CNU Captain tackles the challenge of creating a sustainable campus

CNU junior James Duffy has taken it upon himself to help CNU become more sustainable

Climate Change is the culmination of how people have treated the earth for centuries. Living sustainably is not an easy path to take as there are many definitions. However, our own James Duffy ‘21 gave us a simple, yet effective definition for what this word means: “the ability for social and ecological systems to thrive in perpetuity.” 

Under this banner, James Duffy set out to make CNU more sustainable. As a double major in environmental studies and political science and an intern in the office of sustainability, this mission is clearly near and dear to his heart. 

In November of 2018, he began an independent study that looked at the use of recycling and trash bins in Trible Library. His goal was a simple one: “[We wanted] to understand where to best centralize paired trash and recycling bins as well as reduce stand-alone trash cans.” From December 2018 through  February 2019 and with the help of the housekeeping staff, Duffy’s team collected usage data on the 80 different bins located in the library. “The housekeeping staff indicated with small data sheets every time they emptied each of the 80 different bins in the library and how full it was at each empty,” Duffy explained. “One of the biggest takeaways I got from this project was how amazing and hard-working housekeeping staff in the library and across campus are. Thank your housekeeping staff. They are incredible!”

In addition to revealing the dedication of the staff, the study revealed useful information about the student body’s waste habits. The data collected painted a bigger picture as to which bins locations attracted the most amount of foot traffic and how much waste was truly being compiled each day. As a result, the group was able to propose a movement closer to a 1:1 ratio of recycling to trash bins, create more centralized paired stations including the addition of eight new trash/recycling bin pairs and relocate and repurpose underused bins for recycling in other parts of campus. 

While proud of his work, Duffy also articulated the importance of not stopping here. “Recycling is an important step to becoming more environmentally conscious, and sustainable communities require recycling infrastructure. However, I think it is crucial to emphasize that recycling is not the gold (or green, if you will) standard of sustainability, but rather a step in the right direction.” 

In addition to his work with recycling, Duffy has been focused on building a student coalition around the work of sustainability: “Through a network  I worked to establish called the Student Sustainability Network (SSN), a group of about 21 different student organizations now meet monthly to collaborate and cohere efforts on campus. Just this semester, I have seen some amazing collaborations and partnerships formed, and there are already some really exciting events in the works for next semester as well.”

Although aware of the work that still needs to be done, Duffy has a hopeful view of the future. “Sustainability is a journey, not a destination; as CNU is a growing and vibrant community, it is crucial that we continue to grow by constantly reevaluating ourselves and working to employ the most sustainable choices and commitments possible.”

~Joshua Scrabeck, Staff Writer~

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