the renovation was good for that reason, but that not enough thought was put into the entrances to the building.

“Now the entryways are totally wasted space,” Daugs said. “There’s a TV with no couches in front of it.”

Because the first floor of Holden, where he lives, doesn’t have a study lounge, Daugs often goes to the area outside of Sparty’s to study. If the nearby TV is on, Daugs asks if anyone is watching it. If nobody is, which usually is the case, he turns it off.
“They’re sitting there burning up power all day,” Daugs said. “The ones in the entrance lobby are usually turned on to the Weather channel, so you have a flat-screen TV telling you if it’s going to rain.”

Although he said that the university is really expanding its recycling program, Daugs finds some parts of the Go Green initiative ironic.

“They’ll print off reminders to recycle, and I’ll look in the trash can and it’s full of those reminders,” Daugs said.

He suggested the university print double-sided fliers or just send e-mail. Fliers about recycling are not the only ironic thing that have come out of MSU’s Go Green initiative. Mobile billboards are another. These billboards are pulled by trucks that drive around campus advertising things like enrolling in summer classes. Sometimes they even remind students to recycle. These are things that could certainly be brought to our attention through something like e-mail.

E-mail is an easy, environmentally friendly way to get information out to students. It doesn’t require any paper to print on or any gasoline to distribute it. It should be the main way that the university communicates with students.

Amidst the ironic mobile billboards and the 12 flat-screen TVs, there is one campus organization that really gets it: the Resident Hall Association (RHA). RHA is the on-campus student government that helps students communicate with the directors of the residence halls. It was at an RHA meeting that representatives from Residence Life brought up the idea of a trayless cafeteria to see what students thought. Not using trays would save money, water use and soap use. The idea was given good feedback and now Yakeley is completely trayless. RHA also helped to bring recycling facilities to the residence halls.

In order to conserve paper, RHA advertises mostly on RHA TV, tries to recycle all of its posters and distributes its meetings’ minutes through e-mail instead of print. The RHA Campus Center Cinemas and Movie Office system are also online and use almost no paper.

As well as focusing on reducing paper consumption, RHA has done other things to promote sustainability, like distributing reusable water bottles to dorm residents and advertising with Frisbees made of totally recyclable material.

Journalism senior Jenni Lewis, RHA’s director of PR and Advertising, is proud of MSU’s Go Green initiative. She especially likes that MSU has made the initiative so visible. “It’s a huge accomplishment for the university,” Lewis said.

Lewis said she’s impressed that MSU has taken the first step towards conservation because she knows that a lot of campuses haven’t. She knows that this first step will have to be followed by a second and a third before the university is really sustainable.

That second and third step may start online. “They are still not on the digital form of advertising,” Lewis said. “Students, we’re on Facebook. We’re using all these social networks. They could do something with that and maybe even reach more people.”

Lou Anna, I know you’re trying. We all are. Our culture is shifting from having excessive consumerism to being environmentally aware, and it’s hard to make a university that reflects both of those things. But if MSU’s truly going to be a world-grant institution, we need to be aggressive about protecting that world we’re a part of.

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