The Mandel Atrium in the Rabb area, as one of the more modern common areas on campus, is a highly popular one for studying. It’s got a lot of light, interesting light fixtures and even a television. Hell, it’s even got comfy chairs. However, if you glance around the spacious chamber, you’ll see a fireplace that looks as if it’s never been used. Look at it closely and you’ll see that there’s a pilot light lit—constantly. What’s the point of keeping the fireplace in commission if it’s never going to be used? It’s not only a waste of gas but also part of a larger problem of waste on campus.
To keep a pilot light lit is a guarantee that it will eventually be utilized to start a fire. When it isn’t lit, the university is simply wasting gas. Although it takes a small amount of natural gas to keep a pilot lit, the expenditures add up. In a world with diminishing oil and gas supplies, it isn’t wise at all to just use it all up with the mindset that it will be there forever. This specific mindset is exemplified by those who run the building, but by no means is it confined to Brandeis staff.
Brandeis students also share their part in a waste problem that grows ever so rampant around campus. Walk anywhere and you’ll find easily recyclable dated newspapers and periodicals just lying around. In the dining halls students take huge portions of food that many don’t end up eating. In the larger expanse of dining areas you’ll find napkin dispensers and students taking more than generous amounts of the dispensed product. At Sherman dining hall, salt and pepper are constantly replaced, most of the time when the shakers are barely used. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say the contents at the bottoms of the shakers haven’t been exposed to the outside environment since the shakers were last emptied and refilled. Frighteningly, the issue doesn’t end here.
To be fair, there are student-run initiatives run alongside university-run initiatives that try to get students to stop wasting. In many restrooms, there are dual-flush toilets that use less water when they are flushed upwards. I have no statistics on how many people flush upwards or how much water Brandeis uses per year, but you can’t expect everybody to be conscious of trivial toilet nuances. I sometimes walk into my dorm’s bathroom to find toilet paper sprawled across the floor, tons of unused paper towels neatly stacked in the garbage and shower heads that have been dripping for God knows how long. It’s comical that so many blatantly ignore the advice on the towel dispensers that say, “remember that these come from trees!”
With the issue of waste as widespread as it is, encompassing both students and non-student members of the community, both education on refuse management and actions to rectify the situation need to be enacted. Students must be better advised, perhaps at their orientations, about the negatives of wasting. The university should strive to keep better oversight of their resources.
The university should, in order to conserve resources, upgrade to electric utilities. Instead of manual paper towel dispensers, electric ones make it harder for people to waste them. Universal automatic sink heads make it so that people can’t leave the sinks on anywhere. Shower handles that make it so accidental dripping cannot happen should be instituted in dorms. In this way, if we can cut our rampant use of resources, there can be money saved in buying more goods less frequently. I don’t mean to generalize all students, to be perfectly clear. A few friends of mine have actually been organizing to collect and recycle old newspapers and periodicals scattered around campus that nobody is interesting in reading. There are definitely those that are actively trying to alleviate the situation, but there aren’t enough devoted to the cause.
Back to the fireplaces, Brandeis should just decide whether it wants the Mandel Atrium’s fireplace to be functional. For students that enjoy studying in the atrium, the working gas fireplace would be a nice addition to the room—perhaps even conducive to the studying experience. It’d be great because hey, it gets pretty cold in the winter. Or, they could decide they want to quit wasting gas and just have it be a small hole in the wall next to the television. No matter what they choose, the current situation of saying, “hey, we may light that thing one day, but we’ll just take our sweet time,” isn’t going to fly.