Saving the environment starts by not leaving your Blanch takeout on Skinner Green

Photo by Emily Pollack ’20  An array of trash, including takeout, napkins and a textbook, strewn on Skinner Green outside of Wilder Hall. 

Photo by Emily Pollack ’20

An array of trash, including takeout, napkins and a textbook, strewn on Skinner Green outside of Wilder Hall. 


Last Monday night as I walked the darkened path from Blanchard to Creighton Hall, I decided to count the pieces of litter that I saw on the ground along the way. I assumed that I would see some, but I didn’t ever imagine I would see the amount of litter that I did — plastic spoons, trampled plastic bags, dirty hand wipes, candy wrappers, paper towels, cigarette butts and an entire half-eaten paper bag full of Blanchard popcorn, just sitting on the ground beside the sidewalk.

 Student littering is a big problem at Mount Holyoke, and it is an inexcusable habit. Crumpled papers and soggy Rao’s cups fill the grass under the adirondack chairs. Cigarette butts pepper the patio outside the library. Empty Blanchard take-out boxes are left in the grass on Skinner Green, and empty Blanchard eat-in baskets are strewn on the picnic tables by Mary Lyon’s grave.

Elise Newcomer ’18 makes a habit of picking up other people’s trash when she finds it on the ground while walking to class. Sometimes by the time she arrives at her classroom building, Newcomer said she has accumulated an armload full of trash.

“I’m just sick of seeing trash everywhere,” she said. “This campus is beautiful, and I don’t like seeing broken glass and cans everywhere when families with small children come.”

 At Mount Holyoke we are stewards of our own environment. It’s more than just being a do-gooder; it’s about following the honor code. All students need to take responsibility for keeping the grass, the trees, the bushes, the lake and all the green spaces where we live and work clean, and free of greasy napkins.

Mount Holyoke College can help us solve our littering problem by providing more outdoor trash and recycling units for public use. The number of outdoor trash and recycling units that exist on campus are few and far between, but in those areas, like in front of Clapp and by the Pratt bus stop, the ground is coincidentally pristine and litter-free. It is on the rest of campus where there are no trash and recycling units where litter becomes a problem.

Students could develop responsible waste-sorting habits if trash and recycling receptacles were always located side-by-side on campus, both outdoors and within academic buildings. There should always be both a paper recycling and a bottle recycling option for disposal, located next to one another, to avoid the problem of students shoving their Blanchard Snapple bottles in with the trash destined for the landfill, because the single recycling bin within a 20 mile radius says “paper only.”

 It is ultimately the responsibility of every student to pick up after themselves and dispose of their trash in one of the designated areas. But Mount Holyoke can improve the current waste system by providing more disposal options in more convenient locations.    

But in the meantime, Newcomer wants students to keep in mind the repercussions of their actions.

“It might be easier to run to class after lunch on the green than to find a trash can, but leaving it on the ground sends a negative message about how we as a community treat our campus,” said Newcomer. “We work to respect each other in classroom, let’s do the same in our shared spaces.”