Acknowledging Our Role in Climate Change

By, Isabel Isselbacher

Full Title: Disposable Cups and Acknowledging Our Role in Climate Change


There is a saying that goes “never discuss politics or religion in polite company.” However, at Winsor, it is not so much political and religious conversations that make people uneasy but one seemingly innocuous subject in particular: waste, and our own contribution to climate change.

It is not the general concept of climate change that makes Winsor students uneasy. While there are a variety of political party affiliations at our school, all students here, whether liberal or conservative, are well-informed about environmental issues. Instead, it is the acknowledgement of the individual role each of us plays in global warming that puts us on edge.

Take “Trash Week” for example. When the Global Forum topic was announced in assembly, there was a collective groan among the student body. People claimed that they were unhappy with the focus simply because “trash is boring”; however, I believe the underlying reason for our dissent was that wastefulness is a subject that hits a little too close to home. It would have been much easier to discuss world hunger or the refugee crisis, two issues far removed from our own lives, than to have a dialogue about the enormous amount of waste we all generate as privileged Americans. The vast majority of us, myself included, tend to place the blame on society as a whole rather than address our own responsibility in fighting climate change. We sit idle as we bemoan the Trump administration’s lack of environmental policy, yet we do not need to wait for the government to tell us to cut our carbon footprint; we can begin to take action ourselves.

Similarly, Winsor students often wait for the school administration to take action when it comes to being more environmentally responsible. Many a friend has complained to me about the fact that Winsor still offers paper and cornflower cups in the cafeteria – especially after our extensive Global Forum conversation, but while disposable cups are available for the time being (because of problems related to dishwasher capacity), their availability does not require that students choose them over a more sustainable option. According to Mr. Downes, manager of the cafeteria, “Most of the students who get hot chocolate could have taken a ceramic mug, but they went with a paper cup, and then they take two because they say it is too hot, so now they’ve got two paper cups when they had the opportunity to take a ceramic one. So it’s up to us to convince the kids that it’s a matter of choice which [wasteful or sustainable option they choose], and it’s up to us to convince the kids that if they see two different things, a paper cup and a ceramic, they should go with ceramic.”

Ultimately, it is up to the students to pick up the slack when it comes to being environmentally conscious. Like COW club head Ruby E. ’17 reflected, “it would be ideal if Winsor could eliminate [disposable cups],” but in the meantime there is nothing stopping us from choosing to drink out of reusable cups instead. Even an action as small as choosing a china mug instead of a paper cup is symbolic of a collective attitude adjustment to help save our planet.

We do not need our cafeteria to control the amount of waste we create; we each can and should monitor it for ourselves. After all, in the real world, there will not be a school administration to encourage us to use a water bottle over a plastic cup.