Sustainability: Is Wheaton doing enough?

Anyone who eats at Chase – practically the entire campus – passes by this giant, interactive screen daily, a majority of us disregarding it without a second thought. Facing the main entrance head on, this board holds a lot of information regarding the school’s efforts to improve the campus’ carbon footprint; efforts that often go unnoticed. The growing environmental crisis has reached a national stage, but with wrongfully pre-occupied politicians and big businesses refusing to sacrifice profit for sustainability, every little effort counts, adding up to hopefully and eventually influence a larger change. With such a large spotlight on the subject, I had to wonder, is my school doing it’s part? My initial thought was that the campus isn’t doing enough, if anything at all. But after some simple research, and a quick skim of the board in Chase, I learned such assumptions were fueled by unintentional misinformation and aimless skepticism. Looking around campus, I see trash floating around Peacock pond, a giant smoke stack silhouetted against the sky, puffing black smog into the atmosphere, cardboard carry-out containers spilling out of trash cans. I refused to see past this visually available surface information; I had gotten tangled up in a dreadfully negative mindset, believing that everyone was polluting, littering and destroying the environment with malicious intent and no regard for future generations. But, in fact, this is not the case at all, especially here at our tiny school in Norton, MA. Wheaton has been taking enormous steps towards a more sustainable, eco-friendly campus and community.

The recently constructed Mars Science Center was certified “Gold” by Leaderships in Energy and Environment Design, and exemplifies the campus’ “commitment to sustainability”. Some of the building’s “Go Green” features include replenished wood, state-of-the-art heating and cooling techniques, and a 1,200 square foot “green” roof. Chase Dining hall has also been equipped with eco-friendly alternatives, like LED lighting and energy-efficient windows. In addition to all this environmentally-smart technology, Wheaton has gone back to the old-school basics; recycling! All-in-one recycling bins are located all throughout the campus, promoting students to responsibly discard paper, glass and plastic in the designated recycling bins. All these efforts fully compensate for the single smokestack and the occasional apple core floating in the pond.

While Wheaton’s intentions are solid and their actions reflective of their concern, I return to my initial question: is my school doing enough? But what defines “enough”? To what lengths must we go to prove our conscious acknowledgment of the environmental crisis, and ensure we are moving away from it? Truthfully, it does not have to be all that complicated. “Enough” simply means putting forth a significant, conscious effort, whether that be opting for a reusable water bottle or eating locally sourced vegetables. By such standards, Wheaton truly has stepped forward in promoting a more eco-friendly campus and done their part in bettering the planet. Their “commitment to sustainability” has been realized through the number of improvements made and currently being made to lessen Wheaton’s negative impact on the environment. Though small, Wheaton is leading by example, proving that a sustainable campus is within reach. There are always more improvements to be done, but I believe Wheaton has tackled the issue of sustainability wonderfully and is finally acting with intention. Students, parents, people; we all want change, and Wheaton is taking the necessary steps to see such changes through. Of course, our school is not perfect; sacrifices must be made, but so long as compromises are considered there is hope that issues, like the uncontrollable liter bugs and the exhausts emitted from heating our dorms, will be addressed and improved in the future. If only the same could be said for the rest of the world.