In a world of seven — soon to be eight — billion people, it’s easy to find comfort in the statement “I’m just one person,” especially in response to the growing issue of climate change. Although this phrase is often used as an expression of hopelessness or indifference, it can also be one of ignorance.
Having said that, I understand it. It can be difficult to consistently make eco-friendly decisions as a college student due to restricted finances and other legitimate obstacles. Attending NYU makes sustainable living more feasible: NYU is carrying out its determined effort to go green through different clubs and by making commitments that cut NYU’s carbon emissions in half by 2025. But what can one more person really do? Why be proactive?
The solution is in your garbage.
While the idea is not new, composting reaffirms your importance and agency to combat climate change.
Composting is the decaying of organic material which produces nutrient-rich soil. What’s beautiful about composting, despite its reeking odor and unorganized appearance, is its dual functionality. This practice works to enhance the quality of vegetation grown while keeping food scraps away from landfills, a surprisingly large contributor to emissions of greenhouse gases. According to the Washington Post, food waste accounts for “8% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.” While 8% may seem insignificant, if all the food waste in the world were collected and considered as its own country, it would rank second for its impact on global warming.
When conducted in an urban setting, composting fosters community. When you recycle a plastic water bottle, you’re helping the environment, but it’s a one-way action. The plastic bottle will be recycled and become reconstructed, but the process is long-term and it is unknown whether the reconstructed water bottle will ever find its way back to you. There is nothing wrong with this, but by partaking in this practice, it’s easy to get lost in the individualistic mentality because of the distant connection you have with the bottle. Composting eliminates distance, the uncertain and the random and replaces them with a direct relationship to our waste, connecting us with our environment and other people.
Since most NYU dorms don’t have their own gardens, composting means you have to walk to one of the many markets within New York City to drop off your compost. Instead of being greeted by a blue bin, you’re greeted with a warm smile. There is a social dimension to this, the relatability of “oh, you put up with this smell, too.” This is a stepping stone towards recognizing our place in the community, from which we can work together towards the goal of a more sustainable world. Community is important in a bustling city like New York, especially for those who have never lived here before. We can find our bearings and feel a sense of security amongst many.
In this scenario, you aren’t one person. You’re establishing your role within a community where you all work together toward a common goal. The same can play out on the scale of an NYU dorm. Even though the dining halls compost, there are many people within their own residence halls and apartments who don’t. All it takes is a small, three-dollar trash bin with a few pieces of moldy bread and an apple core to create camaraderie within the hall. You’re not going to be just one person, but an important piece in the puzzle of a sustainable future.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this article appears in the Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, print edition. Email Gabby Lozano at [email protected]