Mercyhurst, as well as many schools across the country, are taking every precaution necessary to slow and even prevent the spread of COVID-19 on their campuses.
From one-way traffic in academic buildings to takeout options at dining halls, Mercyhurst has been one college that has been at the forefront when it comes to combating the virus.
One way that Mercyhurst has been working towards keeping all students and faculty safe is by switching out reusable dishes and silverware for single-use containers, cups and cutlery. This is quite beneficial in assuring that the same items used for food aren’t used again and again by different students, but it comes at a high cost.
This has set Mercyhurst dramatically backwards in terms on working towards becoming more sustainable. Before we were in the throes of the pandemic, the dining halls at Mercyhurst primarily had reusable dishes and silverware, the kind that only needed to be hand washed or put in the dishwasher in order to be used by the next set of students.
The only plastic items on hand were the takeout containers, but even the usage of those were a rarity, and they were reusable, which minimized their environmental impact.
However, considering the predicament we are in, the usage of these items could easily increase the risk of a student or faculty member becoming sick. So, for now, the safer alternative is using plastic everything.
Plastic containers, plastic straws, plastic cups, plastic cutlery. Despite everything that’s going on in the world, is this even necessary?
In the grand scheme of things, no, because the accumulation of all of this plastic over time will devastate the world in terms of our carbon footprint and climate change, but at the same time, it’s not like we have many other choices.
For example, grocery stores have the option of utilizing reusable bags in lieu of plastic bags, but colleges may not be able to afford those options. Plenty of students have reusable water bottles that they can easily refill, but Mercyhurst has many water fountains and drink stations closed off.
Mercyhurst certainly means well when imposing these restrictions, but that doesn’t always mean those restrictions benefit the students. I understand that Mercyhurst is trying their best to make sure that as few students and staff get sick as possible, but sometimes these changes feel too restrictive.
Most, if not all reusable water bottles have caps that can be screwed off, so I believe that students should be allowed to refill their bottles at water fountains or bring them into dining halls to be refilled.
We shouldn’t have to sacrifice all of our sustainability efforts to combat the virus.