Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
August 2, 2021

This Earth Day, do your part to promote sustainability at Hopkins and beyond

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | April 22, 2021

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Today, we celebrate the 51st annual Earth Day. Since President Joe Biden’s inauguration, the U.S. has made some progress in the fight against climate change. The country rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement in one of Biden’s first executive orders. With the new administration’s recently unveiled $2 trillion infrastructure plan promoting cleaner energy sources and racial equity, there is reason to be optimistic. 

Of course, there is much more we can do to effectively combat climate change, including at the state level. Maryland legislators recently passed a bill that would require the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by the year 2030. We urge Governor Larry Hogan, despite his past resistance to environmental legislation, to approve this bill and prioritize climate issues in his final term.

In Baltimore, Mayor Brandon Scott, despite campaign promises to promote sustainability, has not implemented many environment-related changes since taking office in December. Although this is likely due to the pandemic, we hope that he will work to make Baltimore a leader in the fight against climate change.

Here at Hopkins — one of the first universities to have a recycling program — our dining facilities stand out for their sustainability among college campuses for their use of compostable plastic and its spearheading of the Meatless Mondays movement. As we transition to a self-operated dining model, the student group Real Food Hopkins is striving to make our dining services ethically sourced, Baltimore-based and zero waste. Real Food is also calling for the hiring of a Baltimore food system specialist to represent the city’s needs and build relationships with local businesses. 

So far, a petition in favor of the proposal has been signed by 141 Hopkins affiliates. The University must continue to prove its commitment to sustainability by listening to students’ demands.

Since 2012, Refuel Our Future, another student group, has been pushing for the University to divest from fossil fuel companies. In December 2019, University President Ronald J. Daniels indicated that the administration was unlikely to fully divest its holdings from fossil fuel companies. However, soon after the pandemic hit, administrators enacted austerity measures in anticipation of serious fiscal challenges, unable to rely on the endowment because of financial markets’ rapid decline. The University’s investments in fossil fuels have benefited neither our institution nor the health of our planet. 

As we noted in our Earth Day editorial last year, the fight against climate change has been frustrating because powerful institutions like Hopkins can be slow to change. Indeed, no matter how much we try to reduce our individual carbon footprints, we know that 100 companies are responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions.

But we should still try to make a difference. We can celebrate today by registering for the University’s Zero Waste Challenge to educate ourselves on environmental issues and commit to practicing various sustainable behaviors. In addition, students can refer to the Sustainable Living Guide year round.

Do your part to be environmentally conscious. Hold the University accountable to its promise to reduce carbon emissions by 51% by 2025. But most importantly, ensure that your efforts extend past Earth Day and amount to something that can have a lasting impact on the planet.

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