Last semester, the college issued a vision for sustainability, stating it “will embrace a concern for sustainability that is rooted in the responsibility to ensure the environmental, economic, and social health of the college and of our global community.”
This year, students have petitioned to go disposable water bottle free and SGA campaigns have laid down sustainability as a platform plank. Over break, a group of students visited Portland, Ore. to examine lifestyle habits in one of the most environmentally progressive cities in the nation. This week, students are passing around a petition to hold the administration to their sustainability promises, and on Tuesday the symposium topic for 2014 was announced—sustainability and the global need for action.
Obviously, many students have gathered under the banner of sustainability on campus, and this year they are making waves like never before. Compared to this movement from students, it seems like actual progress on the college’s side seems slow. In the face of unsettled students, the timing of the Symposium announcement seems like it could be used as a hand wave to allow the college more time. The problem is that with a commitment to sustainability, action needs to follow. When you make your New Year’s resolution, it starts at that moment, and not two years down the road.
Ultimately, it may be a question of student action. If this is a value that we believe is integral to the school’s future, we have to advocate for that ourselves. The small vegetable garden on campus didn’t come from faculty advisors or a six step strategic plan—it came from dedicated students. If we want to diminish the use of plastic water bottles, we have to accept individual responsibility to reduce demand. This may mean tackling small projects first that can be carried out by a few students or requires a small change in individual habits. However, that makes us a sustainable student body, and not a sustainable college.
This still runs the college against a wall since lasting changes need funding. Long-term investments will require Concordia to put its money where its mouth is. Projects like promoting recycling by removing wastebaskets from classrooms or going trayless in DS are steps forward, but we are clearly avoiding projects with a price tag. Without student dollars, projects like replacing windows, installing a rooftop garden for the school of business or buying a composter will not happen.
If we want to change our campus culture into one that visibly models sustainability, we need both student funding and strong support from the administration that doesn’t push projects down the road.