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Sustainability at Boston College: What More Can Be Done?

Climate change and sustainability are topics constantly being discussed in politics, on social media, and around college campuses. According to Boston College administrators, significant efforts are being made to heighten the sustainability level on campus, yet some students question if enough is being done.

Student organizations and clubs such as EcoPledge, EcoReps, Real Food BC, and Climate Justice BC make it their mission to raise awareness about sustainability issues on campus and to discuss what more can be done to create a greener BC community. But in order to make major changes to campus sustainability, administrators must step more forcefully in and take action.  

Over the past several years, BC has made efforts to increase the overall sustainability on campus. For example, in terms of lighting, the CFL and fluorescent light bulbs in buildings have been replaced with LED lights, which are more energy efficient. In addition to housing, BC has created numerous buildings on campus that identify as green housing, including Stokes Hall, Medeiros Hall, Stayer Hall, and 2150, which supposedly are more efficient than normal buildings.

However, many students do not believe that enough is being accomplished. Alex Alvarado, MCAS '17, suggests that “the amount of plastic silverware that BC goes through on a daily basis must be absurd.” This is even more concerning because the recycling percentage at BC is 42%, only a 4% increase from the 2011 figure. “I think the problem starts with poor education,” Alvarado continued. “If BC made freshmen take a course on [sustainability], what is at stake for the future, or the overall goal to become a sustainable campus, students would [naturally] be more involved.”

Although the sustainability department has resources on campus, the community is still falling short. Jack McCarthy, MCAS '17, said that “the sustainability office here does great work but it’s so small and underfunded that it’s hard to make a huge impact.”

Considering that BC is ranked 22nd on the Forbes list of best universities in the country, the university is not a very green campus. According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), BC is not even ranked in the top 39 greenest universities, rated according to the STAR (Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating) system. Nevertheless, other colleges and universities in our area, such as UMass Amherst and Babson College, are ranked 16th and 33rd, respectively.

What more can be done? Beyond recycling and reducing water usage, universities across the country are making major changes to their campuses in order to create a greener community. Schools such as Princeton and Northwestern have placed solar panels on flat-top roofs; with numerous flat roofs on BC's campus, this would be an entirely possible (and energy-efficient) undertaking. Additionally, colleges such as Oregon State University have had energy-producing exercise bikes installed in recent years. With construction plans for the new Plex underway, an initiative like this is more than feasible. Whether or not such actions will be taken remains to be seen.

The administration at BC can do more to create a sustainable campus. However, even if large-scale changes such as solar panels or energy-producing bikes don't occur, students can play a significant role in improving sustainability on campus. There are small things that students can do every day that would make BC, on the whole, greener. The following includes some simple ways that we can all contribute to increasing the sustainability at BC.

5 Easy Ways to Build a More Sustainable Campus:

1.) Use a reusable water bottle instead of plastic bottles.

2.) Turn off lights when not in use.

3.) Put in a work order for leaky faucets or showers.

4.) Begin composting at Mac on March 13.

5.) Spread the word about the importance of building a sustainable campus.

If you are interested in joining a student run organization to increase sustainability on campus, or want to learn about green initiatives on campus, please visit the BC Sustainability webpage found here.

Couldn't go to school down south because I love the snow too much. I have so many plants in my dorm I'm basically living in a garden. And if you spot me on campus I'm probably in an oversized sweatshirt.