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COLUMN: The epidemic of student apathy

By Elizabeth Kirkham
On March 26, 2014

As the spring deadline for Blue Goes Green grant applications nears, you may have noticed the words “Blue Goes Green” floating around campus. You may have seen it on the screens in the TSC, or on posters or a Facebook page. You may be planning on submitting an application.

On the other hand, you may not have noticed any of these things, and you may not even know what the Blue Goes Green grant is. Because you are a college student in the 21st century, the number of things battling for your time is slightly overwhelming. You’re most likely going to walk through the halls of the TSC in a hurry on your way to class. You’re not going to stop at a corkboard so bloated with posters that some are dangling from its corners.

But here’s the thing about the Blue Goes Green grant. The grant is paid for through a student fee. And that’s the kicker about student fees: You’re going to be paying for them whether you know about them or not. I did four classroom presentations to advertise for the fee, and when I asked each class how many knew about the fee, only three or four raised their hands. Tops. So why don’t students care?

This is the constant problem of any organization that wants to advertise something, but doesn’t have the money to plaster the campus with little lawn signs. How do we make the students care? How do we get them to participate? Because even if you’re giving away free water bottles, or a chance to win a free bike, or even if they get a cookie just for showing up, you don’t get many students. Unless you shove it in their face, students just don’t seem to really care

The point I’m raising here isn’t about the poor application rate for the Blue Goes Green grants. There have always been enough applications to use the fee well, even if there were only four. The point I’m raising here is about the apathy of students. How easy it is for us to just blindly make our way through college, without noticing half the things going on around us. What is the point of something like the Blue Goes Green grants?

USU started recycling in 1990, and the recycling center diverts more than 500 tons of waste from the landfill every year while being completely self-sufficient. This was a student’s idea, and it shows that the idea from one student can be really powerful. So with 24 years of recycling experience under our belts, why is it you still see students throwing bottles into the trash when the recycle bin is literally two feet away?

As students, we don’t have time to look at all the posters or go to all the events. And sometimes, it’s frustrating to try and find a recycle bin when the trash is right there, or if you see an open bin while you’re in a hurry and you toss your trash in there without necessarily reading the fine print that says “recycling.” However, every time you take a second to read that fine print, or go to that event, you’ve done something great. You’ve made your college experience even better. Whether you had a good time at an event or you stopped that one bottle from going into a landfill, there’s been a difference made in your life and the lives of future Aggies.

The application deadline for the Blue Goes Green grants is March 31. If you have an idea to make this campus better, more sustainable and more amazing, I highly recommend you apply.

Liz Kirkham is the Marketing intern for the Student Sustainability Office and the Blue Goes Green Fee. She is a senior in Environmental Studies, with a minor in Organizational Communications. Send any comments to liz.kirkham@aggiemail.usu.edu.

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