A fog of confusion has surrounded the “Eco-to-go” recyclable lunch box program being brought to SFA.
According to Aramark intern Brigid Gregory, the containers have been on campus for three years.
Last week, during Sustainability Week, The Sustainability Club brought forth a petition to rally the student body behind its cause.
“As members of the Stephen F. Austin State University student body,” the petition stated, “we propose that the Representative Administration of Stephen F. Austin State University, lead and initiate the student body’s vision of a more sustainable campus by implementing and fostering a sustainable policy that encompasses all areas of the University.”
A member of the club told several students signing the petition the Board of Regents said, “It would be too much of a culture shock for the student body.”
However, Board Chair Steve McCarty said, “I don’t know where that came from. This [Eco-to-go] should be a positive thing for the campus.”
Beneath the hype of the petition rests a misconception. Sam Smith, director of student services, acknowledged the petition. Officials, including Smith, advocate for the new program. The only hesitation comes from the wishes of the student body.
“We believe it will be very beneficial, but we just want to be sure the student body approves of it. They are the ones affected the most by it, so we want to know their opinions before we force this upon them,” Smith said.
Concerns like Smith’s are the reasons why RHA decided to email the survey to the student body. The survey aimed to muster the students’ opinions of the subject.
As a result of the survey, RHA’s motive was questioned by The Sustainability Club. One member advocating for the Eco-to-go containers expressed his belief that RHA disapproved of the containers and has been the main reason the program has been delayed.
“The reason we sent out the survey was to get feedback before acting on the situation,” junior RHA Marketing Coordinator Cynthia Bradford said. “We are just trying to do our job and hear the voice of the resident. We aren’t going to be secretive about it [the survey].”
There has been no official meeting between the two clubs. And no official word has come from the Sustainability camp accusing RHA of stalling the program from moving forward. In fact, new president of Sustainability Club Drew Luthy acknowledged his club’s speculation but cleared the air.
“Yes, it may be the case where some people are speculating that RHA is the group hindering the process to get these eco-boxes implemented,” Luthy said. “But it is not our intention to cause controversy or to call a certain group out for what they are doing. It is up to the students to decide whether or not they want it to be implemented.”
To strengthen the movement, a panel discussion was presented Wednesday in the BPSC theatre. The panel consisted of six doctors and eco-advocates. They preached the dangers of a future that couldn’t sustain itself, and gave tips on how to make the world, and the campus, a greener place.
“We are in big trouble,” Tar Sands Blockade volunteer and environmental activist Alec Johnson said. “The way we are doing things is the very definition of unsustainable because it means, eventually, we are going to hit a wall. We need to take steps now while we have the luxury.”
Other panelists pointed out SFA’s lack of a sustainable campus. The panel did not slam SFA, but the opinion was expressed by one panelist that “SFA is behind other campuses” in regards to sustainability.
Smith, who was recognized for his outstanding performance in making SFA more sustainable, had a different view on the matter when he was questioned days later.
“It was three years ago that we started this awareness process; it’s not like it started yesterday,” he said. “It’s just those students graduate, and we have 2,300 new freshmen a year that have to be reeducated. Aramark and the University are working together. We try to improve our sustainability in a lot of different ways. This is just one phase in a multilevel program.”
From the packaging that comes with beds in the resident halls to the banana stalks, Aramark and officials like Smith are finding ways to recycle the waste. Used coffee grounds are even given to area citizens. It turns out, those coffee grounds act as a pesticide for ants.
The student body spoke in the form of the RHA survey and the Sustainability petition. RHA tallied the results with a majority of the student body against the new program. And the Sustainability Club achieved over 200 signatures.
No news yet on what will happen next.