Written by Nick Mitchell
As members of the College of Natural Science it is always important to remember to do our part in safeguarding the environment that we live in. Having clean water and clear skies is great for everyone, but especially crucial for us. As it turns out natural scientists without a nature to science on are pretty useless. In the heart of Austin, the best way that we can do our part to keep our surroundings intact is to focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling. The Campus Environmental Center and the Department of Food and Housing have done a great job of keeping the Campus green and are constantly working on making the University of Texas more energy efficient and waste free. On the other hand, just across Guadalupe, the story in West Campus is a lot different.
The city of Austin has a significant suite of ordinances that attempt to ensure that large condominiums and apartment complexes minimize waste output, maximize recycling, and meet certain standards of energy efficiency. Unfortunately, no one has forced the buildings of West Campus to meet these high standards. While writing this article I asked several students in West Campus about the availability of recycling resources in their apartments. Sophomore Holly Sanders responded that the recycling container in her apartment has not been emptied in the past 2 months and has been full for the past 3 weeks. Another student said that the recycling bin in his apartment had been actually locked and bolted shut since he moved in.
This meshes well with my own personal experience of having seen my recycling that I had meticulously divided amongst cardboard, paper, aluminum, and glass promptly emptied into the same dumpster in the morning by hotel maintenance before being hauled away as normal garbage.
It is for reasons like this, that I and others on UT’s City Relations Task Force have started a “Turn West Campus Green” initiative. This plan is divided into 3 parts: first, document occurrences of violations of city green codes so that apartments are held accountable for the laws and regulations of the city that they have set up in. Second, create an online resource that grades West Campus housing so that prospective residents can know which apartments are environmentally friendly, and which are 20 story waste bins. Lastly, we are implementing a “Green Greek” program, where sororities and fraternities in campus appoint a “Green Chair” to their house committees in order to oversee recycling and energy saving programs.
When asked about what they think about recycling in West Campus students have a wide variety of views on how likely to be successful any programs are. Senior Nate Norris says “I would definitely like to recycle more, and I think others would too, but right now it’s so inconvenient that I usually just end up throwing everything away together.” Junior Julia Mendez echoes the same uncertainty, “I like the idea of helping the environment, I just don’t know where to start”. What’s for sure is that there is the will for a better and greener west campus, now it’s up to us to ensure that the residences in West Campus do their legally mandated part in making it a bit easier for us to do just that.