Several years ago, Georgetown University administrators started considering the necessity of ensuring the sustainability of new buildings on campus. Just this past year, Georgetown opted to institutionalize the Office of Sustainability, illustrating the importance of this establishment. With continued information coming forward about the dire state of the environment, establishing more sustainable university practices has become imperative.
In its first few months, the Office of Sustainability has already made important strides: It has installed recycling bins in every dorm and apartment on campus, promoted student sustainability initiatives and — most significantly — started to develop a long-term campus sustainability plan. Yet many of the office’s most noteworthy changes have been within the realm of water conservation, a topic that the office is celebrating and promoting at this year’s 2014 Water Week, which ends this Saturday.
Why should water preservation be a top concern? According to the World Health Organization, water scarcity affects at least a billion people in the world. As conflicts over natural resources erupt, many believe that the wars of the future will revolve around increasing water scarcity. Hence, it is crucial that as a socially conscious community we prioritize the issue.
Georgetown has already taken many important steps toward achieving this goal. During NSO, each freshman received a reusable Nalgene water bottle, and in just the last two years, 23 new water filling stations have been installed around campus by the Office of Planning and Facilities Management — adding 10 in the last two months alone.
The newly built Regents Hall is a shining example of campus sustainability. With LEED Gold certification in building design, construction and operations from the U.S. Green Building Council, it is designed to use 87 percent less water than a typical building of its size by using low-flow plumbing fixtures and dual-flush toilets. Regents has even included a rainwater capture cistern that reduces storm water pollution by reusing rainwater to flush toilets, a practice which helps to conserve potable water.
Lastly, Georgetown Dining has instituted a “Meatless Mondays” program to encourage students to opt for a vegetarian option once a week. While many students may not recognize the significance of this campaign, eating lower on the food chain can have enormous benefits for the environment, especially water conservation. In fact, one serving of beef requires over 2,000 liters of water to get to your plate. By promoting “Meatless Mondays,” Aramark has sought to help students make conscious decisions to eat lower impact foods.
But a full university effort to conserve water requires more than just this commendable action from the administration. This brings us to you, the individual student, faculty member or alum that constitutes the Georgetown community. While it is laudable that Georgetown has formally established the Office of Sustainability, this does not negate the importance of students taking steps to be environmentally conscious on an individual basis.
First, be conscious of the water you use in your daily life. When you wash laundry, make sure the load is full. Try to limit the length of your showers to five minutes. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth.
Second, opt to eat lower on the food chain to reduce your impact on the supply chain. On “Meatless Mondays,” recognize that saying “no” to one serving of meat saves more water than not showering for six months.
Third, don’t purchase single-use plastic water bottles. Instead, carry and reuse a refillable water bottle for hydration. You can refill your water bottle at one of the 23 water filling stations around campus. Odds are at least a few of them intersect your daily path.
Fourth, increase your personal awareness about water sustainability issues. Water conservation is not only an issue that impacts the Georgetown Community — water scarcity affects 1.2 billion people around the world who, even in 2014, have highly restricted access to potable water.
Fifth, calculate your personal water footprint. National Geographic has a great resource for this, encouraging participants to cut their water consumption by half.
Finally, engage these issues with your fellow students during Georgetown Water Week. Pay attention to the fliers around campus and the Leo’s napkin holders to learn the astonishing reality about daily water intake. Participate in activities and events to learn more about these issues and find out how you can become more involved in what Georgetown is already doing.
Rather than relying solely on the efforts of the Georgetown Office of Sustainability, we can all take personal steps to reduce our collective water footprint. Together, we can make simple changes in our Georgetown community that will have far-reaching effects for our global community.
OLIVIA HINERFELD is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. MEREDITH CHENEY and MAKAIAH MOHLER are sophomores in the College.