When I was in third grade my school introduced a comprehensive recycling system. Our teachers showed us the new addition to the corner of the classroom--bright plastic blue bins--and explained we'd be the newest partners in waste management for Oscar the Grouch. I remember thinking these new arrow-clad containers took up useful play space and gave us another responsibility to worry about. We knew not what they were for, or why their introduction was necessary, but that day we did our best to separate our recyclables and follow all the right steps. To this third grader, if someone took the time to create them, they must be important, right?
Earth Week at Gordon. It was a week that serves to both remind and enlighten students about their responsibility as stewards of creation--how every student not only needs to engage in sustainable practices, but also needs to understand why it is important to do so.
As a senior, this is my fourth year observing this important time of year. I've come to respect much about this week, facilitated by Advocates For A Sustainable Future (ASF), a student-led group that seeks to involve students directly in environmental efforts on and around campus. Mostly it encourages a gentle but meaningful urge to rekindle a passion for our environment--at Gordon, a community ethos we call "Restore Creation." Whether it is listening to a lecture by a distinguished environmental advocate like Ben Lowe, author of Green Revolution: Coming Together to Care for Creation, or getting one's hands dirty planting seeds in our campus garden, students are encouraged to develop a fuller understanding of environmental concerns and their responsibility to make changes, even if they are small ones.
The introduction of the Lane Student Center water filtration system cut back on the high levels of plastic waste, and the high-power hand dryers in the bathrooms cut back on paper waste. These small introductions, voted for and implemented by students, shows that this is a campus that knows which sustainable practices it should engage in, and how to create a system that makes a difference. As I'm a senior, I participated in the annual vote for a class gift. Our choices included a compost system in the student center; signage updates; and the installation of lights around a walking path along the water. The senior class voted for the comprehensive compost system in Lane. Although the senior class committee lacked the funding necessary to put the system in place, that it received the most votes reassured me that the students here care deeply about making contributions to environmental change.
I think that Stowell is right. I have witnessed an impressive and respectable change in student practices during my four years here, especially compared to my time studying abroad at another university. Every kitchen I walk into at Gordon seems to have a compost bin, and every hip or backpack seems to have a Nalgene bottle attached to it. Nate Mori ’13, co-director of ASF, also recognizes Gordon students' passion. "Students who have participated in discussions have shared many insightful thoughts and opinions. It is clear they care to know more about how they can help mitigate threats to our environment. We're very thankful that Gordon students are interested in becoming more sustainable."
When I notice these small but important adoptions, I see a community of people that understands not just the value of their practice but their responsibility to set an example for others. ASF leads this charge for environmental stewardship on campus. Their passion to inform and guide this change is infectious. As this generation of students continues to grow our passion for sustainability and realize that we each have an individual responsibility to creation, I've no doubt other institutions will soon follow in Gordon's carbon-free footsteps.
Blogger: Mac Gostow ’13. Mac is a communication arts major from California and a student writer in the Office of College Communications at Gordon College. With a double minor in business administration and sociology, Mac has interned for CBS News in New York City, is a founder of ScotRadio, performs with the Sweaty Tooth Madmen improv troupe, and served as a show host for KURadyo in Istanbul, Turkey.