By Kyle Becker
In the wake of Sustainability Week, many will go back to their old ways of life, if they ever left. The consciousness to recycle will slowly fade. The remembrance to unplug appliances and turn off lights will dwindle. While these are both unfortunate realities, students are not the biggest offenders here. It’s the institutions.
The institutions pride themselves on operating within the Benedictine and Catholic traditions. This can be seen everywhere, from being plastered all over recruiting materials to the recent rejection of the establishment of a “Pro-Choice” club on the campuses. It does a great job framing the campus in a nice, safe light, free of controversy or wrong doing. However, recently they seem to have forgotten the Benedictine traditions of sustainability.
“Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs,” this is how the St. John’s Abbey describes their ideal of sustainability. Both they and the institution release literature boasting the solar farms and the switch to natural gas at the St. John’s power plant. Don’t get me wrong, both are fantastic steps forward, but has the institution become complacent?
A “Shared Future, Sustainable Future” is a cornerstone of CSB/SJU’s “Strategic Directions 2020” report. However, it seems the institutions have forgotten what sustainable means. Instead of focusing on becoming carbon neutral, reducing waste and increasing recycling, this section focuses on financial sustainability. It calls for increasing donations and finding new revenue sources. It shows the institutions have attempted to commercialize the very word “sustainability.”
While the lack of ecological vocabulary in the report is not enough to discredit the institutions’ commitment to an environmentally sustainable future, their actions do. The construction of the new learning commons at St. John’s was an excellent chance for the school to show it’s renewed commitment to all new buildings being LEED-Silver certified (an environmental rating agency). However, the only building to be LEED on the SJU campus is McKeown Center. The new Learning Commons were also built with urinals which do not comply with the EPA’s WaterSense initiative, showing a lack eco-conscientiousness by those who planned the new addition.
There is no denying being eco-friendly falls under our Benedictine values, as many members of the monastery will tell you. There is also no denying it falls under our Catholic values, as the Holy See is currently attempting to join the UNFCCC with the intention to sign the Paris Climate Accord.
So, coming off a strong sustainability week, I want to urge students to continue doing everything they can to promote sustainability in their lives, and I want to encourage the administration of both campuses to reevaluate and recommit to operating in a way that shows care for the climate and the environment in their actions as well as their words.
This is the opinion of Kyle Becker, SJU senior