Climate Change needs to be addressed better in the education system.
That is our problem here. I, and a majority of teens and adults, likely didn’t learn about global warming until high school, and even then, it’s taught as a mere requirement. I remember my dad teaching me about it in middle school, and then I learned nothing else about it until my junior year of high school when I took Environmental Science. Even then, the world’s global warming wasn’t even uttered until the second half of the year. After I originally learned about the detrimental effects of climate change, I was committed to doing everything I could as an individual. When I saw the lack of climate education my high school was offering, I founded our school’s Climate Action Club to try and make our school more sustainable. The issue with that? The administration didn’t listen. They didn’t want to give up even a fraction of their money to buy more recycling bins which are a mere $20 on Amazon.
When I was applying to colleges, I did look at their commitment to sustainability policies. There was a pretty sharp difference across schools. For example, I remember being blown away by the University of Vermont’s commitment to sustainability. One of the first things they said on my tour was that they are a 100% green campus that doesn’t sell any plastic. They use renewable electricity, and all of their food is grown locally. I would use the University of Vermont as an example of a school that does it right and as an example to follow.
Following my experience in Vermont and coming down to Fairfield, the drastic difference in the commitment to sustainability is visible. Fairfield University certainly has sustainability policies in place. The website brought me to a 43-page document with faculty and staff contributions. It seems in-depth enough, going as far as to critique the school’s use of cleaning supplies. I get that implementing sustainability is hard and expensive, so it may take years for policies to be enacted. The document shows that some ideas are estimated to start from 2025 to 2027. But to know that there are plans in place is definitely calming.
However, my next question is, why does no one on campus know about these policies? Before looking at the document, I would have thought that Fairfield couldn’t care less about its impact on the environment. There is plastic everywhere, from the plastic bags and containers that are used at the Stag Diner and food trucks, to plastic drink bottles sold everywhere. I distinctly remember going to Sushi-Do one day with my reusable water bottle and being almost forced into getting a bottled drink because it is part of the meal swipe. It doesn’t help that there have been several occasions where the water refill stations have had red or yellow lights meaning the filter needs to be changed. There have been cases where this has lasted for weeks.
I remember that my first time going to Fairfield beach ended up being after a party had just occurred—I was disgusted. There was trash everywhere, and not a single person was around and picking it up. The Leaders for Environmental Action Club at Fairfield has to come through and clean up the mess that the student body left behind. Though not as bad, there have been quite a few times that I’ve walked around campus, and there were pieces of trash just thrown on the ground. The funny thing is there are trash cans everywhere on campus.
That leads back to my first statement—the issue is a lack of climate change education. There is a considerable difference between taking a course on a topic versus caring about a topic. I have to take STEM classes for the core curriculum, but do I feel strongly about any of those topics? Absolutely not. What I’m saying is there’s a difference between taking a course about a topic to get a grade and scratching off another core requirement rather than taking the class because it interests you. So while Fairfield is providing Sustainability and Environmental Science courses, it seems students lack the motivation to use what they’re learning in the classroom in the real world.
Overall, I’m not quite sure where the issue lies here. Fairfield seems to provide resources and classes for students along with clubs like Leaders for Environmental Action at Fairfield, also known as L.E.A.F. club. The club provides several opportunities for students to engage in sustainable activities such as beach cleanups. So why is this club not talked about more? In fact, why are Fairfield’s sustainable practices not talked about more, and how do we fix that problem?
I think the issue lies with Fairfield not advocating for itself as an eco-conscious school. This brings me back to the University of Vermont example. Within the first five minutes of my tour there, they announced their declaration to be a completely eco-friendly school. They advocated for their environmental awareness clubs, and there were posters hung everywhere. This is something that could help Fairfield. From the beginning, tours should mention all of the sustainable initiatives Fairfield is trying to implement. Orientation should mention it, the Fairfield Instagram should post more about it, there should be posters hung and more attention should be directed toward events L.E.A.F. runs. We need to make it known from the moment you step on Fairfield’s campus that we care about sustainability. If the message is thrown under the rug, no student will go searching for something that they don’t even know is there.
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