In recent years, Elizabethtown College students have become increasingly interested in spreading the word on sustainability and green practices. The members of the Elizabethtown College Environmental Group (ECEG), specifically, have discovered new and creative ways to demonstrate just how great of an impact each of us has on the environment.
ECEG is currently carrying out the fifth annual Changing Our Colors campaign. This is a collection of eco-friendly events taking place in the four to five weeks leading up to Earth Day. One such event was the Eco-friendly Product Show that took place Monday, April 9 in the KĀV. It was originally intended for secretaries and thus featured a lot of recycled office supplies. Vendors from Staples as well as representatives from Dining Services and Environmental Services attended the show. Students and faculty were welcome to stroll through and check out the various tables. Senior Melanie Sturm, president of ECEG, commented, “I think it was a success.”
Friday, April 13, ECEG provided transportation to Ten Thousand Villages in Ephrata. Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade retailer, selling handmade products from artisans around the world. Fair trade ensures these frequently underpaid or unemployed artisans are paid in full for their products, thus providing them with vital income. “I’m very excited to go. I’ve been there before, and it’s awesome. Fair trade is an awesome concept,” senior Nadine Kennel, secretary of ECEG, said before the trip.
The club also took part in a tree-planting ceremony on Wednesday, April 11. In addition to some club members, there were facilities staff and a few non-club members in attendance. Five native trees were planted near the stream that flows between the track and the Young Center.
Another aspect of Changing Our Colors will be a trash audit on Brinser Field. “What we’ll do is go around and take random bags of trash, probably one from each building, and dump out the contents. Then we’ll go through and see which items are recyclable, which could be composted, and which are actually trash,” Kennel explained. She hopes that this will serve as a wake-up call to students. “They need to know that not everything is trash,” Kennel said.
Etown’s audit will take place Friday, April 20 on Brinser Field. It will happen during Habitat for Humanity’s Shack-a-Thon, an event simulating poverty housing. Sturm said, “We hope that the Shack-a-Thon will create more traffic on Brinser that day.”
Franklin & Marshall College and Dickinson College have held trash audits in the past with surprising results. Franklin & Marshall’s audit, which took place in October, found only 28 percent of the bags’ contents were true garbage. Compostable waste made up 25 percent and a whopping 47 percent of the contents could have been recycled. Kennel and Sturm hope that such numbers will help change Etown students’ behaviors. They want students to think twice before tossing just anything into the trash.
On Monday, April 15, Kennel, Sturm and sophomore Nina Wheeler traveled to the Smart and Sustainability Campuses Conference (SSCC) at the University of Maryland, College Park. There, they listened to speakers and gathered ideas regarding sustainable practices that have been implemented on other college campuses. They hoped to come across some good ideas to bring back to Etown.
ECEG also planned to co-sponsor an Earth Day showing of “For the Next 7 Generations,” a film promoting peace and sustainability, but it has since been canceled. Sturm said, “Some of our past films haven’t had the best turn out.” There will not be an Earth Day film this year, but Sturm is hopeful: “Maybe next year,” she said.
Speaking of next year, what exactly is the fate of the Environmental Club? A majority of the club representatives are seniors. Sturm said, “We have a strong core of faculty and staff standing behind the club.”
Hopefully the dedicated faculty and staff will carry the club until some new members jump on board. Even if the club has low numbers, Sturm hopes people will take initiative and behave kindly to the earth on their own.
Sturm said, “It’s not about the quantity of people that show up to our events. My real concern is raising awareness. I don’t expect everyone to lead a lifestyle like mine, but if people contribute even just a little on their own, that’s what matters.”
In an effort to improve their habits, students can stop by Brinser on Friday to see what they should and shouldn’t be throwing in the trash. Just as Sturm said, even a small contribution from each individual will make a difference.