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Lesson learned in a Styrofoam cup Sustainability

There I was in my first meeting with our new senior sustainability adviser to the president—with a Styrofoam cup filled with coffee. True story. I was using one of the least environmentally friendly materials in the world—not to mention creating more waste than I should have been—in front of someone who has championed sustainability her entire life.

I was off to a bad start. As a newbie at RIT, I had spent the previous month in meetings trying to impress people with fancy ties and buzz words and with one swift purchase of a coffee I had blown it. Fail.

I walked away with a red face. I finished the coffee and threw away the cup. It landed in a pile of trash that was headed to the landfill. I had a flashback to the famous commercial that depicted an American Indian shedding a tear after seeing his land scattered with litter. Sad piano music ensued.

After the embarrassment of being so irresponsible, environmentally speaking, I had a few thoughts later in the evening. It wasn’t the fact I was embarrassed (Enid Cardinal, the senior sustainability adviser mentioned above, graciously said nothing). It was the conscious idea of me wanting to get better as a human being. The thought was the nugget I was chewing on. The idea that my job can help make that happen.

Of course I have refillable coffee mugs. Of course I have reusable grocery bags. But at that moment, sitting there over coffee, the thought popped in my head that I needed to get better at being conscious about sustainable decisions. This whole idea of a place of employment making me want to do that was quite uplifting.

There are so many things here at RIT that can help us be better human beings. Programs like the new Master of Architecture that focuses on sustainability (which, I must admit, is tempting me to build a new home). Also, it’s certainly the cycling culture here, which keeps automobiles off the road. I ride to work regularly. I keep my bike in my office. It’s a little office but I don’t mind the company of my Trek.

Another great entity on campus is the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, which reminds me to be conscious of my waste. The institute inspires me lower my footprint. It inspires me to do more.

All of these things are like a carrot dangled in front of my face. I will follow that carrot. Sometimes I will be distracted from the carrot—like purchasing a coffee and not having a refillable mug with me. Luckily, I’m surrounded by people like Enid Cardinal.

So what I didn’t mention above is that I am the new University News representative for Golisano Institute for Sustainability. I didn’t want you to think I was meshing the idea of doing what’s right as a human being with doing what makes me look good in my new position. Two distinct things. I’m focusing on the former, which certainly doesn’t hurt the latter.

Hopefully, RIT can inspire all of us to be better human beings. You can bet a cup of coffee on me using a refillable mug the next time I’m meeting with Enid.

  1. Barbara Edelman
    Oct 10

    LOL! Great piece!!!

  2. Cha Ron
    Oct 17

    Actually- learned at IMAGINE that Styrofoam is recyclable. Next interview with some of our students in Packaging Science?

  3. Kate
    Oct 17

    I believe Styrofoam is a #6 recycle. You should have put it in the One Stream recycling bin!

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