Sarah Beth Costello
April 17, 2009
In 1970, environmental awareness was not a high priority for most Americans. Factories were releasing toxins, sludge and hazardous materials into the air and water sources.
Many were unaware of the dangers that would potentially be unleashed by continued pollution and the negligent dumping of waste and non-biodegradable materials into the atmosphere and environment.
But this widespread unawareness of the current state of the environment changed when Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. senator from Wisconsin, proposed the enactment of a nation-wide day to evoke environmental awareness among the public.
April 22 was set aside as a day to commemorate the earth. Each year, millions of Americans participate in protests, demonstrations and events to raise environmental awareness.
EARTH DAY ON CAMPUS
Elon University is a proponent of the green movement and has taken many steps in the past couple of years in becoming a greener campus. There are several organizations on campus that work to encourage greener lifestyles among students, faculty, staff and the local community.
The Green Team and the Sierra Club are two organizations that work to promote environmental awareness on campus and encourage recycling among campus organizations, schools and individuals.
Elon also offers competitions designed to incite communal awareness and to encourage recycling and conservation. RecycleMania is a ten-week competition among universities and colleges nation-wide where students compete to collect the most recyclables per capita.
POWERless is another competition designed to increase awareness and decrease wasteful energy uses. The competition incorporates residence halls, and students strive to decrease energy consumption.
The Elon Community Garden was initiated by students in an environmental ethics class as a means to encourage the growth and consumption of organic foods. While the community garden provides produce for the Good Shepherd’s Kitchen in Burlington, it also provides plots for faculty, staff and students to grow their own foods, rather than buying produce from a store.
STUDENTS REACT TO ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS
“Going-green” requires some sacrifices. Adapting to a green lifestyle is expensive and some are not up for the challenge of vacating their old life for a new and different one. While many students consider themselves to be environmentally aware and are concerned about global warming, others are not as worried.
“I don’t know that I’m that concerned about global warming, but I take action to better the environment” said sophomore, Kelsey Hilton.
In a convenience sample of 131 students, 90 percent consider themselves to be environmentally aware. Sixty-four percent said that
their education at Elon has affected their environmental awareness. And while the issue of global warming remains a controversial and debated subject among scholars, those in academia, politicians and students, 67 percent said they were concerned about it.
Some students arrive on campus possessing little knowledge of the status of the environment, global warming and a green lifestyle. The Global Experience is a required course for freshman, and is an eye-opener for many students into the impact of humans on the environment, growing concerns, present dangers and global warming.
“Especially in my global class, I feel like we learned a lot through that,” said sophomore Helen Williams.
Elon provides plenty of opportunities for recycling and conserving energy. Some students find that it’s easier to go the extra mile in the environment Elon provides.
“I think I recycle more here actually,” said Hilton. “There’s always bins and in my dorm we made little signs [that say] ‘turn off the light when you leave the bathroom’ – just little things that I think help overall.”
Hilton is not the only student that possesses the initiative to conserve and reduce wasteful energy use. Other students have been bit by the go-green bug and are striving to make a difference.
“We try to turn off all our lights when we leave the room and recycle all our pop bottles, and walk and carpool,” said senior, Allison Dean.
Lisa Bodine, a junior at Elon, has become more environmentally aware through the Sierra club, friends and campus presentations.
“I’ve been involved in the POWERless competition on campus with my dormitory so lights are constantly off, and if they are on it’s just one. We don’t leave anything plugged in that has a charger on it it so every appliance is unplugged unless it’s automatically in use there…Recently I’ve considered dropping all red meats from my diet just because of the impact of eating meat and pork,” said Bodine.
ELON’S EARTH DAY EVENTS
This week there will be several events on campus in commemoration of Earth Day. Elon Hillel and Students for Peace and Justice are hosting a potluck dinner at the Elon Community Garden from 1 P.M. to 5 P.M. April 20.
Students, faculty, staff and local community members can participate in a “farmer and local arts market” in front of the Colonnades Dining Hall Tuesday evening. The event will not only provide organic and eco-friendly produce and products, but a fashion show will also take place at 4 P.M. to show off “sustainable” fashions.
Winners of this year’s POWERless competition will be announced at College Coffee Tuesday morning at University Commons. Information will also be provided concerning Elon’s Sustainability Pledge.
McEwen Dining Services is offering an “Earth Day Dinner” Wednesday to celebrate with locally grown meats and produce.
Stephen and Rebekah Hren, authors of “The Carbon Free Home,” will speak at 7 P.M. Wednesday evening at the McMichael Science Center in Room 115. The talk is titled, “Moving Towards Carbon Free Living: Practical Steps to Reduce Carbon Emissions and Increase Energy Dependence.” There will be a book signing and reception following the talk.
Lisa Bodine explains some of the things she does to be more environmentally friendly:
Allison Dean shares the actions she is taking as she attempts to be greener: