By Kathryn Lambert ’18 & Mark Stowell
Contributor & Dir. of Facilities and Grounds
In 2016, The Onion published a satirical article titled “Man’s Garbage to Have Much More Significant Effect on Planet than He Will.” It’s amusing, of course, but should also serve as a wake-up call to a danger in our lives: American consumption.
The rate at which we consume and create waste is alarming. In most cases, the waste we dispose of seems to disappear completely from our lives–trash bins, garbage cans and dumpsters are perfectly situated at our convenience.
But in reality, waste doesn’t simply disappear, and, true to The Onion’s sardonic point, our trash often outlives us. Plastic bags can go 200 to 1,000 years before decomposing, and on average, plastic bottles “live” for 450 years. Not only is accumulated waste an eyesore by piling up in our oceans and landfills, they also affect the health of the people, plants, and animals who live close by.
In response to environmental degradation, an organization was formed at Gordon in 1988 to ensure that sustainable choices are made on campus. It might seem a little presumptuous to call ourselves “Restore Creation” as if we have the power to do that. But if we realize that, over hundreds of years, we have succeeded in destroying a significant amount of God’s amazing creation, then perhaps, person by person and bit by bit, we can start the long process of restoration.
Restoring creation requires a shift in a familiar mindset. It asks us to disengage from thinking that humankind is entitled to the gifts of God. Instead, it’s about the higher calling of stewardship; we recognize the good in creation beyond its use to us. Features of creation are not deemed worthy by our use, but rather because God took time to design and create them.
Our actions must follow these convictions and we must learn to live simpler and less wasteful lives.
Gordon has made great progress since 1988 by participating in sustainable and waste reducing methods. We’ve been recognized for our success by The Princeton Review and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and have formed a sustainability committee to continue in the right direction. Physical Plant and other departments have worked hard to make our campus more sustainable, from changing shower heads in dorms to conserve water, to launching our dorm compost program and exclusively purchasing recycled paper for all printers on campus.
This commitment to sustainability is not a superficial selling point for Gordon, but a deep commitment by many members of the staff and faculty who genuinely live out their conviction to restore creation.
We’re hoping that our passion for sustainability spreads all over campus, but even if it doesn’t, you can take simple and practical steps to reduce your personal impact on the environment and help restore creation:
- Turn the lights off in empty rooms—it’s time your desk gets over its fear of the dark.
- Take shorter showers—according to savethewater.org, cutting 4 minutes off your shower can save 6.5 gallons of water.
- Don’t throw food away—either save it for later or learn to take less.
- Don’t buy bottled water—filtered tap water is cleaner and not surrounded by a chemically manufactured plastic bottle. You can find filtered water pretty much everywhere on campus.
- BYO-everything—try to avoid using plastic silverware, to-go cups, plastic bags, etc. Plan ahead!
- Carpool—make new friends by jumping in random people’s cars (just kidding—sort of). · Participate in our compost program on campus—it’s easy (email us at [email protected] to get set up).
- Turn the sink off when you are washing dishes and brushing your teeth— water is a precious resource.
- Try not to buy new—see if you can borrow from someone else, buy second-hand or visit the Common Exchange in Chase.
As a community, our little “village” created 497 tons (that’s 994,000 lbs) of waste last year (the most since we started recording it in 1994), and we recycled 32 percent of it. We’ve recycled as much as 43 percent, but not since 2010. As a Christian community, we should be on the frontlines of sustainability. Enjoy and cherish God’s creation, but stop abusing it. We can do better. Learn more about sustainability at Gordon by visiting Physical Plant’s Sustainability webpage on go.gordon. We look forward to celebrating Earth Day with you in April so look out for our events in the future!