Tackling Consumerism on Campus

Mon, 14 Oct 2013 16:47:00 CDT  — by: Parker Haynes, C'14, Sustainability Undergraduate Fellow

landfill_300Sustainability undergraduate fellow, Parker Haynes (C'14) aims to expose the effects of consumerism to the Sewanee campus through various mediums. Read about it here!

Everyone likes to have nice things: clothes, electronics, cosmetics, cars, snacks; you name it.   We are often comforted by our belongings, which can be great, like when you pull on your favorite sweater, publicly lipsync to music on your phone, or sip on that sweet, sweet chai latte from Starbucks.  When we think about buying ourselves new things, we probably only consider the cost of that item in terms of its price in dollars and cents, because that’s the only thing we have to give up to make it ours.  But that price tag is more complex than it appears—it includes the cost of materials, labor, and transportation—and probably some costs that are not included in the number.  The ‘true’ cost of consumer goods is a theme we will explore together this year.  I am working to put together a speaker series that will attempt to define the ‘true’ cost of goods and services, explain the development of consumerism as a culture, and address what it means to be a conscientious consumer.  This is something Sewanee has never done before, so stay tuned, because it might rock the boat.


I am also working on ways to take the thousands of aluminum cans fraternities and their patrons generate monthly and turn them into a source of income for the organization through recycling.  This is not only a monetary issue—with a robust recycling system, we could save a lot of time and energy that is currently spent picking cans off the lawn every weekend morning, and help keep aluminum in circulation instead of putting it in landfills that we’ll probably have to mine in a few hundred years.  Developing a custodial chemical policy is another one of my projects for the semester.  The University does not currently have any guidelines for the types of cleaning agents that are used every day on campus.  I am working to develop a protocol for effective chemical use that will protect the health of the Sewanee community and the environment.

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