MenagerieWhat Makes La Salle Truly Green?
What Makes La Salle Truly Green?

Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is stripped down to its most fundamental features, but how exactly does one become a minimalist?

DLSU Philosophy professor, Laureen Velasco, says that a minimalist lifestyle essentially means, “Simplifying one’s needs and one’s wants. [it] means not taking whatever in excess, and not wasting anything. It means not hording and accumulating so much [of one thing], which requires awareness of what one truly needs.”

She adds that everything that we waste in our lives and in the environment comes from the ignorance of thinking that natural resources are unlimited, alongside a failure to recognize one’s dependence and connectedness with others in society, nature and the environment.

The rampant consumerism that characterizes Western culture is a result of clinging to material possessions to cover up what is truly missing in our lives. It is time to let go.  “After all, many people find it very difficult to let go. And being a minimalist requires precisely that,” Velasco adds.

Meanwhile, an ecological crisis is in the works, progressing faster than scientists expected. Scientists predicted that a two to four celsius rise in global temperature over the next few decades will have devastating effects on biodiversity, crop availability, weather patterns and more.

It is not just climate change. Along with rising temperatures comes a whole slew of other “crises” carried over from the Industrial Revolution: mass deforestation, mass extinctions, mass pollution, mass waste, trash, and garbage, mass everything.

While we think about our environment, the Menagerie takes an inside look into DLSU’s environmentalism efforts. The University Student Government (USG) developed certain projects to support the University’s fight against pollution.  Last term, the USG started DLSU’s Zero Plastic campaign that aimed to eliminate the use of plastic utensils and containers in the four canteens. In actuality, DLSU is one of the first universities in the country to ban the use of Styrofoam within campus. In a wink of an eye, there will be no more plastic spoons, forks and Styrofoam-containers filling up campus trash cans.

Indeed, DLSU seems as if it is doing its part in saving the environment, but what about the students? What have we done to help sustain Mother Nature as we sustain ourselves? Is it possible to even balance it all? Or must the environment bow beneath more “pressing” concerns, like profit and our addiction to fossil fuels?

If there is anything that sets DLSU apart from the rest, it is that we are green. We pride ourselves in all things green, green ballers, green jackets, green cheerleaders…our commitment to environmental protection, right?

Take a deep breath. Smell the Taft air.

Behind what seems to be a facade of eco-friendliness is a contradictory, inconvenient truth. All attempts at raising awareness of the crisis our planet is facing fades into mediocrity, with all our lights, speakers, papers, projectors, machines, brochures, cars, etc.; our fancy ID gizmos and Orwellian fingerprint scanners ala 1984. Cigarette smoking at Agno, huge elevators hurtling students up and down more than twenty floors every day for hours on end; and most revealing of all – barely a patch of grass left on campus.

The University recognized the need to contribute in mitigating the effects of these problems. Last April 5, 2011, DLSU President Br. Jun Erguiza FSC, and then Chancellor Br. Ricky Laguda FSC signed a memorandum, officially ratifying the University’s commitment to promote environmental sustainability in and around the campus. To help fulfill this commitment, DLSU has taken several initiatives. The centerpiece is DLSU’s Project Carbon Neutral (PCN).  It is an initiative started by De La Salle Philippines (DLSP) to promote carbon neutrality within the campuses of its 17 member schools.

According to the PCN’s report for AY 2010-2011, “a carbon neutral institution is one that has a zero net carbon footprint when computing the difference between the amounts of greenhouse gases it emits from the amount it sequesters”.

A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted as a result of activities conducted by members of the community.  To be fair, the University or even the government cannot foot eco-friendliness’s bill alone. Individuals are partly to blame for the hefty carbon footprints.

Based on the report, electrical equipment emission is at 16,596,591 (in kg CO2). Forty eight percent comes from Heating, Ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, 10 percent is due to lighting and 42 percent from other equipment.  The University also produced a total of 229, 208 kilograms of waste.

Lucky for us, the Lasallian Institute for the Environment (LIFE) oversees the project at the network level. We have core groups assigned per school to manage the operations of PCN.

Along with PCN, another environmentally friendly effort DLSP started is the “One Million Trees and Beyond” campaign to solve the problem of forest depletion in the country. The campaign is almost complete with nearly 1,000,000 seedlings planted across the country.

The one millionth tree was planted during the Centennial celebration last June 16, at the Marian Quadrangle; a tree that will serve as a symbol for us Lasallians, and for all future students of DLSU.

Let us all start downsizing. Less is indeed more: less stuff, less stress. The famous Gandhi once said: “There is a sufficiency for in the world for man’s need, not for man’s greed.”

Embrace minimalism, but before people chalk you off as some sort of 21st century hippie, zen yoda, or tree hugger think about it, and stop measuring your self-worth based on the latest iPad everyone seems to want.

Positive change demands a shift in paradigm. Annie Leonard describes this in her short internet film-turned-book The Story of Stuff. In what she calls the “work-watch-spend treadmill”, our lives revolve around the pursuit of “More”: more things, more stuff, more wealth. This desire is consumerism at its core. Shopping has turned from a necessity into a pastime. Media, often in the form of advertising, point toward the latest gadget, or designer jacket to satisfy our cravings.

To meet our growing demand for more things to satisfy our artificially engineered cravings, manufacturers clamor to produce more, straining natural resources to the limit.  According to the Global Footprint Network (GFN), we are consuming natural resources produced beyond what the Earth can sustain, each year. For instance, it takes 36 gallons of water to produce a cup of coffee and 140 million tons of fuel a year to ship products around the world. In 2006, it took 30 million trees to supply the United States with 1.6 million metric tons of paper.

After producing and distributing it, we have to dispose of it all, often hastily, through processes that are worse than the trash itself, in landfills like Payatas, ocean dumping, or toxic incinerators.

While we waste precious resources, we are breaching the very limits of our planet – the only one we have ever, and will ever, be able to call home.

Let us rethink not just our actions, but our attitudes as well. Whether we care for the future generations, let us at least care about ourselves. Care enough to keep ourselves healthy, our environment fresh, and our lives simple.