How Wasteful is FRCC?

To commemorate Earth Day last Friday, the Environmental Science Club at Front Range Community College spent the week educating students about the importance of respecting the planet.

According to their website, the club’s goal is “to promote a clean and sustainable standard in and outside of Front Range Community College. Our purpose is to make the college and community as eco-friendly as possible. We will accomplish this through a variety of projects/events about recycling, water/energy conservation, etc. Together we will develop ideas and projects as a group to help bring sustainability to FRCC and the city of Westminster.”

According to Austin, Vice President of the Environmental Science Club, the club began thanks to a passionate student. “Brandon Blea was in environmental science, a class offered at [Front Range Community College], and he had an idea to try and get more people involved in living a more sustainable lifestyle and just generally make people more aware of how to live a lifestyle that impacts the earth less, and why that is important. Out of that idea, the Environmental Science Club was born,” he explained.

The club strives to implant students with a certain respect for the Earth. “We only have one planet, and if you don’t want to care about it that is up to you, but I think that you should be more concerned about the future of the planet and future generations, about posterity,” Austin said.

The state of the health of our planet is a big issue of concern and debate at the national and international levels. Many people are starting to gain an understanding of how our lifestyles can have drastic impacts on the environment and overall health of the planet. Many people believe that, as a society, we need to make some drastic changes to how we live and how we treat the Earth, if we are to survive, and thrive, as a species. Others feel that there is no way that the changes they make will affect any real change to such a large and daunting challenge, but this is far from the truth. FRCC’s Earth Week, and the Environmental Science Club, attempted to dispel this myth.

Instilling change in our behaviors on campus can have a ripple effect through the greater Front Range community. “We want to spread the message to the greater community but we need to first start with the school. We would like to get as many people as possible from the campus involved because obviously the people are members of the community themselves; they live around this area, they go to school around this area, they probably work around the area. If we get people to start making the changes in their niche it will spread to other people in the community through them,” Austin said.

To better the Earth, people do not need to reform their entire lives. In fact, they can take a few simple steps to initiate change. “It’s easy when you leave a room to turn the light off or when you walk up to a trash can or recycle bin, you make a decision to recycle something if you can,” Austin said. “It’s also easy to plug everything into a power strip, and if you’re not using anything, to turn of the power strip.” If every person did a small favor to the planet, a much bigger change could occur.

The Environmental Science Club also hosts events to help spread their sustainability message. The events took center stage last week to celebrate the Earth Week festivities. On Monday April 18, they handed out reusable goodie bags with suggestions for students to reduce environmental impacts.

The Environmental Science Club and the Science Club took turns working the information booth that was set-up most of last week in front of the Student Organization Center (SOC). The Science Club had an informational event on Wednesday, and the Environmental Science Club held events Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Thursday’s theme was reuse, so the Environmental Science Club handed out coffee mugs. “People will go to the café here and they’ll use one of those cups and then throw it away. So if we give away mugs (we hope) people will be more inclined to use those,” Austin said. Different days of Earth Week highlighted different tenants that are the pillars of the green movement; reduce, reuse, recycle.

Using reusable grocery bags, a travel coffee cup and a water bottle, instead of plastic or paper bags, cups or bottles take very little effort once the habit is established, but make a large difference in waste generated over the course of a year or years.

According to statistics from various online sources, Americans alone consume over 100 billion cups of coffee each year and, according to Starbucks, only 1.9 percent of all of their transactions include the use of travel mugs. While the cups are generally made from recycled material, once they are made water-proof for liquid storage, they are rendered un-recyclable due to the plastic coating applied. In addition, each one of those cups, even if made from recycled materials, releases 0.24 pounds of CO2 emissions to produce it. So, if you were to buy only a single cup of coffee each day, over the course of a year you would be adding 23 pounds of waste to landfills and over 85 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. These statistics only account for the cups, not the lids, sleeves or packaging.

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Our addiction to plastic is no better. Americans used over 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. Historically, only around 23 percent of these bottles get recycled, meaning more than 38 billion plastic water bottles end up in landfills every year. It also requires more than 17 million barrels of oil to create those bottles annually, as well as more water to produce them than they actually store. Further, bottled water is exponentially more expensive than tap water and is generally no safer or cleaner than tap water, a big reason people claim for consuming bottled water.

If humans worked to reduce, reuse and recycle, they could dramatically decrease the amount of waste that inhabits the Earth. Use a non-disposable water bottle and coffee cup, take reusable bags to the grocery store and bike or take a bus to get to the store or school. Reduce your use of disposable materials, reuse materials like grocery bags and coffee mugs, and, if you can’t reduce or reuse the material, make sure it is recyclable.

By making these little changes to your life, you will be making a difference in the world. Even more importantly, as you go through your daily life, you will inspire other people to make these same small changes.

Imagine if everyone had even just a cloth bag with a water bottle and coffee cup in their car: very easy to put together and keep close by, and with daily use of all three, millions of pounds of waste would remain out of our landfills and atmosphere.

This is how you can turn everyday into Earth Day. Living a sustainable lifestyle, or one that reduces your impact on the environment, isn’t hard and doesn’t require massive lifestyle changes. Few people can, or want to, live off the grid or consume zero fossil fuels. Everyone can, however, make an effort to reduce the amount of waste they produce.

The Environmental Science Club is a great way to learn more about sustainability and what you can do to make a difference. The club holds meetings every other Friday, from 10 to 11 a.m. in the conference room of the Student Outreach Center. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, April 29. Anyone is welcome to attend, and if you sign up, they will send email reminders for meetings as well as information about the environment.

As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” For FRCC students, this could mean to make everyday Earth Day.

Written by Alex Liethen

Graphic from Global Environmental Services LLC.

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