Pope Francis addressed a crowd of nearly 15,000 people in a White House speech on sustainability Wednesday. The speech was a call to action to combat climate change and protect the planet.
As a Jesuit university that prioritizes compassion and ethical leadership, Georgetown has a particular responsibility to heed this call and redouble its efforts to promote sustainable living on campus. While the university’s commitment to green initiatives has been admirable thus far, Georgetown should take example from its neighbor institutions while pursuing sustainable innovation.
Georgetown has demonstrated its determination to take the lead on sustainability. The university has promised to cut its carbon footprint in half by 2020, established bottle filling stations across campus to reduce waste from plastic water bottles and resolved to divest from direct investments in coal companies.
However, green initiatives at The George Washington University and American University excel, identifying where Georgetown has room to improve, albeit all three schools are notably difference in size. GWU has adopted a single stream recycling system that collects all recyclable materials in the same container, projected to significantly increase the university’s 29 percent recycling rate. Likewise, AU composts paper towel waste from restrooms across campus, an effort that has diverted 13 percent of its waste from landfills. On the other hand, a recent audit by the Georgetown University Student Association and the Office of Sustainability found that 83 percent of non-recycled waste on Georgetown’s campus is recyclable.
GWU offers students and faculty a 30 percent discount on Capital Bikeshare membership to encourage sustainable transportation around the District. Despite having a Capital Bikeshare station immediately outside its front gates, Georgetown does not offer a similar discount.
Francis’ decision to address climate change in Washington is a reflection of the moral, not political, importance of sustainability. Georgetown should respond to this call to action with an improved recycling system, including the implementation of additional recycling bins and the adoption of a zero-waste policy, as well as increased efforts to promote sustainable transportation among its students and faculty. Georgetown’s privileged position in our common home comes with a responsibility to extend care to that home and to all those who inhabit it.
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.