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Easy being green

Joseph McMahon | Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Notre Dame mission statement reads, “The University seeks to cultivate in its students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings, but also a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice, and oppression that burden the lives of so many.”

Notre Dame students are well known for actively engaging in community service, and the University proudly declares that its students are some of the most community-oriented in the world. The Catholic character of Notre Dame has led students to pursue a wide variety of service programs; from Teach for America to anti-abortion groups. However, one of the greatest causes of our time is often ignored at Notre Dame – environmentalism.

It has only been recently that the University really started addressing, launching the “It’s Easy Bein’ Green at ND” campaign. Several of the new buildings will have solar panels on their roofs, and the University even came together with the Energy and Environmental task force in setting up recycling stations around several dorms and handing out blue recycling bags to tailgaters this past Saturday.

Although these are certainly steps in the positive direction, the University is still a big environmental offender. Notre Dame still has a power plant that burns coal and natural gas, releasing thousands of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. According to Notre Dame’s Energy and Environmentalism student task force, the University is 10-15 years behind Harvard and Yale in establishing energy efficiency. Recycling bags are often contaminated and although all dorm rooms are supposed to be equipped with a blue recycling trashcan, few have them.

Nonetheless, our poor environmental record is not only the fault of the University, but also due in part to the laziness of the students. One dorm – St. Edward’s – has even resisted the environmental clubs’ calls to establish a recycling commissioner in each dorm. Despite the fact that they are everywhere; recycling stations are rarely used, with students instead either opting not to take the time to pick through their trash. This newspaper that you are reading right now will probably just be tossed into a garbage can instead of the newspaper-recycling bin.

Although the problem is great, the University and the students are moving in the right direction. This past Saturday marked the first time the administration and students collaborated on a project to help encourage recycling at tailgates and cookouts. The preliminary results have been positive, with over 120 bags of contamination-free recyclables collected in just the library parking lot.

In the long term, the University must seriously reexamine its energy use policy, and consider switching away from coal to solar and wind energy. It is time for the University and the student body to both strive towards helping ensure that the environment is kept safe.