by Somi Jun '20
Two weeks ago, Ming Wilson ‘18 and seven other Princeton students spent their Saturday afternoon walking around campus to pick up litter. In the process, they found packaging, old beverages, and two abandoned bicycles, which are now being restored in Cyclab.
“We specifically emphasized going ‘off the beaten path’ to pick up trash that was hidden and which have even been misplaced for years,” Wilson said. “We hope the initiative will [lead] to a cleaner campus and the accidental fruit of friendship, as well.”
Wilson’s walk was part of Princeton’s first Campus Sustainability Month, a series of thirteen events about sustainability held in October. Representatives from environmental groups met at the beginning of the school year to brainstorm how they could promote a collective awareness of the environment. Many of these students are GreenLeaders, representatives of student groups who communicate with each other and work with the Office of Sustainability to make sustainability a campus-wide movement.
“People don’t think of sustainability as a social issue, even though it is,” Cecilia Shang ‘18, GreenLeader coordinator, said. “So much of ethos and behavior in general is your social context and what you take to be the norm.”
Campus Sustainability Month emphasized engagement with the environment and other students. Events included movie screenings, a Meet What You Eat Harvest Dinner, OA-led trips to apple orchards and Lake Carnegie, an EcoReps clothing swap, and a composting informational session. Some events took a political approach to sustainability, such as the Princeton Student Climate Initiative’s “Climate Solutions” table at Frist.
“We spoke with members of campus community about effective, bipartisan solutions to climate change, including Carbon Fee and Dividend, and provided them the opportunity to take action by filling out a short form to mail to their congressional representatives,” Jonathan Lu ‘18, president of PSCI, said. “[We] were able to secure 77 letters to be mailed, reaching 26 different states.”
October as Campus Sustainability Month is meant to complement Earth Day during the spring, so that students maintain environmental awareness throughout the entire year. By starting the year on this note, Shang and the GreenLeader consortium hope to make sustainability a Princeton value. Shang said that part of this effort is reaching people who wouldn’t otherwise engage in sustainability events.
“I’m really happy with how it went, considering it was the first time,” Shang said. “But it has potential to have more impact in the future, in terms of increasing visibility.”
Since 2003, college campuses around the world have participated in Campus Sustainability Month. The event is facilitated by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).