Earth Day celebrations sprouted up across campus this week that The Scout hopes do not go to waste. BU Clean Up Crew, the Wellness Office and Dining Services’ efforts of handing out both reusable straws and totes gave students easy access to small steps individuals can take to help fight climate change.
However noble the efforts, if students do not take a more lasting lesson from this week then it could be all for naught. While the colored straws seemed like a great idea when snapping that perfect Earth Day Instagram shot, they may end up in trash bins across campus come next week or the end of the semester. This waste could be seen as more harmful than if these items were not offered.
Silicone straws are seen as one of the more reusable options because, unlike metal, they will remain room temperature no matter the drink and will last far beyond their plastic counterparts. However, if they are not reused, they are merely another item to be tossed into landfills before reaching their full potential.
Reusable totes face a similar dilemma. The resources needed to produce cotton totes have a significantly higher and more severe environmental impact than the production of plastic bags. This is due to the need for more resources to both produce and distribute them.
According to a study cited in New York Magazine last year, cotton bags require 327 uses to achieve the same per-use ratio to typical plastic bags found in places such as Target or Wal-Mart within a year.
This isn’t to say that offering students easier access to these seemingly environmentally friendly options is inherently negative. Many individuals say they want to improve their personal environmental impacts, but do not follow through. Receiving straws or totes provides reusable options for students. Now they will have a hard time making excuses about not having reusable options at their disposal.
If these products are tossed after only a few uses, however, their potential benefits will not be fully realized. It is relatively easy to purchase or acquire reusable straws or totes, but doing so is not the point. These items need to be kept and utilized for far beyond the end of this semester to amount to a positive change in individual carbon footprints.
But if students do not understand the root of the problem, better habits will never be able to blossom. We commend BU Clean Up Crew, the Wellness Office and Dining Services for being proactive in their goal of encouraging students to become more environmentally conscious. We hope students will begin to take the fight against a throwaway culture more seriously thanks to Bradley’s events this week.