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Sustainability – Issue 17

Sustainability. The corporate buzzword of the modern era. The thing everybody pretends to be doing to look good in front of the camera but when you look up close, it’s mostly a fresh coat of green paint. With that heavy dose of cynicism firmly in mind, Nexus went out to rake in the muck. Didn’t think we’d get our hands this dirty for a feature in the magazine? If only you knew…


So what does it actually mean? In a nutshell, if you can keep doing it forever without destroying the planet or the resource itself, then it’s sustainable. A bit like meditation. Or playing with yourself. It can be fun for a long time and nobody gets hurt. How do we stack up? That’s a little more difficult to unpack. There’s good news, even better news, and then – rhetorically enough at this point – there’s bad news. Since this started with prattling execu-speak, I might as well hamfist it right through this thing and give you what is known in corporate circles as the “management sandwich”. It’s a shit thing stuck between two good things and represents the failure of former business students in the culinary arts (the best bit of a real sandwich is clearly in the middle).


So the first bit of good news. The University has done a lot. Electric vehicles, OSCA the industrial composter, the commercial sized worm farm or “Faculty of Worms” where this author hopes to be tenured someday. There is a whole team dedicated to sustainability at the University. All over campus you can find ways to separate out the metric fuckton of rubbish you produce on a daily basis into different waste streams that require different kinds of processing. Brilliant! You not using it as designed is a blight on your everlasting soul. Shame on you. Nexus found cardboard in the rubbish, chopsticks in the worm bin (they’re not termites, idiot), and drink cans where drink cans have no business being.


But that is not all the bad news. Some of the food containers on campus, and many of the coffee cups are that bastard hybrid of cardboard and plastic that means they can’t be treated as cardboard or plastic so they are destined for landfill. How did this happen? Laissez-faire capitalism. Probably. There’s also the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any locations for paper recycling. The University seems to be aware of this given a line on the website claiming “Approximately 25% of what the University puts in landfill is recyclable paper”. Why? Who knows? Somebody, that’s who. And now you do too, so go write a letter.


As promised, here is the final piece of good news on top of your sandwich. And true to form it is bittersweet. The good news is that there is room for growth in sustainability but it hinges on you, dear reader. A while back a couple of engineering students designed an “in-vessel organic diversion system”. Whatever the hell that is. You too can put your learning to good use. Start by Googling “in-vessel organic diversion system” then do something different because someone already did that. Go and have a poke around for yourself and see what you can turn up. Reach out to the dedicated sustainability team and see how you can get involved. Perhaps most importantly, sort your damn rubbish. Make use of the facilities that have been made available to you. It’s not rocket surgery.


One last thing Nexus dreams about before we go. The University maintains a lot of grass that gives a poor return on all that mowing. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some more trees?