By Anastasia Bekker
Elm Staff Writer
While undertaking eco-friendly practices might be a daunting task, here are many clubs and programs to help students learn more and contribute to encouraging sustainability here at Washington College.
WC students looking to be more eco-friendly have access to a variety of resources and clubs — including the Student Environmental Alliance, the Eastern Shore Food Lab, and the Composting Team — that can help them learn about and practice sustainability.
One aspect of being sustainable is producing less waste and less pollution, and the College’s environmental community has plenty of suggestions for how students on campus can do just that as they finish out their spring semester.
According to sophomore Emma Macturk, the chair of SEA’s Sustainable Living Committee, one way that students can decrease their carbon footprint is by taking advantage of the College’s Bike Share program.
“If students are looking for transportation downtown, or just want a bike to ride, they can use the Bike Share program and they don’t have to use a car,” Macturk said.
Once students register for Bike Share, which is run by the SEA, they have access to the fleet of bicycles as well as locks and keys to secure them.
There are also events on campus that help students upcycle and reuse their dorm goods rather than simply throw them away. One such event is the annual Dorm Room Donation Drive, where students can take from a collection of used dorm goods donated at the end of the previous spring semester rather than buying new ones.
According to Macturk, two significant ways to reduce waste include composting, a process in which you can turn your food scraps into soil, and using reusable water bottles, or refilling reusable water bottles at refill stations across campus.
WC’s Composting Team is dedicated to both making the practice more accessible to students and spreading awareness.
Part of environmentalism is concerned with waste — how much of it we create, and how we can dispose of it in a regenerative way. Composting is a way of turning organic-based waste into soil, reducing the amount of waste ending up in landfills.
“I think composting is one of the [most important] things, just because of how much food waste actually contributes to landfills,” junior Emily Hurley, president of the Composting Team, said. “It takes up [about] 30% of the landfills.”
WC students can compost by collecting food scraps in any sealable container, such as a mason jar or plastic container, and drop it off in the campus garden located by Prince George’s House of the Western Shore suites. Compost can be deposited in the leftmost concrete bin at the garden.
According to Hurley, the Composting Team is always looking for ways to make composting more accessible to students, such as adding more compost bins in the Dining Hall.
“We are trying to create more places where you can drop it off, so people don’t have to walk to the garden every time they have to drop off their food scraps,” Hurley said. “We want to put bins in each dorm’s kitchen, but we just haven’t gotten to that point yet.”
Compostable trash includes fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds, napkins and even pizza boxes.
However, if the item has non-organic materials, it cannot be composted. Additionally, some food products such as meat and dairy products are not compostable.
For a full list of items that can and cannot be composted, visit the Compost Team’s Instagram page, @waccompostingteam. Or, if you have a question about a specific item, reach out to Hurley or other members of the team.
Shane Brill, ‘03, the Interim Director of Sustainability and Regenerative Living at the College and the permaculture educator of the Eastern Shore Food Lab, also has a food-based approach to environmentalism which incorporates agriculture, health, and nutrition. Permaculture is the concept of aligning a person’s lifestyle with patterns in nature.
“Food is how we internalize our environment,” Brill said. “It’s really the basis of everything that we do and all our work and research [at the ESFL].”
Brill suggests a more individual approach to environmentalism, in which a person focuses on their food intake to connect with nature.
“My real interest is trying to reconnect students with their own intrinsic human values because those will naturally align with what is good for the natural world and our place in it,” Brill said. “[It also helps them] express their life force on this planet in a way that resonates with them personally, that represents their true human agenda, versus the agenda of our culture of consumption that’s destroying the planet.”
The Food Lab also strives to teach students how to grow and produce food in a sustainable way. Their projects include fermenting and baking, researching wild foods, and selling honey from the campus apiary.
“At the moment, the best way to be involved with the Food Lab effort would be to get involved with the campus garden … or the compost team,” Brill said. “Both of those overlap a lot with the stuff we do in the food lab.”
If you’d like to be more involved in the College’s environmental community, joining one of the variety of clubs is a great place to start.
“There’s quite a few [environmental clubs] and each of them have their own specific goals and specific areas of focus, but each of them has a general goal of being more sustainable and helping the environment,” Macturk said. “Finding a group that you really like, and you like what they do to help the environment…[is] really another good way to get involved.”
According to Hurley, one of the biggest obstacles is a person’s own misconceptions about what they can do to help the environment. Changing your own lifestyle and practices to be more sustainable will help but having conversations with those around you can help make a bigger impact.
“One of the biggest thinking fallacies that people have is, ‘I’m just one person, I can’t really do anything, me composting or me recycling isn’t going to save the planet,’” Hurley said. “But if you actually work towards a goal and talk with people, you will start to see that [change is possible] and you’ll feel that change in the environment and the conversations that you have.”
Featured Photo caption: With Earth Day on April 22, eco-friendly organizations on the College campus — such as the Eastern Shore Food Lab (above) — are advising students, staff, and faculty members on how to adopt sustainable practices. Elm File Photo.