Fleming College: Our Next Step Forward

(634 Words)

At the soonest possible time, Fleming College should ban all single use plastics from sale on school grounds. This includes, but is not limited to single use plastics and other non-recyclables in the cafeteria/Auk’s Lodge, ALL single use plastic items in vending machines, and the abhorrent use of unrecyclable gloves in labs and the Fish Hatchery.

As students at Fleming College, we are in the particularly uncomfortable position of wanting to be proud to be members of a school that prides itself on being ‘Environmentally Sustainable’. As an institution, Fleming College mouths platitudes about how Environmentally woke it is here. There is no shortage of media and Fleming press coverage supporting this notion supporting this. Just in a recent article Fleming College Receives STARS Gold Rating For Sustainability Achievements, Fleming College President Maureen Adamson was quoted saying “From banning the sale of bottled water […] Fleming is committed to ensuring sustainability is interwoven into every aspect of the College” (PTBOCanada, 2019). Every part of the curriculum is even geared around studying and protecting the environment. As a collection of people, everyone here is more than ready to accept our moral superiority for being part of such a forward-thinking school.  We’re the vanguard of the environment. Nay, Protectors of the Earth. And OH! We are mighty. Every class no matter the relationship to the environment helps further push the agenda, ever on guard that we may lose focus on what is important. It does not end from one class to another. The instructors have duly NEVER missed an opportunity to get a pot shot in at the lacking and questionable (at best) environmental policies of previous Conservative governments.  I’m down with all of that. We all are. I walk the walk and talk the talk.

And yet, this is all just words and parading. Running at the mouth almost, to the point this is an upsetting topic of conversation among other students and myself. Vending machines throughout the college dispense an unending supply of single use plastic and non-recyclables, while the cafeteria could not be happier to supply every student with plastic utensils, and plastic wrappings for food, non-recyclable coffee cups and plastic lids. It hurts. It truly hurts. This is one of the most real examples of cognitive dissonance I have experienced. An entire college of people saying one thing and doing another.

A concrete example of this dissonance was on a short trip to the Fish Hatchery, our entire class was urged to use the plastic gloves provided (single use, of course) to pick up a fish, clip the adipose fin, release the fish, and then toss the gloves. We filled up a garbage bag for the sake of what amounted to a time filler for our class. It’s hard to hear about protecting the environment when the very people preaching the way of The Righteous are themselves blind to these impacts on the environment. 

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Figure 1 Adipose fin clipping. Photo Mills, D.
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Figure 2 Cringe worthy waste. Photo Mills, D.

And for this, the Earth wept.

Take Hold This Olive Branch!

It may be a too large a step forward for Fleming College to purchase reusable gloves or biodegradable gloves, audit the sustainability of vending machine merchandise and find an alternative to plastic cutlery; it will however be easy to simply REMOVE the plastic cutlery from the school. We have access to metal utensils, or we can bring our own from home. Or heck, maybe we can consider removing all sugary snacks and drinks entirely!

There is also the option of regretting to plan our day in such a way as to not rely on unnecessarily polluting.  In honor of the great Karl Marx, we can call this ‘Seizing the means of pollution’.

We can do this one small thing, and we can make a huge positive impact. Let’s not just be forward thinking, let’s be forward acting.

And here’s my name to say so.

D.A. Mills

Figure 3 A ban on “unflavoured water” would be more accurate. Photo Mills, D 

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Figure 4 Message received! Don’t drink water, drink pop instead.  Photo Mills, D.

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Figure 5  The college that got a Gold rating for sustainability still uses plastic straws. Think about that. Photo Mills, D.

Figure 6 Even the book store and campus dorms are not safe. Photo Mills, D.


PTBOCanada. (2019). Fleming College Receives STARS Gold Rating For Sustainability 

Achievements. Retrieved December 05, 2019, from https://www.ptbocanada.com/journal/2019/12/3/fleming-college-receives-stars-gold-rating-for-sustainability-achievements