Aaron Fritschner ’06: An entreaty to my fellow students

Thursday, October 6, 2005

I work at the Gate, but I’m not writing to tell you about my interesting life as a student worker, to make the case for closing campus eateries earlier on weekdays or to bemoan the messy condition in which students leave their own dining facilities every night. If you wish to discuss any of these worthy topics, I can often be found around the Gate, and I’m happy to share my opinions and the experiences that have formed them. Just look for the skinny fellow with the Japanese headband playing electric guitar.

What concerns me more than any of these other matters – so much so that I’m writing a column about it after getting off work at 2 a.m. instead of getting ready for my morning class – is the welfare of this lovely planet. Like most of us here, I have commitments that prevent me from giving as much time as I would like to helping reduce or improve our collective impact on Mother Earth. I can only envy activists who throw themselves into a myriad of environmental causes. I don’t have time, but I try my best to help out where I can in small ways – for instance turning my lights off when I’m out. And recycling.

There was a time when I simply assumed that most people at Brown were conscientious about recycling. There’s this Recyclemania gig every year, and there are recycling bins everywhere, so people just do it, right?

Last fall when I became a supervisor at the Gate and was responsible for checking garbage and recycling bins, I discovered quickly that most people couldn’t care less about recycling. I don’t take statistics, but I’d say probably more than three-quarters of bottles used at the Gate are thrown in the garbage.

Sometimes, as I move bottles from the trash can to the recycling bin, I think that perhaps people just don’t see the bins there, or that it’s too inconvenient to recycle. Last night, however, two garbage cans were so full that trash was left on top of them and crammed into their openings. Meanwhile six or seven bottles had been arduously forced into one of these garbage cans, and three more bottles had been left on top or sticking out of the other across the room.

Interestingly enough, these same overflowing garbage cans were both in fact next to several nearly empty bright yellow recycling bins. The bins read “Brown University Recycles: Bottles” on the side, but no, we don’t.

Bottles at the Gate are always thrown away, left on tables, the tops of garbage cans and on the floor. The recycling bins barely get used at all. Last night it wasn’t even a matter of convenience – it would have been easier for people to recycle. The only conclusion I could draw was that many students just don’t care at all about recycling. And if they don’t care at the Gate, I wondered, why should they care elsewhere around campus, in their dorms, or at home? And if they don’t care at Brown University, where do they care?

I can’t make you recycle. I can’t make you care either. What I can do is point out that your actions will have consequences for the people who come after you, if not for yourselves. And more immediately, they will affect the environment.

Please care! Please! I don’t mean to sound holier-than-thou, but it’s such a small, easy thing to put a glass or plastic bottle in a recycling bin, and it might not even be that hard to remind your friends to do the same if they forget. I don’t hug trees, hold placards, or chant slogans at passersby; I’m a simple guy trying to do the right thing, and it just seems plain to me that recycling is the right thing to do, and that not enough of us are doing it.

Aaron Fritschner ’06 is a samurai rock n’ roll recycler.