The Environmental Impact of Campus Life
By Sofia Banzhoff
Climate change. Water shortage. Piles of plastic that will outlive us by centuries. Being concerned about the environment is no longer frowned upon or reserved for hippies. It is chic; even H&M now sells organic cotton. Sustainability is becoming a magic word, and we are the first generation to grow up on a planet that is not considered an infinite treasure chamber anymore. But are we doing our part, or are we leaving the heavy lifting to politicians and policy makers? How does our life on campus affect the environment?
According to housemaster Maarten Diederix, students do not live in an environmentally friendly way, the biggest problem being the energy used for warm water and heating. “Most students use the same amount as a small house because windows are open with heaters on, or the heating is on 24/7, even at night or over the break.”
Other issues are laundry and general use of electricity. “Ten students in a unit, each doing their own washing and drying is a bad thing. We have seen a washing machine with one T-shirt in it, or computers that were turned on on August 28th and have never been turned off,” says Diederix. “These small steps times a thousand students makes it big.”
Tim Kroezen, Chair of the Facilities Group, is concerned about this as well. “Our electricity costs are double or triple of what the average student pays, which is mainly due to student misuse. We pay about 50€ a month for wasted energy.” Every year the prices are raised based on last year’s expenses, so using less energy now would already lead to small financial benefits next year. These would increase with more years of closed windows and cold heaters.
Then, of course, there is the R-word: recycling. Readings you only glanced at, wine bottles you don’t remember emptying, plastic wrappers you tore off of Albert Heijn products. Do they all end up in one bucket, or do you separate trash and know where the individual buckets should be emptied?
Recently, a new underground garbage disposal system was built, which will end the confusion that (new) students face. “I wanted to organize recycling in my unit, but I had no idea where and how,” says first-year Ivo Dimitrov. The Environmental Working Group promised to provide a map of recycling points on campus. Hopefully, this will end the one-size-fits-all mentality many students have when it comes to trash.
But what can individual students do? According to Marina Lazëri of the EWG, attitude is the biggest problem, because wasteful behavior only indirectly influences prices and many seem to focus on getting their money’s worth instead of saving the environment. A fallacy, since this will lead to higher payments in the future.
So, do the environment and your wallet a favor and listen to Maarten Diederix: “Regulate the heating better, put on more clothes, shower less or shorter, turn off electronics on standby, and don’t put the heater on five.”
Aye, aye, Sir.