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Sustainability and Greek Life at Colgate – Where We Are and Where We Go from Here

By Sustainability Office on October 13, 2017
-Dana Monz ’18

With roughly one-third of the Colgate student body involved in Greek life, it is important to analyze the various houses’ relationships and actions in accordance with sustainability. While it is easy for individuals to take initiative through incremental actions – such as turning off a light, shorter showers, and recycling, among many others – Greek houses should aim towards collective action and large-scale measures, as they are among some of the largest and most influential groups on campus.

As required by the university, each organization has a “Sustainability Chair” who is responsible for promoting sustainability within their house, implementing sustainable practices, and organizing events within the Greek community. Additionally, throughout the semester, the Sustainability Chairs meet with the Program Coordinator and the Director of Sustainability to discuss action and possible events.

Among the various Greek organizations, there appears to be general measures that each house is practicing. The Sustainability Chairs have articulated that they have two stream recycling (bins for plastics and cans and different bins for paper products), signs communicating what can and cannot be recycled, stickers by the lights reminding individuals to turn them off when the room is vacant, and reusable containers.

While these actions are commendable and helpful initiatives, there remains a lot more that the Greek organizations could be doing in order to be forerunners of sustainability on this campus. For instance, many of the organizations use plastic and Styrofoam cups, paper products, and plastic silverware, thus generating incredible amounts of waste, as well as lack of dialogue about sustainability in their houses and on campus. Not only should the houses work towards reducing their waste, but they should organize and participate in events like Colgate Unplugged and Recyclemania in an effort to take a stance as a large portion of the Colgate community and reduce their carbon footprints.

I commend the Greek organizations for their significant strides towards sustainable actions, but I encourage the Sustainability Chairs and their broader organizations to do more, take initiative, and increase dialogue about the sustainability issues that are meaningful to this campus and imperative to address today.


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