KAY MALONEY ’20
It is crucial that at Trinity, we strive to educate and help students create programs that propel sustainability to the forefront of Trinity’s agenda. While it is true that Trinity has many effective sustainable initiatives in place, its goals remain vague and do not promise imminent change. In today’s political climate, universities more than ever play a fundamental role in promoting sustainability and environmental awareness. It is imperative that academia and university students become leaders for sustainable education and mobility. Ultimately, Trinity should be an educational mechanism through which students can learn how to make sustainability a lifestyle as opposed to an isolated initiative.
While Trinity needs a more definitive approach to working towards a more sustainable environment, there are many effective principles and student-run groups paving the way. Upon researching Trinity College’s goals, I found a list of bullet points that outline Trinity’s sustainable principles. In summary, Trinity articulates efforts to reduce consumption of natural resources, use of toxic substances, and waste. It also pledges to increase recycling, implement sustainable designs of buildings around campus and encourage public transportation; as to reduce CO2 emission. Lastly, Trinity claims to adhere to standards set by the American College and University’s President Climate Commitment. Trinity has much success pertaining to these goals, which include well organized groups on campus such as ConnPIRG and Green Campus that are dedicated to promoting sustainability. One of the most vocal groups on campus, Trinity College’s chapter of ConnPIRG is highly effective in advocating for a transition to a more sustainable campus. ConnPIRG has the most student involvement out of any environmental organization at Trinity and gives students the skills and opportunities to practice effective leadership. Students are mobilized to investigate big social problems and come up with practical solutions. Last year, ConnPIRG announced their campaign through a petition that supported Trinity moving to completely renewable energy. Trinity needs more of these collective movements that not only mobilize the student body but educate students on the necessity and benefits of a progressive environmental campus.
Personally, I believe the lack of motivation towards sustainably at Trinity is a direct result of a lack of awareness about this issue. As highlighted by Meredith Ralph in “Integrating Environmental Sustainability into Universities,” “for universities to comprehensively address sustainability, a ‘learning for sustainability,” approach needs to be embedded across every aspect of institutional operations in a synergistic way.” Furthermore, the key to making a campus sustainable is fully educating the student body and administration how to first, live sustainably and then second, how to get involved in initiatives that work to make some aspect of campus life more sustainable. For example, like other leading NESCAC schools, Trinity should hold events at Mather that educate about food waste reduction. At this event, environmental organizations on campus could weigh students’ plates to increase awareness as to how their choices create post-consumer food waste in the dining centers. Students could then be provided with the chance to learn about the various stages of the supply chain where food waste occurs. Ultimately, it is small events like these that will mobilize students in conjunction with fostering an education, therefore making sustainability less of an initiative, but more of a lifestyle at Trinity.
Trinity College is slowly migrating towards a more sustainable campus, yet needs to demonstrate a more deliberate and educational approach to achieving sustainability. While Trinity’s current sustainable goals are encouraging, they ultimately do not strive to make imminent change. In my opinion, universities’ research and education should act as lynchpins for global environmental change. Ultimately, I think sustainable change boils down to a trickle-down effect. I believe that to pave the way for a sustainable future at Trinity College, it is first up to the institution to educate the students about sustainability. This awareness will provide the foundation for students to think more cautiously not only at Trinity but in their daily lives, inherently producing a more environmentally aware world.