Callaghan: Graduates should bring environmental sustainability into the workplace

Syracuse University, as well as SUNY- ESF, has taught us environmental sustainability over our time spent here, if not in classes, then by example. We recycle in all academic buildings, residential halls and offices. We compost our food waste in our dining centers and cafés. We work in high efficiency computer labs.

 We’ve spent the last four years surrounded by an atmosphere of sustainability, and as this section of our lives comes to an end, we shouldn’t throw away our knowledge and experiences that we’ve accumulated.

We should recycle them.

Even if you’re not in an environmentally focused major, such as environmental engineering or environmental science, we have lived, worked and played at institutions that have championed sustainability to the best of its abilities. And we should continue that mindset within our workplace, as well as later in life.

True environmental sustainability requires everyone’s effort to make an effect. If you can find a workplace focused on sustainability, go for it. But we can’t all find that. Unfortunately, many workplaces are behind on the sustainability track and we can’t all be like the famous environmentalists Sir David Attenborough or Bill McKibben.

 If you work for an environmental organization or company, you’re devoting your time and hoping you’ll be the next big player in the environmental field. But some of us are studying business, the arts or engineering, so it might seem irrelevant to wonder about sustainability efforts during our interview with an employer.

However, you should not let your career path, future goals or low entry position in a company scare you away from speaking up about sustainability. If you haven’t heard by now, sustainability is a hot commodity.

If a company is “sustainable,” “green,” “eco-friendly” or all of the above, it means that they are “eco-chic.” Many companies do it to make themselves look and sound better than their competitors. While that sounds like it’s minimizing the importance of the environmental issues that our generation has been forced to address, it’s not as bad as it sounds.

If that means that they are lowering their carbon footprint and working cradle to cradle, we should be OK with that. Because even if companies don’t have their heart in the issues, it gives graduates the chance to speak up and implement change even in an entry-level position.

So once you’re hired, bring up the fact that you’d like to compost in the lunchroom or buy products with less packaging. Though older generations might be skeptical at first, they’ll understand that this is where the world is heading.

It might take time and effort to make simple changes, but that shouldn’t be a problem when it comes down to it. We have the “eco-chic” trend on our side, so it’s easier to gain the confidence to stand up, have our ideas heard and stay resilient.

Our time on our campuses in Syracuse may have set the bar high, but we should take what we learned into the workplace. It’s in our best interest to enact change, not only for our futures, but for seven generations afterward.

Meg Callaghan is a senior in environmental studies at SUNY ESF. She can be reached at mlcallag@syr.edu.


Top Stories