UVM Ranked #4 for Green Colleges – The Reality

 

The 2017 Princeton Review Rankings were recently released, the University of Vermont was ranked #4 on the list of Top Green Colleges. With programs such as ecoware (reusable plastic containers), composting buckets in every dorm, green housing options, sustainable buildings and more, the title appears to be deserved.

According to UVM’s website and The Office of Sustainability, “In February 2012 the University of Vermont became the thirty-fourth college in the nation to commit to the Sustainable Endowment Institute’s Billion Dollar Green Challenge, agreeing to establish a revolving fund to finance on-campus energy efficiency improvements.” That was five years ago. With the Princeton review saying that 64 percent of high school seniors looking for a college take into account a schools commitment to the environment, initiatives like that do not only help the earth but the schools publicity.

The work done to further the green initiatives on UVM’s campus have created a lasting impact and are driving forces for a long and ongoing push towards a more sustainable campus. But it is not enough just to educate students on eco-tourism and sustainability practices. It is not enough to teach students how to be kind to the earth in a classroom. There needs to be action involved.

In 2013, The University of Vermont took a stand by banning plastic water bottles which removed them from every location on campus, hoping to reduce waste and increase use of reusable bottles. According to The Huffington Post, the ban actually increased the amount of bottles thrown away and resulted in a spike of the amount of sugary unhealthy drinks purchased by members of the campus.

The initiative that had good intentions clearly backfired. While plastic water bottles cannot be bought on campus, other carbonated and sugary drinks can. In the school’s attempt to ban plastic water bottles, they failed to notice the high use of plastic in other areas of food packaging. In dining areas such as the Marché or Market Place plastic cups are used to package everything from fruit to hardboiled eggs.

I feel uncomfortable buying the healthy foods that I want. Knowing that when I am finished the container will end up in a recycling bin, a landfill or the ocean. It is a hard to be less impactful on the earth while having your food and diet highly restricted by a meal plan and school that is not doing enough.

Politically the country is at a delicate crossroads that could go in a few different directions. We either start to see a change in policy and action or we continue on a path that will have long term effects on the earth. With Trump behind the reins of the country important legislations like The Paris Climate Accord are being neglected. According to The New York Times, The United States is now the only country out of 200 that has not signed onto the accord, Nicaragua and Syria are the newest additions.

With the schools most recent achievement in green initiatives: do we celebrate the accomplishment and sit back while the planet crumbles or do we work until we’ve actually earned it? With important environmental legislation being ignored does the University push forward in resistance while providing hope for a less impactful future?

About four years ago a program started throughout the residence halls on campus. Each building is equipped with a compost bucket located with the recycling and trash bins. Some dining areas such as Brennan’s and The Skinny Pancake also have composting buckets. But are they really doing any good? The line between what can and cannot be composted is blurry.

Taran Wise, a junior with a major in Environmental Studies is the local compost collector. Twice a week he goes to every residence hall on campus and collects the food waste within the compost buckets. He takes the time to sort out what can and cannot be composted to make the initiative worth-while. According to Taran, “I recognize the necessary need to divert food waste from landfills. The main goal is to reduce the food waste at the source point – whether that be the producer, storage, distribution, or the consumer. The current habits of society are based around consumerism whether that means buying extra unneeded food, only demanding perfect looking produce, inefficiently planning and food shopping, or allowing food to go bad.”

The Sustainability House or previously known as Green House is a living learning collaboration located in University Heights. A requirement for living in Sustainability House freshman year is a one credit class that fosters such a relationship. With required projects to benefit the school and environment. The program has offered a lot to the school and provided a living community for like-minded individuals who strive to better the earth.

2017 has been a record year for temperatures and a surge in storms. There have been 13 storms so far. According to New York Times, since 1995 there have only been 4 other times with this high voltage of storms. If this keeps up with two more stores 2017 may hit a record. This record number is directly correlated to human effects on the earth and the negative impact on the environment. Action needs to be taken not just on UVMs campus but across the world because there is no planet B.

But still there is more to be done. We, as people, will never be able to reverse the effects we’ve had on the earth. All it takes is an informed population with the determination to make a change. With a title such as one of the top green colleges in the country, there is necessary need for more action. To prove that the students, faculty, and administrators at this school care about the environment and sustainable practices on a higher level than new student attraction, rankings and good press.