First impressions can be really deceiving. That’s what a lot of other first-years like me have said since starting college here at Gustavus. Don’t misunderstand; I’m not bashing Gustavus. On the contrary, I want to help it be better. College is where you can explore, learn, and grow; so why shouldn’t the institution that helps shape us grow with us? As students, we learn from college just as college learns from us. It’s still discovering what works, what doesn’t, and how it can become better. Don’t take that to mean that Gustavus is a horrible place because it isn’t better right this very moment. Every institution has flaws, just like you and me. What I mean is that we need to help it, and this week I’m focusing on composting.
Gustavus advertises that its an environmentally conscious campus, and while many of its’ students and faculty do care about the environment, that’s not enough. “Believing” and “doing” are not synonymous with one another. If I believe that I will get an A on my U.S. Politics and Government final, that doesn’t mean a single thing if I don’t study for it. Just like if we believe that Gustavus is a sustainable campus, that doesn’t mean anything if we don’t keep working to improve its’ sustainability.
Imagine this: You’ve just bought your second cup of coffee from the Courtyard, and it’s only 10 AM. Why? Because finals are approaching, you haven’t slept since your three-hour nap which was a day ago, and you just found out that you have a ten-page research paper to write on top of all of your other exams. You’re downing your coffee on your way to your next class, but what do you do once it’s empty? You’re not in the campus center anymore, and you’re not going to Old Main. That means that once it’s time to dispose of your cup, there won’t be a compost bin around. You’ll probably just throw it away. Don’t be ashamed. I’ve done that too. What else are we supposed to do?
The Environmental Action Coalition (EAC) is just one of multiple organizations working to improve sustainability on campus. I talked with Collin Carlson, a member of EAC and a sustainability intern, who shed some light on what’s been discussed about composting on campus and why there aren’t more compost bins within a wider variety of buildings. According to Carlson, sustainability interns are constantly looking for new ways to improve the quality and efficiency of composting on campus, like transporting compostable materials and expanding the number of bins, but there are logistical problems halting the process.
“We do want to put composting bins in all the res halls and academic buildings. However, there are a lot of issues that we would run into if we tried to do this” Carlson said. The main issue he brought up is transportation. Since Gustavus doesn’t currently use compostable bags, and can’t use them because the bags would get caught on the composter’s auger. The compostable contents need to be dumped out of the bags and into a separate container which creates “a lot of extra work for the physical plant” Carlson said. While I admire not wanting to create even more work for the physical plant than they already have to do, this seems a little silly. The second problem is that the compost bins may get contaminated from improper use. The cardboard bins in the basement of Co-ed were contaminated at the start of this year by other recyclables because many students didn’t know any better. Were these bins removed? No. The students were better reminded. The students were educated. I believe, and therefore I will strive to prove (as many others will), that we can educate ourselves to know the difference. And I believe that if Gustavus, all of Gustavus, continues to have this conversation we can create a solution to the issue of transportation. Instead of blaming Gustavus, we educate Gustavus. We become educated ourselves. We have a responsibility (yes, another responsibility on top of all our other ones), as a community and an institution, to the world, to each other and to ourselves.