By Paige Carrick
Western undergrad Adam Bigelow strives daily to tread lightly upon this earth, and he hopes it will catch on soon. He is an intentional and conscientious consumer-intentional in consuming only items of bare necessity and being conscientious of the effects consumerism has on the environment.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sustainability is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.”
In the words of Bigelow, sustainability is “making [our] footsteps on earth as light as possible, while continuing to walk.”
Fighting to reduce the amount of waste Bigelow creates everyday is just one small aspect of
living a sustainable lifestyle.
When asked about the practicality of living sustainably, Bigelow said, “Practically, I try to adopt the tenants of reduce, reuse, recycle. We’ve been taught that our whole lives, but most of us when we see those three R’s, or that triangle symbol, we think ‘recycle’ and the problem is that there’s three different parts to it, and they are listed in order of importance.”
Bigelow fleshes out this philosophy by recycling one-time use items after they have been re-used to the point they are no longer usable, being frugal, buying and eating locally grown organic foods, walking, and shopping at thrift stores. To demonstrate a small way in which he practically lives a sustainable life, Bigelow whipped out a bag of Snyder’s cheesy-puffs that was stuffed full of other empty, used plastic bags that he needs to re-use before he can recycle them. He went on to say that he had many more bags similar to the Snyder’s cheesy puffs bag, some even larger.
Another small example of Bigelow’s sustainable lifestyle is his stack of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream containers.
“I’ve got a stack that’s taller than I am and I’m six-foot-four,” he said. “The Ben & Jerry’s containers I am specifically saving to grow vegetable starts in next year and sell them. The cups are the perfect size to grow a tomato plant or a pepper plant.”
Since January 1, he has been saving every one-time use item he has come across in order to use it again.
“I’ve probably got a 7-foot stack of containers,” he said regarding the Ben & Jerry’s.
According to Bigelow, sustainability is, in a sense, an ideal that we can strive for daily by living in a minimalist way and adopting the “reduce, reuse, recycle” philosophy. Sustainability’s focus is to use earth’s resources at the same rate the earth naturally produces them in order to sustain earth as well as mankind.
According to Greenliving.com, the generation of municipal solid waste (trash) has increased by 60-percent from 1980 to 2005, a statistic taken from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This increase is a problem. It is increasing the amount of harm we, as humans and consumers, place on the environment. Future generations will feel the concrete repercussions that we are passing on.
“The thing is we have an imperative now. We can’t keep passing our problems onto our children and our grandchildren. We are faced with ecological, global climate change. We are faced with environmental systems collapsing worldwide. ‘The sky is falling people,’ doom and gloom, all that stuff is happening and it is real,” said Bigelow
According to the Executive Summary on solid waste from the 2006-2007 North Carolina Solid Waste Annual Report, “North Carolina communities created 11,865,892 tons of waste which were disposed of in both North Carolina and out-of-state facilities.”
That is equivalent to the weight of 32,6997.67 fully loaded tractor-trailer trucks.
Bigelow said that acting now, to preserve the resources we do have, is imperative to preventing the collapse of ecosystems during the lives of future generations.
“We can change it now. We have all the technology, all the science, all the political will, all the moral will and everything we need to save the world right now. We can all do it and it starts with each one of us individually,” he said.
Adam Bigelow, a non-traditional student, has already obtained an associate’s degree in Horticulture and is currently in his junior year at Western pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Health Sciences. He is also currently working at Haywood Community College as the facilitator of a new bio-fuels project beginning in Haywood County.
Adam Bigelow’s 10 Steps Towards Sustainability:
Adopting a sustainable life style on the campus of Western Carolina seems like it would be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Adam Bigelow suggests 10 small changes Western students can make to live in a more sustainable way.
1)Believe it is possible. Without the belief there’s nothing.
2)Keep “reduce and reuse” on the forefront of the reduce-reuse-recycle program: •Reduce our consumptive habits •Reuse those things that we do use •Then Recycle once we can no longer use it anymore 3)Bring your own cup! •Ceramic mugs •Stainless steel thermos •Reuse water bottles 4) NEVER use Styrofoam again! It never goes away. 5)Eat a vegetarian or vegan diet. It takes ¼ acre, on average, to feed a vegetarian compared with four acres to feed a meat eater. 6)Never shop at Wal-Mart-instead, go to a thrift-store.You may be saving a dollar today but it will cost subsequent generations thousands tomorrow.
7)Don’t ride on the Cat-Tran. Walk. It’s a beautiful campus and it will get you in shape.We live in a culture where people drive to the gym to walk on a treadmill.
8)Demand that Aramark and Western reduce waste.As students we have the power; individual students have the power to directly affect policy choices for the university.
9) Grow a garden and plant a tree. The act of gardening not only gives you produce, but it also gives you exercise and a spiritual connection with nature. This is good for your psyche and reducing stress.
10 )Get involved!Support groups, individuals and communities that are working towards sustainability.
The Story Behind the Photo
As a metaphor while studying horticulture at Haywood Community college, Adam Bigelow grew out his own crop of hair while growing crops for class. The picture to the left is Bigelow pre-shaven. To complete the metaphor, he shaved and cut his hair as he cut and harvested his crops for graduation.