By Tom Ballard
Students at the College have many things on their plates, but an organization on campus is challenging them to try to pay attention to one more thing — their carbon footprints.
The College’s Environmental Club held a presentation called Livin’ the Green Life outside Travers and Wolfe halls on Wednesday, Aug. 31, with the goal of educating students about ways they can become more environmentally conscious while living on campus.
“I think that (the environment is) something that is very important throughout your entire life because it affects every corner of your life,” said Elizabeth Eisenhauer, president of the Environmental Club and a senior math major. “I think that it is something that can often be forgotten when you’re distracted by the social life of campus and everything else, (it) can be difficult (to be environmentally conscious).”
On display were posters showing activities that the extracurricular organization is involved with and information pertaining to the College’s recycling policy.
“We do a lot of recycling education on campus because there are some specific rules,” said Melissa Natividade, secretary for the Environmental Club and a junior environmental studies and graphic design double major. “There are seven different types of plastics, (but) TCNJ only recycles types one and two, so a lot of the things that go through the recycling bins on campus are not recyclable… If you have past a certain quantity of non-recyclable products in the recycling bin, it contaminates (the whole bin, and the College) has to throw it out instead of recycling it because there isn’t a set process to remove all that waste.”
According to the Society of the Plastic Industry, an organization that promotes growth in the U.S. plastic industry, type one (polyethylene terephthalate) and type two (high-density polyethylene) plastics consist of items like beverage bottles, clothing, shampoo bottles and milk jugs.
Natividade points out that students at the College use items everyday they might think can be recycled, but really cannot.
“This is stuff we use all the time,” Natividade said, pointing to a disposable paper coffee cup. “Because it’s lined with wax, (it can’t be recycled).”
According to members of the club, plastic items that can or cannot be recycled on campus can be recognized by a small logo located on the bottom of most plastic goods that consists of three arrows that form a triangle with a number in the middle. While numbers one and two can be recycled on campus, numbers three through seven cannot. The lid of the coffee cup is labeled with a type six plastic — polystyrene.
According to the College recycling program’s website, other commonly used goods that cannot be recycled include pizza boxes, textbooks, Naked juice bottles, paper towels and paper plates.
In addition to type one and two plastics, other goods that can be recycled in recycling bins include paper, cardboard, bottles, glass and cans. The College also provides drop-off locations for students to recycle CDs, batteries and cell phones on campus, according to the recycling program’s website.
Eisenhauer also said that the College’s ecosystem makes it important for students to be environmentally conscious.
“It’s very important to pick up trash and not litter (on campus) because we (have lakes Sylvia and Ceva) and all the wildlife in the lakes is harmed by all the trash that is washed into (them),” Eisenhauer said.
Members of the organization said it is important for students to remember to turn their lights off and unplug appliances when they are not in use in order to save electricity and use refillable water bottles instead of plastic one-time use bottles.
“We focus on a lot of education with the student body because every individual has control over some aspect of their environmental impact,” Elsa Leistikow, co-environmental chair of the Environmental Club and senior sociology major, said. “So we focus on those little habits, as well.”
In addition to education, Leistikow also said that the club is active at the President’s Climate Commitment Committee meetings, which handles ways that the College can reduce its carbon footprint and have more of a positive impact on the environment.
The Environmental Club also had a display for its new initiative called Veg Life, which seeks to educate the College community on how to reduce the amount of animal products they use, but not to necessarily live completely without animal products, according to group members. The organization is looking into having Veg Life be its own Student-Government recognized group.
Overall, Eisenhauer said students at the College care about the impact they have on the environment, but they might not know how to go about being environmentally conscious.
“Most of the students that we talk to are very aware of global warming and they’re very aware and interested in helping the environment, but they just don’t know what to do,” Eisenhauer said. “So this is just sort of an avenue for them to make a change and take action.”