Although Allegheny Student Government faced an odd start to the semester — holding their first general assembly meeting on Oct. 6 — Director of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs Willy Walker, ’22, has quickly begun exacting the work his position entails.
Walker assumed the position at an interesting time, as many of the sustainability systems put in place for student use — such as the green box program — were placed on an indefinite hiatus as Allegheny adapted to COVID-19.
“I believe at the end of the day, that there are some students that are uninformed about some of the situations going on here, like the compost system,” Walker said. “Everyone’s pretty left in the dark. I’ve heard for three years that people don’t know how to work the green box system, so it’s our goal — both me and (sustainability coordinator) Kelly (Boulton), but also the entirety of ASG — to spread some environmental awareness so that people … know what the programs we have at Allegheny are, like, ‘Hey, this is where you can find a recycle bin or green box.’”
Through working with Boulton as well as Parkhurst employees, he plans to have at least the green box program initiated for the spring semester
“The Allegheny College Health Agency has greenlit — no pun intended — for both (Boulton) and I to reinitiate the green box program for the spring of 2021,” Walker said. “That is something that neither of us expected this soon. They found that with the proper sanitation techniques that they employ already … there’s really no surface transmission of the disease. So there’s no COVID danger with that.”
While the program should be able to relaunch, Walker explained that some logistical work still needs to be done.
“(Boulton) and I are meeting with Stephanie Lang — the director of dining — on Friday (Nov. 13) … to discuss (the green box program),” Walker said. “Basically, we have been kind of dissecting each of the dining halls the last two to three weeks to try to figure out what will work best in each.”
The next semester will bring the return of green boxes at Brooks, as it is fairly simple to substitute each disposable container for a reusable one.
“It seems like we can kind of do what we’ve always done with the green box at each station,” Walker said. “Pizza is the only station that has trouble with that because of the way they designed it.”
Walker explained that part of reinstating the green boxes must include precautions for how returning them operates.
“A safe green box return is one that does not add additional strain on the Parkhurst management,” Walker said. “With McKinley’s, they’re already pretty packed with how they have to do all the online ordering, and it might not be plausible to throw in another wrench in that. A safe return also is something that will … not spread the virus. However, again, with the health agency, they said that with the basic sanitation practices the college already uses, they should be good.”
In a recent video published on the ASG instagram, Walker expressed that reducing the usage of disposable items is just as, if not more, important than a good recycling program. He hopes that offering green boxes once more will assist students in being more conscious of their waste and actively seek to reduce it.
“Reusing and recycling is good, but if you reduce, you cut the head off the snake,” Walker said. “There’s going to have to be a partnership between Allegheny the college — the actual staff, faculty and administration — as well as the students.”
Walker is seeking to further promote student involvement by working with environmentally focused clubs in order to further assist with campus sustainability.
“(Interacting with clubs) is my goal once the spring starts, but just with a lot of stuff going on this semester … but I do work with them,” Walker said. “If, for example, (the Bird club) has a meeting where they say that they want to add more bird feeders on campus, that’s something that I can then take to ASG and see if we can get it worked out.”
In addition to clubs, Walker hopes to involve the general student population in reduction efforts by providing opportunities for waste reduction.
“I was going to bring up with (Lang) the possibility of getting the Coca-Cola fountains back online at McKinley’s and lean out of the soda bottles,” Walker said. “Last year, when Kins was open, it was 56 cents or something to fill up your reusable (bottle) from a fountain or $2 to grab a bottle. I can speak about reduction for (until) I’m blue in the face, but at the end of the day, it will be a student-led effort.”