Being green is not just for one week

Being green is not just for one week
November 2009
The College View
By Cian Ginty

DCU has energy conservation methods in place, like light in hall ways which turns off when nobody is around, but in other ‘green’ areas such as the promotion of cycling and waste disposal the university is more than lacking.

DCUSU held “green week” recently, and while the promotion of environmental issues is laudable, the impact of recycling bins in a hand-full of locations is questionable at best.

The Students’ Union can’t, of course, be held responsible for the waste management issues around campus. But if recycling bins are needed, a few bins tucked away in one corner of the canteen simply won’t suffice.

Unfortunately, even with all the good will in the world, things can go wrong. What marketing person at thought it would be a good example to set by printing a ton of leaflets twice the size of A4 on heavy paper?

Handing these out to promote change is bemusing. It goes against the grain of the “reduce, reuse, recycle”. Or at least it goes against what those three words were meant to mean before the marketing people got hold of them.

The three should form policy on recycling. They should be read as if they were in an inverted pyramid. Recycling is not on equal terms as reducing and reusing.

Reducing isn’t about waste collection, it’s about not creating that waste in the first place.

Governments shouldn’t be allowing excessive packaging and consumers should not buy such products.
People still need to ask questions such as: Do you need to print that file? Why are you buying bottled water if you know it’s one of the most environmentally indefensible products ever created? Do you need to drive?

While reusing is linked, it is not primarily something the public can do on their own. The reusing of heavy plastic and glass bottles in countries such as Denmark and Germany makes Ireland’s plastic bag levy look like green washing (ie making something look green when it’s not, or in this case, comparably not).

As above, the “Power of One” campaign is limited. There needs to be action by governments and institutions, such as this University. They have an overall more important part to play. So, green campaigns are more likely to make people to feel there is something being done when there’s not.

On one level, the Minister for Transport has said he will be making cycling central to the sustainable transport plan due by the end of the year. On another level, Dublin City University is anything but cycling friendly.

Ramps that aim to slow down cars line the Ballymun Road entrance to the University, make a small portion of cyclists’ journeys worse than most potholed roads.

Bicycle parking is not only full, but overcrowded. The amount of bikes on campus on any weekday far out numbers the parking places provided. And most of the parking is the kind that exposes bikes to vandalism.

Meanwhile, ‘no cycling’ signs decorate the wide and open areas across campus, where security vans and construction vehicles are commonplace.

So much for Universities being open-minded and forward thinking.

However well intended, green campaigns aid peoples’ perception that action is being taking on climate change. But like giving to charity, it gives people a warm fuzzy feeling inside. when substantial change isn’t happening.

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