Every time I turn off a light switch or a lamp, I say in my head "BC conserves". Am I alone here? This idea has become so ingrained in me. Every light switch is emblazoned with those words, we are sent emails about properly turning off appliances before leaving on break and we have installations from Environmental Coalitions around campus displaying terrifying statistics about how much we waste as students.
BC has been taking even more aggressive steps this year, handing out halogen light bulbs to students and hosting competitions to see which hall can use the least amount of electricity. We are proud of our reputation as a school that cares about the environment and its omnipresent motto "BConserves" is meant to get us wasteful people on the (hybrid) bandwagon.
But, BC keeps a building lit up every single night, from dusk to dawn. The floodlights on Gasson Hall are so bright they actually lighten the sky surrounding our campus! Yes, Gasson looks beautiful and I feel a sense of pride when I see the Heights lighting up the world. But, doesn't it feel contradictory to anyone else?
When I am rounding the corner from Cleveland Circle and the grey night sky has an odd bright glow to it, I then turn the corner and see that it is from Conte Forum floodlights and I get sad thinking of the light pollution. Living here over the summer, I walked by McElroy every day and saw no less than three flower bed changes…whole tulip beds dug up, replanted, and continuously watered for days.
BC cannot simultaneously say that "BConserves" while continuing such wasteful use of energy. BC seems to only "conserve" to a point.
It means that these "green" efforts feel like less of a good faith effort to help the world and more like capitalizing on the money that can be saved by conserving energy. This matters because if the motives are contradictory and not borne from the right place, then even if the effects are good, it feels wrong.
If BC really cared about saving energy, water and paper, it wouldn't keep Gasson and Conte lit all night; it wouldn't print 5 million magnets for Sesquicentennial Events; it wouldn't water the McElroy flower beds every day of summer. Perusing the website for BConserves, "an online resource dedicated to energy conservation efforts," it is full of tips for saving heating, cooling, and appliance energy, aka cutting costs. There is nothing on the importance of recycling, on reducing paper waste.
It seems, rather, that BC cares about its aesthetic appeal, its prestige, and lowering its electricity bill. Perhaps an addendum for the slogan is in order: "BConserves because it helps our electric bill go down further" or "BConserves (unless it's going to look really pretty)".
Although philosopher Jeremy Bentham may disagree, if the motives are selfish or bad then the effects, however important, are less good, somehow tainted. It disgraces any boost in BC's reputation as an environmentally conscious school because it feels undeserved. It makes me resent that I now say "BConserves" to myself every time I shut off a lamp, because it feels like instead of doing it to help the earth, I am doing it to help BC save money. Perhaps to spend on a new tulip bed…