By Tim Jones, Luke Cocchi, Omer Qureshi, & Will Flood
Earth Day is this upcoming Sunday, April 22nd. On this day, many of us in our campus community will take some sort of action to help our planet. Maybe we will plant a tree, maybe participate in a river clean up, or maybe even take a pledge to reduce our own carbon footprint.
All of these are noble actions and should be applauded. However, we need to question how we can extend this awareness of our own impact on our planet to last year-round. At the risk of being cliché, we need to make Earth Day every day. We are lucky that our dining hall currently allows us to take meals to go. It is a convenience that many students at other universities don’t have, but we must stop and wonder about the impact all of these disposable containers have. The cost of a single container may be negligible, but over a four year college experience and thousands of take-out meals each month, these costs can rapidly grow to account for thousands of dollars; this cost is partially reflected in the high cost of our meal plans here at CUA. This alone should justify the initial cost of the reusable container program. These containers can be used hundreds of times over many years and only need to be washed using equipment the school already owns.
We must also think of the environmental impact disposable containers have. Although the paper containers are an improvement over the Styrofoam containers we used to have, these containers still represent a huge waste of resources. Countless other prominent universities have tackled this issue by implementing a reusable container policy that works much like taking out a library book. Harvard, the University of Michigan, and the University of California system are all rapidly expanding these policies.
In his encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis urges us to reject the throwaway culture and wastefulness we see in today’s culture. Therefore, CUA, as the official university of the Roman Catholic Church, should be the first university to bring this program to Washington, D.C. Catholic social teaching is rich in aspects of environmental justice that we can draw upon to make our campus more environmentally friendly. Implementing a reusable container program would be an excellent way to live out Catholic teaching everyday.