Individual action and education key to environmental impact

With humans and technology taking over the globe at an alarming rate, the necessity for environmental preservation is at an all-time high. Fifty percent of wildlife has disappeared due to exploitation and habitat degradation since 1970. Associate professor and Chair of the geography department David Robertson and associate professor of geography David Aagesen spoke about the different approaches students can take to reverse this. They agreed that along with education, individual effort is the most effective way to take action.

“It’s about changing our own consumption patterns and thinking about how much energy we use,” Robertson said.

When done collectively, even the smallest actions can create a large impact on the environment. For instance, consider buying one less notebook every semester and then imagine if every college student in America did as well. Millions of sheets of paper, entire trees and potentially forests could be saved.

Geneseo students generally know the basics of environmental health, but often think they are taking more action than they actually are. Thanks to the multitude of available bins, recycling is prominent on campus. We know basics such as turning off lights to save energy. There is much more that can be done, however.

“When it comes to something like water use, recognize the value of fresh water and its rarity and stop wasting so much of it,” Robertson said.

While it feels like an endless resource for us—it comes out of the tap whenever you turn it on—water is actually in dwindling supply and is consumed at shocking rates. Simple acts such as taking shorter showers or saving laundry and dishes for when you have a full load can add up over time.

Material consumption in general should be taken into account. Students should be asking themselves, “How much energy do I use every day? How much water and paper?” One easy way to reduce this is to actually fill notebooks before buying new ones, something most students choose not to do when supply shopping for new semesters.

Aagesen mentioned a project that students in certain environmental classes used to have: they would track everything they did in 24 hours that had environmental impact, such as their food intake, what they threw out, water usage and electricity usage. It could be beneficial for all students to monitor themselves in this fashion; we tend to consume more than we realize.

Aagesen pointed out that our society has a habit of throwing things out before “the item ends its life cycle.” In other words, we replace things before we have to because it’s cheaper. Consider mending clothes and resoling shoes instead of disposing of them or buying objects that are less disposable. Small ways to decrease trash are to buy less packaged foods, use reusable containers and reuse or donate old clothes.

It is crucial to know where your resources come from. If you don’t know where your electricity and water come from or where your waste goes, research it. The environmental studies minor is the most interdisciplinary minor offered at this school, with a class offered for all majors and interests.

“I think it’s very important that students recognize that individuals do matter, that when many people make individual decisions they add up to big change,” said Robertson. “You can make a difference.”