Letter to the editor: Trashed in Burlington

Dear Editor, When I transferred to UVM late last spring to start summer classes, I was delighted to discover that I could collect all the furniture I required from the class of 2010—for free. How many hundreds of dollars I saved I do not know. And I doubt I could even put a dollar value on the lumbar-supported desk chair (with built-in massager) that I rescued from the street. There is real love there. But I did lament the things that I could not take in off the street. I also lamented the things that were not worth taking, like the tarnished furniture and bags of trash, left en masse like some visual enactment of Garret Harding’s Tragedy of the Commons. For almost three weeks, Burlington was completely trashed. Each year UVM students devote countless hours to community service and sustainable initiatives. Then, we undermine the legitimacy of that hard work by allowing ourselves or our peers to dump illegally in neighborhoods across the city. Critics are quick to shout hypocrisy but this behavior might be a genuine sign of cognitive dissonance. Perhaps we can chalk this whole mess up to the fact that learning about sustainability is not nearly as glorious as practicing it. Ecological agriculture and green building? -Cool. Driving to Chittenden Solid Waste to drop off an old computer monitor? -Not so much. Yet we take the time to sort our trash from our recyclables everyday, both on campus and off—so why the disconnect when it comes to properly disposing of e-waste or taking your couch to the Spring Move-Out Project? Because, unlike the activities just mentioned, recycling is integrated into the science curriculums of many public and private schools. We recycle for the same reason we hold the door open for the person behind us and why we shake with our right hands. These are practices so ingrained in our culture that to not follow them would openly invite ostracism. We need to reinforce similar expectations at UVM when it comes Spring Move-Out. With resources such as the Craigslist, ReStore and the Spring Move-Out Project, as well as the first ever Class Council sponsored drop program, we have little excuse to let good things go to waste… or to let waste go to the curb. As we prepare to leave Burlington for the summer, and some of us for good, let us dare to expect more of ourselves and of friends. Imagine what kind of pride the Class of 2011 could claim if it were to be the first to leave Burlington un-trashed—even if the students themselves could not make the same claim for their state of mind. Sincerely,         Jarrod Szydlowski