With the recent BP oil spill that happened months ago, many individuals who once turned a blind eye to matters of environmental awareness are starting to realize the impact that such incidents have on sustainability. Some of us take it for granted, while others fight to preserve it. Whichever stance you have on the environment, many would find it hard to argue that there has not been damage done to Mother Nature. Many question the behaviour of our world today and the impact it has on the environment, however it takes a disaster such as the BP oil spill to evoke these questions and concerns in many individuals- when the damage has already been done.
My name is Lisa-Marie Milone, and I am a fourth year communications major at Carleton University. Sadly, I too am one of those previously unaware individuals. Like many of my peers, I have often overlooked the value of the environment and the damage that I inflict on the environment daily by way of my behaviour. It’s the little things, such as refusing to recycle and compost, drinking bottled water, keeping the lights on until 2am in my apartment. Things I consciously know I should be doing, but sometimes lack the interest to perform. This sounds terrible, I know, especially when I expect a clean and conserved environment, but lack the motivation to perform simple conservation tasks. After watching the David Suzuki commercials about energy conservation, mainly turning off lights at night and using energy saving light bulbs, I actually started to become more consciously aware of my energy use, and thus tried to curb it.
After speaking to my 16 year old sister, who is part of the environmental council at her high school, I realized that she knew more about environmental issues and preservation behaviours than I did. When asked what participating in this council did for her knowledge of environmental issues she said,”I enjoyed my experience on the Environmental Council because I was able to interact with teachers and fellow students about issues that affect everyone. In working alongside teachers on events to educate and create awareness in my high school, I was exposed to the passion that some teachers had for the environment. If I didn’t participate in these activities I wouldn’t have witnessed the other side of these teachers, or realized the need for preservation. As a group, we implemented small changes in our community that originated from global issues. Overall, I valued the time I spent working with the council and learning from teachers in a different manner.”
After speaking with her, I was interested in finding out how I could get involved within my community, and if there were any committees or initiatives already started on campus. The Carleton University Students Association, the undergraduate student union for the university, has just launched a bottled water free initiative on campus. The association is asking for a gradual phasing out of bottled water on campus and handing out re-usable water bottles in exchange for signatures of individual postcards. It is a call for action from the University’s President. The postcards ask that the university stops the use of bottled water at all public events, invests in the installation of additional water fountains, and phases out the sales of bottled water on campus. Current Vice President of Student Issues of the association, Dina Skvirsky, says that ‘ there is going to be very gradual phasing out of water bottle usage because the infrastructure of Carleton is actually phasing out water fountains instead of getting new ones. We have to make sure there is water readily accessible to students before we completely eliminate bottled water. This is not going to happen overnight, but we are in it for the long haul.” Ms. Skvirsky also mentioned how bottled water has been proven to be more contaminated than municipal drinking water.
Some events that Ms. Skvirsky has put on with the association include having guest speakers- Maude Barlo, from the Citizens Association of Canada, spoke about water privatization and going water bottle free, and many individuals came out to hear her speak. The event enlightened students about how much waste is produced by plastic water bottles, and how much energy and oil it actually takes to produce them. Although the initiative only tackles one aspect of many environmental issues in Canada and around the world, this is a great step to help educate and change behaviour in many students and faculty members within the community. Even though it may seem like a small initiative, the impact it has had, and will continue to have, on students will help not only to bring about a social and behavioural change, but can perhaps interest individuals to tackle other environmental concerns. The Carleton University Students Association does more outreach to students by working with certain clubs on campus as well as creating a sustainability committee, an ad hoc committee (which I am proud to say I will have more involvement in). This committee will tackle different environmental issues on campus and create new initiatives every year.
If there is one thing to take from this, it is that getting involved with certain initiatives in your community will allow you to gain knowledge about preserving the environment. If I hadn’t become involved with the bottled water free campaign, I would probably still be inactively worrying about the environment while reading my McLean’s magazine, talking about the evils of oil. Instead, I can now worry, yet actively be a part of the bigger picture of environmental conservation: by starting with the community I live in. If you are a part of the Ottawa community or are interested in the bottled free campaign, I encourage you to contact the Carleton University Student’s Association for more information, at: Cusaonline.com.