Although Deerfield is in the midst of the Green Cup Challenge, a competition among New England boarding schools to conserve energy, environmental proctors and members of ESAC (Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee) have already made steps toward building a more environmentally-conscious campus. To help raise the percentage of water bottles recycled, for example, they collected various types of recyclable containers outside the dining hall during the week of November 9th.
But environmental leaders on campus designed the project not only to avoid the dismal statistic—that of the 8000 water bottles used in Massachusetts every minute, only 25% are recycled—but also to raise awareness about the amount of recyclable products the community uses. It helped “to show people the breakdown of what we use,” said Environmental Proctor Ellie Parker ’11.
Indeed, 40% of the collected containers were disposable plastic (PET) water bottles. Environmental and Sustainability Coordinator Kristan Bakker stressed the importance of recycling such plastic water bottles. If not recycled, “a plastic water bottle will take over one thousand years to biodegrade,” said Ms. Bakker. Another 20% of the collected containers were plastic sport and juice drink bottles.
Also among the collected items, however, which were counted and sorted in part by, were 176 Primo compostable water bottles. “These compostable bottles contaminate the recycling,” said Ms. Bakker. Instead of being recycled, “these bottles should be put in the special, labeled bins in the Koch Center and in the Greer,” stated Environmental Proctor Lili Gahagan ’12.
The container collection is a part of the new “recycle campaign.” According to Ms. Bakker, “this is the first comprehensive campaign on campus that focuses on student awareness.” The key to the campaign, therefore, is the engagement of students. Although environmental proctors may initiate and encourage energy-efficient practices on campus, the “willingness of the users to change is very important,” said Ms. Bakker.
As part of the campaign, students received a survey from these environmental groups which, according to Ms. Bakker, will “help to see why students use so many disposable water bottles when good tap water is available.” The survey is also assessing “students’ willingness to buy and use reusable water bottles,” Parker said.
Several steps have already been taken to introduce the community to the ideas and goals of the recycle campaign. Parker and Nina Kempner ’11 created a slide show which they played one morning in the Koch Center, helping to highlight facts about water bottles. They presented information about the proper ways in which to recycle at lunch and dinner.
According to Ms. Bakker, decreasing the number of used plastic water bottles is an easily-solvable task: students should make use of the “plenty of free, good, healthy tap water available on campus. This would save money and energy.” In addition, Gahagan encourages students to reuse disposable water bottles if and when they use them. “People don’t think they can make a difference, but they can,” said Gahagan. “Little things really matter.”