Observe Earth Day with practical initiatives

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April 20, 2016

Royal Purple Staff Opinion

Earth Day is about more than planting trees, Woody Guthrie songs and picking up trash off the highway. It’s about coming together as cohabitants of our natural world and consciously working to make it a better place to live – for everyone and everything.

We’re pretty sure most of you knew that already, but it seems as though the positive message of Earth Day gets lost to college students. The earth is large, so it obviously houses many large issues.

Come to think of it, it houses all the issues, actually. As college students, it’s hard to know where to begin when trying to solve the big earth-related issues.

Put it this way: when you hear the icecaps are melting, do you have any idea as to how to cool them off a bit? We have enough trouble keeping our beverages cold on the weekends, making the polar bears as good as gone on our watch.

For that reason, we encourage students to look for small ways to celebrate Earth Day, rather than getting lost in the politics and big-picture solutions of candidates and environmental agencies.

As individuals, we have limited power in making a difference for our world. But when we come together and consciously strive to make significant small improvements in our daily routines, we can go a long way towards saving the environment.

A good way to start is to make a pledge board for your home or work. Have your roommates or colleagues write an environmental pledge on a post-it note, and stick it to the board. They don’t have to be grand gestures, just something like, “I will separate my recyclables,” or, “I will turn the lights off when I leave a room.”

Now the fun part – decide how you will hold each other accountable. If someone violates their pledge, they might be subject to any form of friendly eco-shaming. Perhaps you could temporarily ostracize the offender by putting them on garbage duty. Maybe they’ll have to buy rounds next weekend, or you could force them to write an apology letter to mother earth.

Another practical way to help our environment is to recycle. And don’t play coy with us. You say you recycle, but when Saturday night’s mess confronts you on Sunday morning, it’s infinitely easier to lump all that nastiness together.

We need to resist that urge. Whitewater has a stringent recycling program – one that we should all take advantage of. John’s Disposal Service picks up garbage for the city every Thursday, and they pick up recyclables every other week. We’d encourage students to read up on their regulations for what does and does not constitute a recyclable item at www.whitewater-wi.gov.

For starters, plastic bags are not allowed in recycling.

Walking or biking instead of driving is another no-brainer for students who live on or near campus.

Especially now that the snow is finally over (fingers crossed), there’s really no excuse to drive your dad’s old Buick to class every morning. What’s that thing get anyways, like eight miles to the gallon? Get some exercise, and save the planet.

Our last suggestion is more for professors than students: take advantage of online resources like D2L, so we can minimize the paper our campus uses. Professors who are still adamantly anti-D2L, we get it; we can vibe with you. Students don’t like D2L either, but it’s not that hard to figure out.

It’s just like any other horrible social media platform, but it’s a great way to cut down on the amount of paper waste on campus.

Let’s work together to make Earth Day 2016 a meaningful day at UW-Whitewater. We should all come together and hold each other accountable for making the campus a more eco-friendly place. Reduce, reuse and recycle, and always look for small ways to make a difference.

We’ll supply the Woody Guthrie tunes.

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