By: Rachel Joseph, IUOS First Year Experience Intern
First year college students are empty vessels, waiting to be filled with the experiences, opportunities, education, and caffeine of university life. However, students do not rank all new opportunities equally; according to an IUOS PowerPoint chart, only 26% of students deciding on which college or university to attend consider “sustainability initiatives” as very important to their decision. From this information, we can assume that sustainability is not a priority for incoming freshmen, who are most likely preoccupied with signing up for classes, finding a job, making friends, navigating campus, and looking cool. The concept of sustainability is gaining recognition in modern American society; however, it has yet to become a fundamental component of our culture. Sustainable ways of life are not yet automatic, and this is a problem. Residents of Bloomington and leaders in sustainability can do all they can to load college student minds with information about recycling, saving water and energy, farmer’s markets, and volunteering, but what does it all matter if the students don’t care?
It’s difficult to change a person’s habits, behaviors, and ideals. It’s difficult to reach out to young people who are constantly bombarded with competing messages. From what pizza joint to order from, to which television show to watch, to what to do with their Saturday night, college students encounter a million messages every day telling them what to do with their time and money. Although choosing to live sustainably is known by many to be incredibly important for local communities and the world, the message of sustainability is often lost amongst entertainment media. It may seem strange to diminish the larger-than-life nature of sustainability to a single message, but a simple statement, such as an advertisement, may act as an effective catalyst to prompt students to learn more about sustainability for themselves, and most importantly, to care.
Rather than being bombarded by leaflets of information regarding recycling or posters instructing how to get more involved in the community, sustainability initiatives might benefit from taking a leaf out of popular media’s book. An image can be worth a thousand words, such as the no-headline WWF advertisement above. If a single, well-planned advertisement has the power to affect our ethos, it could prompt us to discover for ourselves what we can do to live sustainably. Imagine what an entire ad campaign centered around sustainability on IU’s campus could accomplish, such as WWF’s advertisement series.
Once an idea takes hold, once the revelation of sustainability cements itself into the minds of IU’s youth, it’s up to the students to learn more about the message that so touched them. Thanks to IU’s Office of Sustainability, it’s easy for students to learn everything they need to know about living sustainably on campus and in Bloomington. The simple click of a button leads any curious college soul to the extensive IUOS website, which contains a bounty of information concerning sustainability at IU. The Office of Sustainability is doing their part by providing information and opportunities; it’s up to the students to do their part and get informed and involved. In order to get involved, students must care as much about sustainability as they care about what happens during the next episode of Game of Thrones or Jersey Shore.
The truth is, almost all the decisions one makes involve sustainability—even whether to order pizza from a chain restaurant, like Dominos, or a local provider, like Mother Bear’s. Simple and effective sustainable advertising may seem trivial in the fight for greening IU, but it could hold the secret of making students pay attention, and most importantly, care.
WWF ads: http://www.thehuntingdynasty.com/2009/08/7-sustainable-ads-that-work-and-5-that-dont/
Be the Root, ZiG Inc: http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/featured/creative-environmental-ads/11496?image=4