“to survive in the world we have transformed, we must learn to think in a new way. as never before, the future of each depends on the good of all.” —nobel statement, december 2001
Living More sustainably away from the BC campus
Off-Campus Sustainability: Maintaining BC Conserves beyond Chestnut Hill
The initiatives that Boston College puts forth are seemingly endless, and no doubt some of them likely come and go before the student body even gets a chance to react to what BC is striving for. While some of these initiatives fall into this category the BC conserves initiative is one that’s here to stay. Every Boston College student is inundated with the phrase “BC Conserves” before the end of their first semester on The Heights. The bottom line is that on campus Boston College makes it incredibly easy to take part in conservation and sustainability efforts. Things like lights on timers, spring-loaded faucets, water-bottle filling stations, eco-competitions between dorms, and hundreds of recycling flyers and containers allow even the least conservation-minded students to impact efforts in a positive manner, or at least prevent these students from hindering efforts to a great degree. BC conserves is an awesome mindset to have at all times, but what happens when a good portion of the junior class moves off campus? For most of us, living off-campus during junior year is the first time we are living in a residence, whether it is an apartment or house that is not monitored by Boston College or our parents. It doesn’t require one to jump to conclusions to suggest that conservation and sustainability are not top priorities for off-campus students, and although we aren’t living on Boston College property, we are still part of the BC community, and are therefore responsible to keep up efforts regarding BC conserves. As a current off-campus student at BC, I would like to highlight some problems I have contributed to or witnessed, and how small changes can make an impactful difference when it comes to conservation and sustainability.
Problem 1: Poor Recycling Habits
This problem is pretty self-explanatory, and is also the easiest to fix. Off campus residences, especially larger houses with many tenants tend to get messy pretty quickly. Water bottles, plastic food containers, and beer cans are just a few of the many recyclables that can accumulate steadily in any off-campus residence. The problem can occur when everyone looks around, recognizes the need to do a quick clean up, and begins throwing out anything and everything in sight. No one likes to clean, but that doesn’t mean we need to forget the basics of recycling to finish the cleanup five minutes faster. A solution here is to do a primary run through grabbing anything that can be recycled before anyone begins throwing out garbage. By prioritizing the recycling, everyone in the house will have it on their mind in the future, and may proactively recycle ahead of time!
Problem 2: Electric Usage
Growing up, most of us never had to worry about leaving electric devices on in the house. Our parents either scolded us so we stopped doing it, or turned the lights and TV off when we left the room. These aren’t options when you go to college, but when you live in a dorm there’s nothing to worry about. Boston College is paying the electric bill, and there are only a few lights and electrical devices that can be left on in the first place. Off campus, especially in houses, there are lots of rooms, and often many more electrical devices consuming power. What I have witnessed is that as we grow accustomed to living in our houses, we can get lazy about things like leaving stereos, TV’s, lights, and game systems on. The problem is usually that each individual feels that it is the houses problem, rather than their own problem. My solution here is to take a good look at the electrical bill and provide financial incentives to the whole house. Sure, excess electrical usage may only amount to 20$ extra per person per month, but it is unnecessary wasted money. Looking at past bills, it is possible to pinpoint months that you have gotten lazy, and refocus your efforts after a bad month. Just having the electricity on your mind should be reminder enough to turn off that hall light or not leave the DVD player on.
Problem 3: Disposable Everything!
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I can’t stand doing dishes, even with a dishwasher in my house. A seemingly simple solution to this problem is to buy paper plates, solo cups, and use disposable silverware. No need to clean your dishes, just throw them out! While this is certainly convenient, it is extremely wasteful and doesn’t prepare you for real life whatsoever. I have even seen houses in which some of the residents use permanent utensils, plates, and cups while others, wanting to avoid dish duties, use strictly disposable items. This is especially bad, because now the house is using water to wash their dishes but also generating lots of excess waste from the disposable items. Even if these plastics can be recycled, one must remember that the phrase is “Reduce Reuse Recycle” and using disposable items jumps right to the third of the three choices. My recommendation here is simply to stick to permanent items as much as possible. They will help keep off-campus houses more tidy, prepare to maintain a real household someday, and most importantly cut down on lots of daily waste.
About the Author: Gannon Voelbel is a Junior at Boston College majoring in Economics and Biology. He is an intern at a management consulting firm in Boston and a founding member of the unofficial Boston College Powerlifting Team. He is also an avid fan of Boston Sports, especially the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter or contact his email.
Students at Boston College have increased awareness of environmental issues, the impacts that climate change has on the environment as well as the responsibility that we have to address the growing threat these changes have on our planet and to our fellow human beings. Over 80% of BC students volunteer in the variety of community programs offered locally, nationally and on the international level. Many do so for the four years they are at BC. Student involvement is reflective of the BC motto: "Men and women for others."
Some programs run by students focus primarily on sustainable living which also encompasses a range of environmental issues. the following groups have programs in which students can participate and be more actively engaged.
EcoPledge is a student-led organization that works toward making Boston College a more sustainable campus. EcoPledge educates the BC community about environmental issues by showing films, presenting lectures, and hosting annual celebratory events like Harvestfest and Earth Day.
Through the leadership of EcoPledge members, Boston College has participated annually in RecycleMania, a national intercollegiate recycling competition, and the NRG Games Contest, an energy conservation contest. EcoPledge also runs campus-wide campaigns to promote water and energy conservation, and an increase in commingled plastic, paper, and food waste recycling.
EcoPledge members often go beyond the campus, participating in local community clean-ups, national environmental conferences, and hiking and camping outings throughout New England. The group pledges to collaborate with faculty, staff, and fellow students in campaigning for a more sustainable Boston College campus.
Join the EcoPledge Facebook group!
The goal of Real Food BC is to promote the purchasing of food from local, green, humane sources in order to support localized food production and to reduce carbon emissions that result from long-distance food shipments. BC Dining Services have already taken the initial steps towards more sustainable food procurement, and our group wants to help them take greater strides. In collaboration with Real Food BC, BC Dining created Addie's Loft, an organic eatery that offers food from local, sustainable sources. Located on the second floor of Corcoran Commons (Lower), Addie's offers delicious artisan fare, and its walls display photos and posters that provide insight into the sustainable food system.
environmental law society
The Boston College Environmental Law Society (ELS) is a community of students, faculty, alumni, and friends who share a social consciousness about important environmental issues. The society offers a variety of unique opportunities for students to become informed and active in the pursuit of a better and healthier environment. To accomplish this, the society organizes an increasingly broad scope of activities that are fun, educational, and service-oriented.
For more information, please see the Environmental Law Society web site.
Boston College’s environmental clubs are always looking for new ways to act on campus. EcoPledge, Sustain BC, and the Environmental Law Society organize and support many sustainability events. Please see our Events page for upcoming and past events, as well as possible future activities related to sustainability at Boston College.