Why Colgate Should Ban Plastic

Even though Colgate is supposedly “carbon neutral,” the University should be establishing stricter policies in an effort to be environmentally sustainable and encourage its students to change their behaviors. On a daily basis, I stare at the piles of waste around campus in disbelief. For a relatively small university, the amount of waste produced seems disproportionate. One of the biggest contributors to this is the abundance of single-use plastics around campus. Not only are these readily available in every dining establishment, but they are also the only option. 

At Frank, any form of iced coffee is served in a plastic cup, and straws are always on hand. At the COOP, there is absolutely no dishwashing, and therefore everything is served in to-go containers. At Chobani, almost every single menu item is prepared in some form of plastic. As a result, single-use containers are found all over campus, and more often than not disposed of in the wrong bin. Although I believe Colgate as a whole could do a better job of properly recycling and sorting out waste, the administration should take its sustainability efforts a step further.

In order to eliminate all of this waste, disposable containers themselves should be banned from Colgate’s campus. Frank should eliminate to-go containers altogether, and the COOP and Chobani should emulate Frank in its use of reusable and washable silverware, cups and plates. Students who would rather take out their food than eat in should be required to carry their own reusable mugs and tupperware. If this were implemented at Colgate, the amount of waste produced would be reduced drastically. I recognize that it can be a pain to carry around reusable containers as a college student on-the-go, but it is the least we can do to encourage sustainability and reduce our carbon footprint. Considering the alarming rate at which our climate is changing and the serious risk posed to the future of our environment, convenience should be our last priority as citizens and policy-makers. We should be willing to endure minor inconveniences if the payoff is a decline in waste and littering.

One might ask, why is it up to the students to act for the cleanliness and protection of the environment? This is because in today’s industries, the responsibility to be environmentally-friendly lies on the consumer, even though the companies are the ones cutting corners and gaining profit by producing waste, spewing emissions into the atmosphere and depleting the earth of its natural resources. Translating this to a college campus, this responsibility to be proactive about climate change has now been handed down to its students. Colgate’s administration must play into this by enforcing policies that require students to change their habits, notably by banning single-use plastics and containers on campus. Although convenience for students may be sacrificed, this would alleviate the root cause of the waste issue on Colgate’s campus and drastically reduce the university’s carbon footprint. It is through such steps that Colgate can truly become carbon neutral.