Are HPU students concerned about sustainability?

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At the Student Government Association’s bi-semester University Community Affairs Board meeting on March 16, students were offered a sizeable chunk of the evening to ask questions directed at several High Point University officials. While a range of questions were posed in regards to housing and dining options, the theme of the evening seemed to be sustainability, spearheaded by some pointed questions from a handful of student senators.

Questions about the possibility of implementing reusable plastic ware and a composting system at the Farmer’s Market and the Café were just a few of the interesting points brought up by several concerned students. HPU Vice President of Facilities and Auxiliary Operations Steve Potter fielded these questions, and assured the senators that implementing more sustainable programs was not out of the realm of possibility. However, Potter did stress that he had very few requests from students for sustainable programs, and until there was a student movement towards environmentally-friendly trends, the school would hardly be moving forward with anything that would conserve resources.

Potter’s response begs this question: why are HPU students seemingly apathetic about sustainability? It is not as if this school is perfect when it comes to conserving resources. Its admissions brochures surely deplete forests and the electricity that lights up all academic buildings at night could surely be conserved to burn less coal. Our campus Chick-Fil-A still serves its drinks in foam cups, and students scrape full meals into the trash at our all-you-can-eat locations. And perhaps most importantly, the university’s desire to have emerald-green grass year-round is wasteful of water and chemical fertilizer.

Perhaps it’s not entirely apathy, or the argument that it’s “easier” to be wasteful that compels students to disregard sustainability initiatives. I truly believe it is student body ignorance as to how wasteful the operations of HPU are, and this is not to say that other universities leave no carbon footprint. But as stewards of our school and responsible citizens, do we not have an obligation to educate ourselves on how wasteful our university is, and then act to change it?

What the students of HPU need is a cohesive sustainability platform to present to the administration with requests for environmentally-friendly practices to be implemented across campus. This platform should include, but not be limited to, exploring ways to conserve in our dining locations. What does an effective composting system look like? The fact that only a handful of our buildings are LEED-certified shows that there is room for improvement in older academic buildings like Congdon Hall and the David Hayworth Chapel.

What’s more, students should be involved at every touch point. Let graphic design students find visual systems that enable easier recycling. Let anthropology majors study how students interact with food and energy on campus in order to give us insight into better methods for the disposal of waste. Let business majors study the long-term cost benefit analysis of placing solar panels on the roof of new buildings.

There is a way for HPU to go green (and no, not just “Tree Campus USA” green) that involves its missions of educating responsible students in an interdisciplinary curriculum. I call on every student enrolled at HPU to educate themselves on the ways in which our school expends resources at the expense of the earth – let our student body drive the inevitable and imperative change of the future.

Campus Chronicle
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