Are Manhattan College Students Environmentally Conscious?

by Kyla Guilfoil & Nicole Fitzsimmons, Asst. News Editor & News Editor

While activism and awareness has increased over the years with the rise of social media and accessible environmental information, there are still many misconceptions around the topic of sustainability and environmental justice. And, because major corporations and government officials have not made structural changes to address the severity of our climate crisis, many citizens are not actively conscious of their environmental impact.

The Quadrangle took to social media to hear from some members of the Manhattan College community via the Instagram account @mcquad. Three polls were posted onto the accounts story for 24 hours, with an average of 127 answers to each question.

The first poll read, “Do you consider yourself to be environmentally friendly?” and received 135 responses, 83% voting ‘yes’ and 17% voting ‘no’. The second poll asked “Do you use reusable items daily?”, with 126 responses, 92% voting ‘yes’ and 8% voting ‘no’. The last of the polls read “Do you pay attention to your daily waste?”, with 121 responses, and 49% voting ‘yes’, while 51% voted ‘no’.

These answers demonstrated that a limited, random sample of Instagram users in the MC community were in fact using reusable items and considering themselves as environmentally friendly, but we’re not aware of their personal waste. This small poll could indicate that while there is a certain level of environmental awareness on campus, the awareness pertains to more common knowledge issues, like using reusable water bottles.

These answers align with the thoughts and opinions expressed by Julian Silverman, program director of The Center for Urban Resilience and Environmental Sustainability and environmental science, regarding the levels of environmental awareness on campus.

“I think that most students are aware of important environmental challenges such as climate change, but they may not fully understand the scale of the problems or how they can make a difference. It’s difficult these days to go online or read the news and not hear about local or global environmental issues,” Silverman said.

Despite environmental issues being addressed on the media frequently, there seems to be a disconnect between taking in the information and actually helping. Dart Westphal, director of the environmental studies program, thinks that more could be done on campus regarding issues like recycling and transportation.

“Just because people are thinking about it more doesn’t mean we’re doing everything we need to do,” Westphal said. “I mean, the best example is recycling, the college really doesn’t recycle much besides cardboard. So, all those recycling things all over the campus aren’t really going anywhere. And I think that’s the first of many steps that the school has to take. I mean, thinking about how the space gets used, how people travel, who gets to work here, these are all things that people have been talking about.”

The Quadrangle used the same instagram account to ask community members to share their suggestions for having a better effect on the environment.

“Vote and call representatives. The people in power have the biggest impact,” sophomore Giuseppe Tuminello said.

Other suggestions included using no waste shampoo from freshman Morgan Schyuler, turning the lights off when not in the room from freshman Stephen Perrillo, and to use less single use plastic from freshman Joey Talenti.

While environmental awareness on campus could be improved, students and faculty on campus have found that it has increased in recent years.

“I think the administration is paying attention to things that they haven’t for a while, more than they have in a long time,” Westphal said. “There was an environmental statement that the school made a number of years ago under a previous president that is now being looked at again. And, I think that the people that are thinking about how they’re going to handle the facility, and their partnership with Aramark, has just given an opportunity to really think about it a lot harder. And, I think the construction of the Kelly building was a big change in terms of having to think about the environment every time you build something.”

The Center for Urban Resilience and Environmental Sustainability, or CURES, on campus is one example of something students can take part in to help change the over- all environmental consciousness for the better.

“CURES is currently as- sessing how well we are ad- dressing sustainability on campus, and what can be done next,” Silverman said. “We’ve identified that there is buy-in from students and staff for environmental issues and opportunities can be found both here and in the Bronx with other Lasallian institutions.”

Another way for students to increase their environmental awareness is to take courses on campus that educate students about the environment and its many components. While there is a lot of work to be done, students and faculty depict a good star ting ground for environ- mental awareness to grow on campus, especially in recent years.