Geneseo’s environmental efforts fall short; other colleges model effective recycling programs

As earlier articles in The Lamron have covered, we have established that Geneseo is doing, at best, a mediocre job of being a sustainable campus. The effort is still there, however, and that’s what’s important. It’s a start, and that’s the hardest part. 

Geneseo has made some commendable attempts. In Books and Bytes, students are charged ten cents for using a disposable coffee cup. Fusion and MJ use compostable plates and containers made from bamboo. There are recycling bins all over the place, clearly marked with what can be placed in them, from plastic to paper. But is it enough?

While we have compostable containers, as well as compostable food and napkins, there aren’t enough compost bins around campus to accommodate for all of them. This means that these items usually end up in the trash. 

Where compost bins do reside, they are often misused. Note that plant-based materials, like vegetable scraps, tea bags (without the staples) and paper can be composted. Don’t compost any animal-based materials like bones, meat or dairy, according to Planet Natural Research Center.

There are also apparently compost bins in residence halls but they’re often stacked in a small corner in the first-floor kitchen and essentially hidden, as in Allegany Hall. This may be because facilities don’t support compost disposal, so it’s up to the Sustainability Coordinator for each hall to dispose of compost. If residence hall students wanted the compost buckets to be more easily accessible, however, they would all need to pitch in for transport. 

As for recycling, Geneseo needs to do two things: be clearer about the repercussions of not recycling the correct items and reduce their use of plastic. There is a limit to how many times they can be reprocessed, and they will eventually end up in a landfill. 

But Geneseo can’t be held fully accountable. The school’s students and faculty need to push back against unsustainable practices. That means getting a reusable water bottle instead of buying hundreds of plastic ones from the vending machine, refusing plastic bags and looking for different packaging options like bringing Tupperware and utensils. 

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. A Books and Bytes employee said they cannot accept Tupperware, as it goes against Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. 

On the subject of food handling, the OSHA website reports, “In all places of employment where all or part of the food service is provided, the food dispensed shall be wholesome, free from spoilage and shall be processed, prepared, handled and stored in such a manner as to be protected against contamination.”

This means that the food must be prepared and stored to minimize contamination of the consumer. The only regulations are on the food being safe, nothing about preventing contamination while it is being served. 

One may argue that if OSHA isn’t regulating it, the FDA likely is. However, this is not the case. The FDA doesn’t deal with packaging further than making sure the packaging material won’t adulterate the food itself. 

So, bring your own Tupperware when you can. Perhaps Geneseo can establish a Tupperware lending system like Potsdam: use a container, bring it back and get a new one. In the end, it would save Geneseo money—if they invest in heavy-duty containers that will last, they wouldn’t have to keep buying one-use plastics.

Speaking of other schools, some have already made massive strides. American University composts all paper towels from restrooms, no longer sells bottled water and recycles kitchen grease for electricity. College of the Atlantic in Maine composts all their food scraps and the food that can’t be composted gets turned into a renewable energy source. Likewise, Harvard University saves rainwater.

Inevitably, there are obstacles to a sustainable life, but Geneseo won’t make any changes unless we speak out and ask for what we want and, honestly, what we need. We have much more of a voice than anyone wants us to think. It’s not just about saving the turtles anymore—we must make an effort so we can save ourselves and our futures.

Olivia Schmidt is a biology and English major sophomore who is “wasting” away.