“Ignorance is bliss” is a pretty good summary of many people’s attitudes toward climate change and humanity’s effect on ecological degradation. We prefer to forget that it exists, ignoring the fact that our every day actions have a large impact on what the world will look like in the next few decades. This is the root of the problem. Taking a moment to become educated on what each individual as well as larger institutions such as Hope College can do—and have already done—in an attempt to be proactive toward protecting the Earth’s health makes all the difference.
Hope does a much better job implementing green initiatives than most colleges and has even won awards for the advanced sustainable technology used in buildings around campus. A large aspect of the school’s drive for sustainability lies in Hope’s identification as a Christian institution. The sustainable Hope website promotes this statement: “The Christian faith calls us to care for all of God’s creation and ensure preservation for generations to come.”
The institution’s faith and drive for ecological stewardship has led to some of Hope’s more impressive sustainable development accomplishments. For example, the Jack H. Miller Center for Music won the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED). The building is purposefully made of light colored concrete to reflect sunlight instead of absorb it. Jack H. Miller has the facilities for storm water runoff on-site, and the lights inside the building are energy efficient LEDs supplemented by plenty of natural light from the windows. These traits, among others, are what make Hope recognizable when it comes to attempts at sustainability.
Another area of Hope where efforts are being made to reduce the negative effect on the environment is in the Kletz Market.This dining area has moved to completely compostable products instead of one-use styrofoam or plastic containers. They have also gone strawless, providing students with sippable lids instead. Every trash area in the Kletz—as well as the entire Bultman Student Center—has the option of recycling or compost, reducing the amount of trash that enters a landfill. One positive way both the Kletz and Phelps Dining have taken initiative is by donating all excess prepared food to the Community Kitchen in Holland; this way less food goes to waste and people in need can be fed.
While it may come as a surprise to find out all of the small things that Hope has already done in favor of the environment, we can, and must, do much more. According to WIRED, there were more greenhouse gases in our atmosphere in 2016 than ever before in human history. 92% of the world’s population lives in places where the air pollution exceeds safe limits, the World Health Organization says. Every person bears responsibility for these facts; virtually everyone has used electricity, ridden in a vehicle or used an object created in a factory at some point or another. Some of us do those things every day, and any small effort to cut back on such things would make a difference. How can we make that difference, especially while living in a college dorm? It can seem to be a daunting task, knowing that our behavior for the past few decades will be difficult to improve, much less reverse.
Contrary to this hopeless feeling, each person actually has great power in some of the smallest daily actions. One of the easiest ways to reduce energy use—in turn Hope.edu reducing the use of fossil fuels and greenhouse gases released into the air—is to turn off your lights.
If it’s a sunny day outside, open the blinds and enjoy the natural light instead of a gross-looking fluorescent. Leaving the room? Be sure to switch off the light. String lights are heavily used in resident halls and cottages all over campus; make sure that yours are energy efficient LEDs, and turn them off when you aren’t around to enjoy them. Interested in pursuing more ways to reduce your carbon footprint?
There are plenty of online resources, including cotap.org. This website will help you calculate your own carbon footprint in addition to informing you on how to reduce it. Hope’s own pursuit of sustainability goes way beyond what was discussed in this article. Head to green.hope.edu to find out more.