Opposition to cup policy is half empty
When the staff at Moulton Dining Hall displayed a sign indicating that the paper cups would soon be removed, they probably did not expect that such an innocuous issue would spark student debate over the rationality of Bowdoin's environmentally friendly policies. But, nevertheless, it did. To some, the decision to remove the cups was an intolerable injustice. To others, including me, the decision was perfectly reasonable and long overdue.
Under the new policy, students wanting to take their coffee or tea to-go would have to bring their own reusable mug. This would virtually eliminate the 200,000 paper cups Bowdoin uses each year. At the current rate, 2 million cups would be added to the landfill over the next decade. This amount of waste is certainly not an insufficient cause for action.
A letter to the editor in last week's Orient urged me to "shout out in protest" of this blatant and unjust violation of my rights. After I finished reading the letter, I did want to shout out, but certainly not in protest of phasing out the cups as suggested.
Last week's letter claimed that the decision was made by Keisha Payson of Sustainable Bowdoin, that Ms. Payson stood to benefit financially from the plan, and that the initiative was not student led. Had the authors taken the time to research the issue, they would have known that all of these insulting assumptions were factually incorrect.
Their characterization of Ms. Payson as a greedy tyrant was as inaccurate as it was unfair. While she did support the effort, getting rid of the paper cups was not her idea, nor was it her decision to make. The staff at Moulton made the decision after they agreed with a letter sent to them by a student from the Sustainable Bowdoin Reduce and Reuse Subcommittee who proposed the idea as a way to cut back on unnecessary waste. Lastly, the implication that Ms. Payson was in a position to profit from the decision was yet another ill-informed statement. Only the dining service would reap the financial benefits of removing the cups.
The purpose of this policy was to reduce the impact of Bowdoin's waste on the environment and to keep costs down, one of many small steps to prevent large tuition increases. Success of the program would not, therefore, need to be judged on the basis of overwhelming student support. History has taught us that if something is the right thing to do, it does not necessarily matter that some disagree with it.
And where is all this student rage anyway? Where is the backlash? No one showed up for a proposed march on Moulton to protest the new policy. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least a thousand better reasons to stage a protest march. I think the Bowdoin students realize that the good this type of policy does for the community outweighs the minor inconvenience.
I agree with the authors that relying on individual prudence is best in these matters, but prudence has failed to work. After a year of urging students to take their hot drinks in reusable mugs, paper cup usage in the dining halls has only increased. Obviously, new solutions are needed.
The only valid argument against the removal of the cups is the inconvenience of it, a point made only peripherally in the letter. But is bringing a reusable mug to the dining hall really an "unreasonable burden," as they contend? I believe this is a gross exaggeration, and I think common sense supports me on this one.
As it stands now, Moulton has put off implementing the plan until a consensus is heard. So drop a note in the suggestion box. Let them know that it's not just the dissenters who have an opinion.
I urge the staff at Moulton and Thorne Dining Halls to follow their intuition and do what is right for our community.