Labor Day weekend wrapped up “Be a Part from the Start,” a joint initiative by Eco-Rollins and Join Us in Making Progress (J.U.M.P.) to increase environmental awareness and involvement here on campus. Activities ranged from a presentation by Colin Beavan, author of No Impact Man, to tie-dying T-shirts produced from organic cotton and recycled Coke bottles, and included many opportunities for volunteering in the local community.
Last week was dubbed “No Impact Week,” and each day concentrated on a particular environmental issue: consumption, trash, transportation, food, energy, and water. I participated in several of the events this past week, and found them engaging and informative.
I began Monday night by attending the screening of two documentaries in Dave’s: The Story of Stuff and The Age of Stupid. Both made strong points about our treatment of the environment as a society. Age of Stupid contained very good filmography and screenwriting, and I enjoyed Pete Postlethwaite’s strong, serious, narrative soliloquy. We broke near the end for discussion, and while the debate became heated and political, I found it helpful in analyzing the films and separating fact from propaganda.
I participated in the Winter Park bike tour Wednesday afternoon. The turnout was impressive, with two groups of around 15 taking separate routes. We made an interesting sight: a long train of cyclists, led by a golf cart, cruising through down town Winter Park, stopping occasionally to look at points of interest. On the return trip, we stopped by two large fields to throw seed bombs (small dirtballs that burst on impact, scattering native flower seeds).
Friday’s theme was energy, and we met in the Galloway Room that evening for a discussion of energy usage, both at Rollins and in the larger world. Assistant Professor of Biology Katie Sutherland, who specializes in ecology and marine biology, led the discussion.
I learned a lot about environmental programs and issues here at Rollins. For instance, the college as a whole spent three million dollars on electricity last school year. Much work is being done to reduce this consumption, including motionactivated lights in bathrooms and classrooms, and the rolling out of individual power meters to buildings on campus. Several faculty members are campaigning to introduce native grasses around campus, in lieu of the estimated $4000 spent resodding Mills Lawn every year. A few plots of native species have been planted already and are doing well. The Rollins recycling program has expanded over the years and can now handle recyclable materials of types one through seven, which covers the vast majority of recyclable products. However, we still have a ways to go in informing people about the program. Students reported seeing cleaning staff empty recycling bins directly into the trash bins, and the pile of thrown-away recyclables, set up outside the campus center on Tuesday, demonstrates how often we fail to put items in the correct bin in the first place.
The evening ended with a drum circle on the steps of Mills, led by a local group of enthusiasts. They passed drums around the spectators, and taught us several rhythms from Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. The lawn was noticeably darker that night, as many buildings on campus turned off their usual nighttime illumination as part of Energy Day. In the dim light, the repetitive, driving rhythm of the drums was peaceful, and the small circle of people felt warm and intimate.
That is the story of my experiences from No Impact Week. I had a lot of fun, learned many environmental facts, and found myself increasingly interested in the environmental work done here on the Rollins campus. I know that many of you have stories of your own from the “Be a Part from the Start” campaign. One aspect of the campaign was pledges made by the students to change their lifestyle in some way to lessen their impact on the environment. Students pledged to do everything from giving up meat to turning off their lights during the day, and several whom I spoke with said that they had gained a lot from the changes made, and aimed to continue them. We are happy with our own stories from “Be a Part from the Start,” but what is most important is the story that we are all writing, now and for years to come: the story of humankind’s reformation to a sustainable way of life.