Will the Real “Tree Huggers” Please Stand Up?

recycling center sitkaI have come to realize that Mississippi College and most of its students do not pay much attention, if any, to the environment or ways that they can help take care of it. I especially became aware of the lack of interest after living in Sitka, Alaska for two summers as a nanny.

The small town of Sitka has a population just under 9,000 people and is located on Baranof Island. It can only be reached by plane or boat. Despite its size and inaccessibility, Sitka has an aggressive recycling program for most consumables such as aluminum, glass, paper, etc.

As a nanny, I lived with the family that employed me, and I was able to witness part of Sitka’s thriving program first hand. Next to the trash can in the kitchen, the house also had a recycling can. The recyclables were cleaned and collected there until the can was full; they were then sorted into large plastic bins that were in the garage.

Once those were filled, they were brought to a collection site downtown and had to be sorted by the types of plastic or paper. Truckloads of the recycled materials were then compacted into bales and stored in a 40-foot van, which when full, was shipped to the Rabanco facility in Washington.

As of the first quarter of 2011, the city had recycled 192.7 tons of recyclable materials since their program began in 2004. Sitka’s whole recycling operation seemed to just about be down to an art form.

The effort to recycle was not just something that my “tree hugger” boss did in her home though. Recycling was an almost natural behavior to everyone I met. The friends I made there came from other states like Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and California. To them the idea of not recycling was foreign.

It was interesting to observe the overall demeanor towards recycling in general. They were not excited about it. They did not campaign for the cause. They just did it. Recycling is a part of life for almost everyone there, just another small chore that has to be done.

What was by far the most astounding thing that I began to realize? It was the fact that all of my friends in Sitka were agnostic and atheist, yet they appeared to care more about God’s Earth than anyone at my Christian university did.

Currently there is a very small recycling program at MC. But as indicated by the trash-filled recycling bins around campus, most of the students, faculty, staff, and administrators are not interested in participating or improving it.

Most probably consider recycling to be good thing and know its general benefits. Nevertheless, it does more than just save trash. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that recycling minimizes waste sent to landfills and incinerators.

They also explained that it preserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals; it prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials, conserves energy, and sustains the environment for future generations. Most importantly in the current economy, it helps create new well-paying jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries.

Many students at MC spend their free time volunteering at inner city missions or use school holidays to witness to African countries or Haiti. All of which are great things. But a lot of people do not take the time to acknowledge the responsibility that they have as a Christian to conserve the Earth’s valuable resources in their everyday lives.

This is not just a problem at MC though; it could be said about most of the Bible Belt. Perhaps some conservative Christians have distanced themselves from Green Movement efforts because of its connection to global warming and liberal agendas.

That is an argument for another day, but I hardly think that recycling and conservation of water and energy could only improve quality of life for everyone. Mostly though, I feel that people think they are too busy or simply just are not concerned enough to take care of the environment.

It is no wonder that non-believers see Christians as selfish; we care too much about our convenience rather than what is best for our communities, our nation, and the world in which we live. Recycling only takes seconds at a time to do, but over time it adds up.

But until people realize that it is a worthy cause and change their habits, programs will not grow or even be built in the first place and the vicious cycle of negligence will continue.

Of all people, Christians should be the most concerned for the environment, not the least.

There is no excuse for Mississippi, Christians, and MC not to catch up to other parts of the country, especially when small communities like Sitka are going to great lengths to do their part.

Kelsey Kitch, Editor

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