Students on campus are environmentally ignorant

As the Earth Week festivities come to an end, I want to encourage everyone to play a game as they walk around campus. Take a look it the waste bins that are separated into paper, plastic, and compost sections. I bet I can tell you what you see; plastic containers dumped in with the compost, food waste crammed into the trashcans and a general misuse of the system.Is it because recycling is too complex a process for the scholars of our university to comprehend? Some environmentalists would condemn the general population of the school, but the students are not the problem. This type of behavior speaks to a large part of how the university is going about becoming the “Environmental University.”The administration is quick to point out its wind energy demonstration project near East Av. and Main, or to the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified University Heights complex. The fact is. a vital component of the ‘Environmental University’ is missing. Without an environmental literacy requirement, University efforts to produce environmentally friendly students will fail. Building to environmentally friendly specifications and renewable energy demonstrations are steps in the right direction, but when we have a student body that is so undereducated about the environment that they don’t care or don’t understand how to put trash in the right bins, we will never see a meaningful improvement in the environmental report card for the school.While we have a general feeling of environmentalism on this campus, an environmental literacy requirement would help all UVM students see how their individual choices, no matter how seemingly insignificant, play a tremendous part in the ecological footprint of the university. You can only tell people to recycle, shut off the lights, and put their computers to sleep so many times before the words lose all meaning and are ignored. The better way is to show students that they have an impact on what goes on here. This requirement would help not only the university, but also society at large. Environmentally literate students will carry that knowledge with them for the rest of their lives.Reversing years of environmental degradation is a complex problem because of the interdisciplinary nature of it. Building green buildings doesn’t raise children to know and teach friends how their actions affect the environment. But, teaching students lessons abut the environment has the potential of creating a self-perpetuating spirit of environmental consciousness that is the only way to make a real difference in our environment.