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Students lack awareness of Belmont’s sustainability efforts

Belmont has taken many steps to implement sustainability and conservation around campus.

These efforts include eliminating plastic water bottles, installing “hydration stations” in various academic buildings and residence halls, using recyclable materials in construction products and installing wells under the main lawn for irrigation.

“At Belmont University, we believe taking care of God’s creation is more than a cause. It’s a charge. We see it reflected in verse after verse in the Bible as we are given the responsibility to preserve our earth for generations to come,” according to the Belmont website.

In spite of these efforts, some students have expressed concern surrounding Belmont’s sustainability, especially when it comes to recycling.

In Russell Hall, some students confuse the trash and recycling bins, resulting in a “disorganized mess,” said sophomore resident Kenzie Baker.

For students living in the Hillside Apartments, there are several large dumpsters in the upper and lower parking lots, but they aren’t labeled for recycling or regular trash, said junior Allannah Schwartz.

Other students suggest that maybe the issue is less about access to recycling and more about a lack of knowledge.

“A lot of students don’t know what can and can’t be recycled or where to dispose of their recyclables,” said sophomore Claire Savoie.

Recycling isn’t the only issue for some students. There is an “excessive use of plastic straws” around campus, said freshman Qynn Celichowski. Sophomore Claire Hennigan worries about electricity waste through the air conditioning units in the dorms.

But Dr. Todd Lake, vice president of University Ministries and chair of Belmont’s Sustainability Committee, sees it as more of an issue of discourse, he said.

Some of this stems from the fact that many of Belmont’s efforts to make campus more eco-friendly take place behind the scenes, Lake said.

For example, Belmont’s ECO Club is pushing for less plastic waste in on-campus dining options like to-go lunches.

The organization is also planning an effort called “No Straw November” to reduce the use of plastic straws across campus and push for more hydration stations in residence halls, according to the Sustainability Committee’s meeting minutes.

The Sustainability Committee is preparing an informative video to present for the next Welcome Week to educate new students about Belmont’s sustainability initiatives.

The question is less about whether or not Belmont is practicing sustainability, it’s more about whether or not those efforts are effectively being communicated to students, Lake said.

For example, many students may not know about Belmont’s extensive composting, which was set up in response to student efforts several years ago, Lake said.

“Every leaf that falls, every blade of grass trimmed and every food scrap is composted,” Lake said. “There’s nothing left to compost!”

The university has also made huge strides in sustainability in terms of heating and cooling and electricity usage.

“I think a lot of students don’t know that we’re doing extremely sustainable practices when it comes to heating and cooling. In the middle of the night, we’re freezing huge blocks of ice. In the daytime, fans blow over them and that’s the cool air we feel,” Lake said.

Proof of Belmont’s sustainable success is in the statistics, Lake said.

Though the campus has grown by about 70 percent in the last decade, electricity usage has only increased by about 25 percent, thanks to Belmont’s focus on constructing sustainable buildings, Lake said.

Students with questions, comments or concerns about keeping Belmont green are welcome to contact Lake or Anthony Donovan, Belmont’s associate dean of students and director of residence life, Lake said.

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This article written by Phoebe Scott. Photo courtesy of Belmont Office of Communications

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