By Saidia Green
If you search the Students’ Union website and constitution, you are likely to come across little that addresses environmental issues. There is no Environmental Coordination Office of Students as at the University of Alberta, there is no UCGreen as at MacMaster University, nor is there an environmental office under one of our vice presidents, as there is at St Francis Xavier University (under the VP Union Services to be exact).
The closest thing we have to one of these offices is the Campus Recycling Board, which is a committee, not an office. It meets once a month (if it meets at all), and though its meetings are open to students, the meeting times are not publicized. It is difficult to tell what the Campus Recycling Board does, except empty the can and bottle recycling bags on campus and store the money from the recycling in its bank account. There are rumours of past events like garage sales and campus clean-ups, but even this hardly attacks the range of environmental problems this campus has. The tide, however, may finally be turning.
The SU elections this past February witnessed something interesting. The Ecoclub (an environmental club on campus) very literally made the environment an issue in the elections. For those of you who missed the show, at each candidate debate, the candidates were questioned on what they would do about environmental issues. This caused candidate after candidate to either reveal their interest in the environment and promise to protect it or have nothing to say and look like a jackass in front of a microphone. The Ecoclub also made a giant report card grading each candidate on the “green” content of their platforms.
Regardless of whether or not these efforts had a significant effect on the voters’ decisions, the SU now seems to be aware that many students care about the environment and their campus’ affect on it. As a result, instead of grilling the SU, the Ecoclub is now teaming up with them to host an Environment Awareness Week during the first week of October. That’s quite a switch in just a few months.
I am thrilled that the SU has finally decided to hold an Environment Awareness Week. I also wonder if the week is the start of a solid effort to catch up to the level of other Canadian universities or simply the brainchild of a couple SU members that will be finished once the second week of October hits. You see, I’m a very demanding voter. I want to know what the SU has on the block after Environment Week is done.
I have this wild dream that during Environment Awareness Week, the SU will make an announcement that they have decided to make a few changes to their own operations to lessen their impact on the environment. They could change all the paper in their offices and Bound and Copied to 100 per cent recycled, or change out all the toilets and faucets in MacHall to low-water models. They could change all their coffee and tea in the Stor and Events Services to organic fair trade, or give discounts in the used bookstore or Stor for bringing your own reusable bag. Perhaps they could buy wind power for all their computers, or publish a guide of green resources in the city for students. I don’t need an office for the environment (though it would be nice); any of the above actions would make me happy. That would convince me that the SU as a governing body actually gives a crap about what its students think. If you agree, I think you should let your elected officials know. Send an email to the Students Union President, Bryan West at firstname.lastname@example.org, or look up one of the VPs or commissioners on the website and let them know what you think. After all, if you expect any government to be concerned with the same things you are concerned with, you need to voice your opinions and hold them accountable for what they do next. I, for one, look forward to doing exactly that.