The Green Cup’s strengths, potential and limitations

| Forum Editor

Student Life ran an article today regarding the Green Cup, its viability going forward, and whether or not students will continue the gains they made during the four weeks in February. While I agree that the Green Cup is a good idea, and that reducing our carbon emissions is always a good thing, the Green Cup could definitely be better organized in order to promote more realistic green practices.

The main issue is that students committed themselves to a level of emissions reduction that in many cases is amazing but most likely will not be continued. The students in Lee and Beaumont Houses, for example, turned off their heating in an effort to win the Green Cup.

While this is a commendable effort, how many students are going to actually turn their heat off for a month during the year if there is no competition involved, or if the next February is colder than the unseasonably warm one we experienced?

As it stands, the Green Cup promotes emission reduction over a very short span of time and promotes short, dramatic changes that are most likely going to be reversed in the coming weeks.

Instead, the Green Cup should be a program that lasts for much longer than four weeks; ideally, it would last for the entire year. Fixing the environment, and reducing our carbon footprint, isn’t going to be done overnight. That would be impossible. It will require long-term sacrifices and long-term changes in the way we live our lives.

Turning off the lights when we leave a room and using less water or heat are always good things, but only doing it for a month doesn’t reveal to people the true difficulties that the next 50 years are going to force on us.

I’m not arguing that the Green Cup is bad; every building on the South 40 and North Side managed to reduce its carbon emissions. But changing your lifestyle for a month is easy. The Green Cup should be about promoting good habits in students and making us understand just how difficult some of these changes will be.

A year-long event would be a much stronger sign of just how difficult it is to change your lifestyle and, by extension, how much harder it would be for the rest of the world. As lessons go, I can’t think of a better one.

The changeover to a longer competition would need a larger reward; as it stands, $500 for the building is a good reward for a month of effort. If we were going to work for a year, we would need much more than that. I don’t know what ResLife would consider a good reward, but it would have to be commensurately big. The Office of Sustainability could also pitch in to make the reward significantly large.

But how to get there? I suggest that next year the Green Cup be between six and eight weeks long and the year after, 10. The length of the event should keep expanding, until the benchmarks are the previous year.

The Green Cup is a great event, but it doesn’t promote environmental change in the way we need it. Right now, it’s about students’ awareness of their impact on the environment, but we are a fairly aware campus to begin with.

What we need here is not awareness; we need a generation of tomorrow’s leaders who have experience and expertise in reducing their carbon footprint. What we should be promoting is a permanent change in lifestyle, not a temporary one.

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