I am underwhelmed by the new compostable coffee cups introduced by Campus Dining. True, they’re biodegradable and won’t remain in our landfills for centuries to come. But one has to admit that they only contribute a very small amount toward overall waste reduction, even if the entire city of Los Angeles were to switch to compostable coffee cups at once: there remain many, many other non-biodegradable everyday items that would continue to add to the waste heaps.
It’s ineffective, but that’s not the point. Rather, I’m troubled by the overarching theme that these coffee cups represent: the classic case of marketing over substance, examples of which are all too common nowadays. It seems the powers that be have tried to placate us by thinking “let’s make the cups only a bit more environmentally friendly; let’s plaster them with ‘Earth Day is every day’ text so the students will think we’re making a difference; and let’s do nothing else.”
Instead of focusing on the trivial issue of coffee cup waste, why don’t we try something a bit broader? How about turning off the climate control in all buildings on campus, for example? It’s not that hot and we don’t need air conditioning – an open window and a fan will do just fine.
Do we truly need to water campus lawns as often as we do? How about providing Bengal Bus shuttle service to the Highland Park light rail station, encouraging students to take the Metro rather than to drive?
Occidental received a grade of C in sustainability for the year 2010. We can do better than that.
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