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AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Students should embrace new sustainability challenge

Hatchet File Photo
Hatchet File Photo

Georgia Lawson, a freshman majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Last Friday, GW announced that beginning Feb. 1, the University will participate in Recyclemania, a competition among universities that aims to reduce waste.

The winner of Recyclemania – determined by how much schools recycle and the amount of waste they produce over the course of eight weeks – will receive an ambiguous award made out of recycled materials. The hope is that by creating a competition with a prize, students will be more motivated to make eco-friendly decisions.

Sustainability is something that deserves great attention, and a little healthy competition is never a bad thing. But this combination is only a trivial, weak stab at real progress.

When it comes to sustainability, the University actually has a pretty good track record. Last year, GW was awarded the No. 12 spot on the Sierra Club’s list of the most environmentally friendly colleges. Plus, University President Steven Knapp has made solar energy one of his priorities.

But it doesn’t seem like students are coming on board. This Recyclemania attempt sounds strikingly similar to the residence hall Eco-challenge, which failed because it lacked any sort of substance to actually motivate students – aside from a grand prize of free food and toilet paper.

It’s understandable that students haven’t been particularly enthused to participate in these challenges. If we were in first grade and eagerly trying to prove ourselves to our teachers and peers, they might work. But we’re college students: We have essays to worry about, exams to survive and plenty of competition to go around.

Sustainability is a difficult issue to tackle on college campuses, which already aren’t the most eco-friendly places. Students hastily leaving their rooms might forget to turn off the lights because they’re not paying their own electric bills, we use a lot of paper printing our readings and syllabi, and we generate a ton of garbage.

Now, though, it looks like GW has come up with a stronger idea to encourage students to think about their environmental impact. This week, the University introduced the Eco-Equity Challenge – a competition that gives students an opportunity to improve sustainability in the D.C. community through a grant program funded by the Siemens Corporation.

Unlike a competition that promises an ambiguous recycled trophy, this challenge will attract adults with innovative ideas. Not only will the winner make a real difference in our community, but he or she could also include this impressive project on a resume or mention it in an interview.

We don’t have to feign enthusiasm for a silly competition like Recyclemania. Student environmentalists have an opportunity to direct their passion toward ventures that could actually be productive while simultaneously acting as an inspiration to the rest of the student body.

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