By Angelo F. Bardales, Green Teams
Even before the formation of the IU Office of Sustainability, members of the campus community recognized the need for more awareness regarding the way in which we go about our day. When we really stop to think about it, our days are composed of a myriad of little moments and decisions—the mere contemplation of the multitude of possibilities would probably baffle even the most computationally prolific computer. Do I put the fork down first or the plate? Do I tie my shoe first and then go to the bathroom? Or do I just go (not the most farfetched of ideas out there)? Do I put the soda can in the trash or is there something else I can do with it?
To date, there are almost forty groups on campus choosing to give that last question further consideration, among other endeavors. From improving recycling accessibility at the School of Public Health to exploring composting at the Office of Overseas Studies to exploring the possibility of using solar panels to power a light totem at the Art Museum, these units hope to instill an ethic of sustainability that will hopefully reverberate across the campus as a whole. Even more impressive is that they choose to do so voluntarily, in some cases with the support of the administration, in other cases without. Visible results are often incremental at best, and to many might not seem visible at all. Again that would require taking a moment to stop and think about it, and after all that thinking we already just did, my brain is starting to get all thinked out, I think.
At face value, their actions might not seem to hold any substantive value, or might not seem capable of eliciting any substantive reaction or change. Does turning off the computer when it is not being used actually save energy, or does it merely, or perhaps inadvertently, allow for the reallocation of those kW to an unnecessary enterprise not otherwise pursued, like five more minutes with the lights on when no one is in the room? Or does diverting a few plastic bottles from the landfill allow us to reuse the resource, or merely encourage a new modus operandi of purchasing and recycling plastic bottles as part of a larger industry, thereby ramping up production? Perhaps the answers to these strange questions are both, or neither. How we choose to respond is second to the idea that each case explores the aftermath of a single seemingly inconsequential decision. And yet they each have a consequence. That is the crux of the matter, and when you add up all of these little moments, these little decisions, they yield a not so little and not so inconsequential result. These groups on campus—these green teams—encourage to us to think, and that is one of the first steps to changing behavior.