In the last few weeks, Elon Dining unveiled new takeout boxes with big red letters on the top, reading “Mind the Bin.” These new labels serve to remind students that the boxes are compostable, just one of many initiatives used to encourage students to live sustainably. The boxes challenge students to make a point to dispose of their trash in the appropriate bins.
It is commendable that Elon has a commitment to sustainability through promoting recycling and composting, but there needs to be more thought as to where the university is placing the compost bins. We also need to be more mindful of educating students about where they are putting their trash.
One of the biggest problems with composting at Elon is that so many students still barely know what composting is.
The Office of Sustainability leads the university in environmental consciousness as it strives toward advancing sustainability at Elon by working to improve campus operations and educational programs. According to the office, composting is an important piece to the complicated puzzle of sustainability.
Put simply, composting helps to reduce waste. When food is composted, it is being turned back into usable resources, as opposed to it sitting in a landfill, which takes up space, emits greenhouse gases and isn’t that attractive to the eye. Compost also helps to create soil that doesn’t need as many added synthetic fertilizers.
With all these reasons in mind, it is understandable why the university encourages students to compost; however, this effort is lacking in an educational foundation and accessibility. The Office of Sustainability and student run organizations, like Eco-Reps, help with this encouragement, but a lot of students are still confused about what exactly composting is and what is and isn’t able to be composted. Because of limited education, too many students miss out on the importance of putting their food in the correct bins.
While, yes, there are plenty of educational publications and resources available to students, many students do not have the time or motivation to go seek out these resources. Without knowing how important compost is in the first place, students don’t see the importance of learning more and won't try to find learning opportunities by themselves. In order to make sustainable living more achievable for students, the Office of Sustainability and other student organizations must push harder to educate students.
In addition, we need more compost bins around campus. Elon Dining’s new takeout boxes encourage students to compost, but most of the university’s compost bins are concentrated in areas where food is sold. Students choosing to eat their food outside of a dining hall or meal exchange location likely go off to the library, other classrooms or their dorms. But, there aren’t nearly as many compost bins there for students to use, so many just end up throwing their compostable products in the trash.
With Earth Day coming up this Friday, now is as good a time as ever to make the changes necessary for making sustainable practices more accessible to Elon students. This is a double sided issue. The university and those offices and organizations dedicated to sustainability must put education and accessibility as their top priority, while students must recognize the importance of composting and also make an effort to utilize Elon's many resources.