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Compost bins have finally made their way to Harvard Yard. The addition of a few bins might seem insignificant, but the new bins are the product of committed student advocacy over the course of last semester. The efforts to bring compost bins to freshmen dorms show how student efforts can tangibly improve the University.
Compostable waste accounts for approximately 30 percent of the garbage Harvard students produce. Yet until this year, Harvard freshmen could only send their garbage to a landfill or a recycling center. This was a wasted opportunity, as compost can do everything from conserving much-needed space in landfills to minimizing airborne pollution.
Not only is this initiative a step in the right direction, but it also demonstrates that environmentalism can be a part of students’ daily lives. The new compost bins simply add another option to the recycling and general trash bins that Harvard freshmen are already responsible for taking out. The composted material eventually makes its way to organic farms that supply Harvard University Dining Services with produce.
It is particularly heartening to see this example originating in the freshmen dorms, where the youngest and newest members of our community live. One of the great things about colleges is that their cultures can easily progress and evolve, because every year a quarter of the population leaves while a new quarter takes its place. For this reason, every year presents an opportunity for significant improvement in the way the community sees specific issues, including environmental conservation. We hope that the placement of compost bins in the freshmen dorms encourages the class of 2018 to reflect more on their consumption. Promoting a culture of sustainability in the freshmen class is the first step toward changing the culture in the college overall. Better yet, the initiative adopted an open, constructive approach, and the College to its credit cooperated to support the rollout.
While composting initiatives already exist at the Law School and through HUDS, the University should go further encourage other areas of Harvard to follow suit. The most obvious next step would be to extend the composting scheme to the upperclassmen Houses at the College, and from there to other schools at Harvard.
In the words of Cliff F. W. Goertemiller ’17, co-head of Green ’17, the group that spearheaded the initiative, “The ultimate goal would be that every single dorm suite at Harvard would have a compost bin.
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