By Jessie Moravek
Three years ago I came onto this campus as a freshman Environmental Science major, gung-ho and eager to immerse myself in the “green scene.” I wanted to join groups like SEED and Engineers for a Sustainable World and get the university to compost and grow its own food and switch over to solar panels and put wind turbines on the lakefill.
Let’s just say I was a bit over-ambitious.
Naiveté aside, when I arrived in Evanston, the environmental culture on campus was not what I expected. There were, and still are, plenty of admirable groups like SEED, the Roosevelt Institute, Eco-Reps, and many others, but there wasn’t really a cohesive environmental culture. “Environment” was not something I heard people talking about at Norbucks. It wasn’t something my roommate cared about. It wasn’t even something I could take a class for – I had to get chemistry and calculus out of the way before I could even take an intro environmental science course. Overall, I was disappointed – my big ideas fell flat in the face of an immense, unchanging university.
Now, as I celebrate Earth Day three years later, the campus feels totally different. Maybe it’s because I’m finally taking environmental classes (hang in there, environmental science majors, your hard work is worth it). But I don’t just notice this change during class. It’s everywhere – in buildings, in the newspapers, and even in the ASG elections. Things are happening on this campus. Slowly but surely, purple is going green.
Take, for example, the installation of those handy bottle filling stations all over campus. When I was a freshman, we had exactly five such stations for the whole university. Now, there are five on the first floor of Tech alone. It’s so easy to fill your water bottle, you have no excuse not to carry a reusable one! That’s one highly impactful and visible step towards an environmental culture, where reusable water bottles outcompete disposable ones.
More recently, during the ASG elections a few weeks ago, over 74 percent of the student body voted to divest from coal. I won’t get into the politics of it, but divestment is clearly an environmentally sustainable choice. Students are seriously considering alternative energy and sustainable investment options. I hear conversations about it in Norbucks, I argued about it with my roommate, and we even talked about it in class last week. Divestment, and the environment, is on everybody’s mind in a way it was not three years ago.
To me, Earth Day 2015 marks a shift in the student perception of environmentalism at Northwestern. Students are thinking, talking and doing more about the environment than ever before. Let’s take this change and embrace it in our own lives. Recycle your waste, and encourage your friends to do the same. Carry a reusable water bottle instead of a plastic one. Think critically about where your food and energy come from. Ultimately, we as a student body have the power to prove that Northwestern cares about the planet. As Bill Nye the Science Guy challenged us to do last Friday, we can change the world. And if Bill Nye believes in us, it must be true.