(Photo by Alena Koval from Pexels)
In the face of global issues like climate change, natural resource depletion, and pollution some students are wondering how to make an impact. There are currently sustainability projects in the works on campus, but there are also individual ways to help. So how can students live more sustainable lives on campus?
Chloe Simson, class of 2021, has dedicated much of their time toward improving sustainability here on campus and has a chair on the Sustainability Committee. They have actively been helping implement environmental programs to make the campus more sustainable. Simson’s passion for sustainability came from contrasting their family’s summer trips to Canada with their experience living in Los Angeles.
Simson’s experiences made them interested in making Soka a more sustainable place. After all, Simson said, “We have to be a role model for other institutions and the rest of the world if we can’t make a change here who can?” Simson shared several changes students can make to their routine to live life more sustainably:
- Conserve water. Students can take quicker showers and not leave water faucets running when not in use.
- Use sustainable products. “It takes minutes to search up ingredients in a product and how it was made,” Simson said. Avoid plastic and use more reusable items.
- Save energy, it can be saved by using the stairs instead of the elevator. Turning off things that you’re not using at the moment.
- Reduce meat and dairy consumption. Reducing consumption of these types of products not only is more sustainable but saves hundreds of gallons of water. It takes 660 gallons of water to produce a hamburger.
Recent sustainability measures implemented campus-wide include the Tupperware program, low-flow showers, composting, and more student awareness—but there’s always room for improvement. MacKenzie Kermoade, class of 2019 and a former member of the sustainability committee said, “We don’t have a consistent system for recycling across campus, some recycling and composting bins are not properly labeled.” However, sometimes even when properly-labeled bins do exist, students are not always aware of what they are putting into these bins. Students who don’t know what things need to be recycled, composted, or put in the landfill can ask someone on the Sustainability committee or just Google it up. It’s important to be aware of what goes into the refuse rooms and to not contaminate compost with landfill waste.
Kermoade encourages her peers at Soka to live more sustainably. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest and living by the sea gave her a direct connection to nature growing up. MacKenzie soon enough went to the Ocean’s Research College Academy, an academy in Washington dedicated to marine science. It was there that she earned her associate’s degree, but even more during those two years, she decided she would dedicate her life to the ocean. It wasn’t only her time in the academy that made her focus on nature, but time in national parks, and time spent by the ocean. Like Simson, Kermoade had a passion for the environment before coming to Soka but it started to develop more here.
In Kermoade’s view, sustainability isn’t only about the environment. “It’s also a human rights, social equity issue,” she said. To rally people around environmental issues, Kermoade said, “Seeing the true effects first hand, doing hands-on work will get you more engaged.”
In order to make real change, Kermoade said that sustainability has to be apart of your daily routine, not a hobby, and students need to be aware of their consumption. “Dorm life is resource intensive. There’s a high energy use at 2pm when everyone is coming back to their dorms.” Students plug in phones, laptops, turn on some lights, turn on the air conditioning, maybe cook something up. When students can’t avoid these uses of energy, Kermoade emphasized sharing resources to reduce energy usage. For example, as MacKenzie put it, “Share the kettle.”
Kermoade is grateful for her life at Soka, but still recognizes that “sometimes we exploit our privileges—we don’t think of it if we don’t pay for it.” Students receive free laundry, free printing, and what feels like free food and more. For example, Kermoade gave the example of how when students don’t have to pay for certain things, they print more than they know they’re going read, do laundry any time something is dirty instead of in one big load, and get more than we can chew at the dining hall. Students aren’t seeing the effects of their actions firsthand either, it’s something students will do never knowing how little of an action can impact the enviornment.
“Don’t just start conversations about sustainability in academic settings,” Simson said— put it in conversations with friends as well. Sustainability committee recommends that other students turn living sustainably into a daily routine. Making our campus more sustainable doesn’t only lead to us being more sustainable, but is a step towards making our world more sustainable.
(Photo by Ren Aguilar)