The University of Texas has a long way to go to achieve its 2020 Zero Waste Goal. According to Bobby Moddrell, resource recovery manager, the campus’s current diversion rate — the amount of waste redirected from landfills — stands at about 39 percent as of 2017, discounting construction waste. The University has the potential to decrease waste going to landfills, reduce its carbon footprint and encourage sustainable living by creating sustainability campaigns and informing students about how they impact the environment.
Similar to the AlcoholEdu and Haven programs that incoming freshmen are required to complete, an environmentally minded online program could inform new students about the importance of sustainability and the consequences of waste and carbon emissions. Once new students arrive on campus, the University should follow up by utilizing an environmental advertising campaign.
Some UT students do not recognize that their current consumption methods add up to over 3,876 tons of waste, as in the 2013-14 fiscal year. This waste, in addition to the 650,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide the University produces, directly contributes to global pollution and climate change that will directly impact our future.
Ignorance is truly bliss when it comes to the environment; the reason people do not think about the disposal of their waste is they do not understand the consequences of doing so. The science of waste and climate change is often disregarded as a far-away, irrelevant concern. An online program for incoming students could inform them about the imminent threat of climate change, hopefully encouraging them to think twice about their consumption habits.
Stanford’s Office of Sustainability organizes campus-wide conservation campaigns to recycle and conserve heat and water, among other initiatives. These efforts to make students aware of their environmental responsibilities inarguably contribute to Stanford’s ranking as the second most eco-friendly university in the nation. If UT followed suit and organized campaigns to focus on sustainability issues, each student would have the potential to contribute to the slowing of climate change.
The devastation brought upon by Hurricane Harvey was a rude awakening to the threats of climate change. The people of Texas should see these terrible events as an opportunity to take action when those in power will not. The University of Texas must be part of this obligation by informing and reminding students how to reduce their carbon footprints each day.
It may seem like a futile effort for one person, but the fight against climate change is not an individual effort. It is the responsibility of everyone, and the University of Texas must encourage its students to be stewards of the environment. Creating the infrastructure for students to be more sustainable will inevitably take time, but the implementation of such a program will solve the University’s present obstacle of convincing its students to embrace sustainable means of living.
Kosinski is a journalism freshman from San Rafael, California. Follow him on Twitter @willkosinski.