When was the last time you considered the impact of your day-to-day life on the Bates community and the surrounding environment? Perhaps you recently read an EcoReps newsletter while sitting in a bathroom stall in your dorm, or you noticed how much food waste was left on your plate while leaving Commons. Maybe one of your professors led an in-class discussion on the disproportionate health and ecological consequences of the modern fashion industry, or you watched a documentary on the impacts of the industrial food system.
However, when was the last time you noticed the environmental effects of your Bates lifestyle, and in response, acted to address the concerns that emerged? Maybe you attended Eco Service Day to help clean up the waste in the Puddle, or now you’re careful to eat everything on your plate. Or, perhaps you decided to no longer purchase new clothing items, and began volunteering with Lots to Gardens to address food insecurity in Lewiston.
If you’ve observed a gap between your sustainable thoughts and actions, it’s time for you to reflect on what it means to be sustainable as an individual and as a community member. This month at Bates is No Waste November, which will provide numerous opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to not only think about sustainability but to make it a reality. Events will be crafted by Dining Services, the EcoReps, and CHEWS. As EcoRep Madeline McGonagle explains, No Waste November allows us “to reflect on all types of waste, activities, and behaviors we engage in at Bates that cause damage to our environment and our community.”
On Wednesday November 8, the EcoReps will host a screening and informal discussion of the documentary “A Place at the Table,” which highlights the prevalence of food insecurity across the US, and the widespread social, economic and environmental ramifications of hunger. As the film explains, around 50 million Americans are unsure of where their next meal will come from, yet at the same time around forty percent of the food produced yearly in the US is thrown away. These mind-boggling facts and the personal accounts of food-insecure individuals will encourage viewers to consider the broader implications of leaving food on their Commons plates uneaten.
Likewise, in conjunction with the Harvest Dinner on Wednesday November 15th, Dining and the EcoReps will host the 2017 Annual Trashion Show in the Gray Cage. For this event, Bates community members design and model clothing designs made entirely out of waste items. Many past creations incorporated common recyclable and non-recyclable items on campus into their designs, such as paper cups, yogurt containers, printed readings and papers, and cans salvaged from the returnable bins in dorms. As EcoRep Alexis Hudes emphasizes, “Who would have even thought that cans can be sleeves and wrappers can be incorporated into a dress?” The Trashion Show is incredibly entertaining, but it is also very thought-provoking, as the outfits demonstrate the extensive amount of waste produced by Bates. “While Bates is already proactive in decreasing the amount of waste we produce, No Waste November reminds the community that there is always more that can be done,” says EcoRep Sophie Landes. Events such as the Trashion Show are important because they work “to spark inspiration for the possibility of a more waste conscious campus.”
So, this No Waste November, I challenge you to examine whether your day-to-day actions are in alignment with how you think and speak about sustainability. Don’t just say to yourself, “Wow, a lot of paper towels end up in the trash in my dorm bathroom,” and then add more paper towels to that growing pile. Take responsibility for your actions. Get involved on campus, in the Lewiston-Auburn community, or within your hometown. Ask questions and educate yourself and those around you. And if you haven’t thought much about sustainability before now, this is the perfect opportunity to start!