Starting on his first day in office, President Biden made it clear that climate action was a top priority for his administration. On Inauguration Day Biden rejoined the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Additionally, Biden included top climate action items in his flurry of executive orders during his first week in office. Included in these actions was the halting of the Keystone XL pipeline and the halting of oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Biden’s overall climate plan focuses on supporting clean energy industries that provide jobs to Americans. He is also in favor of many environmental justice initiatives intended to support communities that have been disproportionately affected by climate change.
For some Hope students, the focus on climate action on a national level is welcomed. “It is my opinion that regardless of your stance on climate change, it’s time to realize a change is needed. Whether that be at the national level or even just college-wide, we need to do better,” freshman Emily Smith said. Smith, who plans on majoring in environmental science, is hopeful that Americans of all backgrounds can see the benefits of climate action and sustainability. “I am by no means a professional, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion on these issues, but I believe President Biden is handling green initiatives in a way that makes them digestible for Americans regardless of their political background, and that may just be what it takes to create real change,” Smith said.
Biden’s ambitious goals for climate action include “empowering American workers and businesses to lead a clean energy revolution that achieves a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and puts the United States on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050,” according to the official White House website. Additionally, during the presidential transition, then President-Elect Biden nominated former secretary of state John Kerry to be a special climate envoy for national security. With this new role, Kerry promised to help the U.S. be leaders in sustainability and climate action by treating climate change as a national security issue.
In tandem with this recent national focus on sustainability, Hope has also rolled out some new green initiatives for the campus community this semester. Most notable is the green to-go boxes present in the dining halls. Students pick up a ticket after they scan their ID for entry into the dining hall. Afterward, students show their tickets at the station where they are selecting food. Servers can then use a “green-clamshell” to serve the food for the student. Students can bring back the to-go container and exchange it for a new, clean one the following meal. This sustainable approach creates less demand for single-use containers and other waste.
Students feel encouraged by new initiatives and are hopeful that despite an ongoing pandemic, Hope can still find ways to reduce waste and encourage sustainable behaviors. “It’s definitely not perfect, but the concept of feeding thousands of young adults in a pandemic is mind-boggling to me, so I understand it needs to be a bit of give and take,” Smith said. The new green to-go containers are an improvement from last semester. I think it’s easy to get so caught up in everything that your meal waste is the last thing on your mind.”
The new to-go containers are just one of the many initiatives that Hope has for a more sustainable future. From compost bins in the Bultman Student Center to sourcing local foods in the dining hall, Hope’s campus is continuing “to care for all of God’s creation and ensure preservation for generations to come,” according to Hope’s statement on sustainability. As Hope students and Americans all face a new era of climate action, it is imperative that we are mindful of the resources we utilize. As Smith said, “Whether or not there is a pandemic, the landfills are still filling and the planet is still declining, so do what you can today to work toward a better, cleaner tomorrow.”