On Keene State College’s campus, where the leaves are shades of orange and yellow, it’s not unlikely to find pieces of trash loitering nearby.
Regardless of how little or how much is seen, trash can quite literally litter a view. People have taken notice, including Coordinator of Student and Community Relations Robin Picard.
Picard works to help moderate the relationships between off campus students and the outside community of Keene, which typically entails students’ landlords. She said that while many students are actively involved in helping to keep the streets of Keene clean, our own campus doesn’t always appear to have that involvement.
Picard referred to the “Adopt a Street” event that is geared toward picking up trash on surrounding areas near campus. In an earlier article in The Equinox, Student Life Editor MacKenzie Clarke wrote that students met on Saturday, Sept. 24 to spend “30 minutes to an hour” cleaning up trash on the streets of Keene.
Picard said that while she’s very excited about the students who “give up their Saturday morning” to clean up the streets, she said she’s frustrated it’s not a lasting change.
“For me, it feels a little bit like a slap in the face because they clean up the area and then it gets trashed again the next day,” she said.
Picard continued, “So we’re kind of cleaning up after ourselves.” Picard said that often the biggest amount of trash is found after a weekend of partying. She said, “Quite frankly, drinking and being drunk isn’t an excuse to litter.”
Picard said she doesn’t understand why students can’t just throw their trash away. “It’s just sometimes startling to me that students…[have] water bottles or alcohol bottles on their lawns [and] bags of trash on their porch,” she said.
Picard acknowledged that some landlords may not offer recycling or adequate trash removal, but if that’s the case the students can talk to her.
Picard said, however, she’s concerned this might be a larger issue than some students just being lazy.
“I know when I [grew] up, it was ‘give a hoot, don’t pollute.’ I really wonder, have they stopped this campaign with children?” she said.
Regardless, Picard said she thinks action needs to be taken, especially if we want to be seen as a serious institution.
“I think we’re still trying to bounce back from all the Pumpkinfest problems and I don’t think this helps us,” she said. “We want to show we respect ourselves, we respect our neighbors [and] we respect our earth.”
One group actively doing that is the KSC Eco Reps organization, which hosted a trash and recycling clean up on Friday, Nov. 4 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The charge was to clean up campus, as well as streets where many students live off campus.
KSC junior and Eco Reps employee Justin Landry worked at a table encouraging people to sign up and commit to helping keep the campus clean.
“We’re working to raise awareness for sustainability and the amount of litter on the campus,” he said. Landry said it’s unfortunate, but littering has become normal. “People don’t really care about littering,” he said. Landry said this is aggravating. “It makes me frustrated that people can’t find a trash can,” he said. “There are definitely enough.”
However, it appears these trash cans are not getting as much use as intended.
KSC senior and Eco Rep Victoria Drake participated in the event, filling bags full of plastic cups, cigarette butts and other waste products.
Drake said it really annoys her that people can’t just hold onto their trash and throw it out. “I’ve always liked promoting sustainability,” she said.
Drake said she’s been to parties and sees people throw their bottles over the side of a porch because they don’t live there. She said she tries to stand up for the environment when she can. “I’ll call my friends out on it if they’re littering,” she said.
Drake said she also knows people who don’t always understand what can be recycled and what can’t.
Drake spoke of a previous event held last month called the Waste Audit, in which the group took roughly 25 bags of trash from the student center and another undisclosed building and went through the contents.
These contents were then split up into trash and recycling. In the end, only five bags remained of actual trash.
Director of Campus Sustainability Cary Gaunt, who helped organize the Waste Audit, said she hopes this information encourages the public to be more mindful of what they’re considering trash. “A lot of people don’t take the time, and we all have a responsibility,” she said. Gaunt said it’s not fair that KSC’s grounds crew has to clean up after students. She said, “Birds don’t trash their own nest, so why would we trash our home?”
Behind the Scenes
Assistant Director of Physical Plant and Grounds Bud Winsor said it doesn’t make sense why some students litter.
He compared the campus to their front lawn at home. He said when students do litter, especially after a weekend of parties, it makes more work for the grounds crew, who are working at six in the morning to clean the campus.
“We spend about two hours every day cleaning up trash, especially on Mondays,” he said, “but most people aren’t aware of that because by the time it gets light out in Keene, everything’s been picked up.”
Winsor said these two hours every day take away time from other duties they could be doing.
He said this makes him frustrated that some students don’t care to clean up after themselves. “Honestly, it’s disgusting,” he said. “If everyone just took a few minutes to throw out their trash, it would make it a whole lot easier for us.”
Interim Recycling Coordinator Matt Bacon said the grounds crew does an amazing job to help keep the campus clean and attractive.
“It’s very rare to see a beer can on campus, but yeah, I do see it off campus,” he said. Bacon said for the time being, it’s hard to do a whole lot off campus. “With our budgeting, it’s impossible,” he said.
However, he said change can still be made. Bacon said he encourages students to recycle because it not only helps them, but the environment they live in as well.
He said, “The more we recycle, the less trash we need to put in landfills, the less carbon monoxide in the air [and] the less we have to spend on trucks that transport the trash.”
Bacon said these trucks can cost a lot of money. Bacon also said that students could spend their money wisely in other ways. He said, “If a student can buy a case of beer, you have money to buy a reusable water bottle, and that’s one less bottle affecting the environment.”
Dorothy England can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org