Breaking the Sustainability Standstill

Reality does not always match expectations. This week, the Green Cup Challenge, hosted by the Phillips Academy Sustainability Coalition (PASC), began without much excitement or buzz after dorm meetings on Sunday night. The original intention of the event, as stated by the PASC Co-Coordinator Alice Fan, was to motivate students to form sustainable habits by engaging in a fun, low-stakes competition with dormmates. 

“[The Green Cup Challenges] is sort of like an invitation and sort of less of a challenge, but also, obviously, the competition part of it is very fun and allows you to have some sort of dorm camaraderie, which is really nice. And also, obviously, there’s a prize at the end which could also be motivation,” said Fan in an interview with The Phillipian

However, many students have not reached the level of competitiveness and engagement hoped for by the PASC, excitement difficult when your peers are not. Among competing priorities at Andover, from academics to extracurriculars, perhaps a fun, low-stakes competition is not the best motivator. Many feel that their individual contributions do not amount to much, a misconception. Beyond the direct impacts of green habits, our individual climate actions can add up to a collective message expressing to the administration that climate action is a priority. Fan described the main obstacle between Andover and climate action: student motivation. 

“I think the administration really wants to see student passion behind sustainability and climate action because they want to really see that students are genuinely interested in what is in climate action. And we’re not just asking for something that’s completely unattainable and not simultaneously doing what we can to make a difference,” said Fan.  

Unfortunately, student motivation has not mirrored the PASC’s intent during planning. The connection between our individual contributions and drastic, palpable change, only possible with the cooperation of the administration, has faded. Though, when a victory comes, this connection will be re-established, reigniting student motivation when their efforts are answered by results. The difficult task, now, is reaching our first sustainability win to rekindle the student body. Suhaila Cotton ’24, a board member of PASC and Andover Climate Lobby, described the obstacles and potential solutions for creating school-wide change. 

“When we advocated for Earth Day on, [the administration] didn’t want to support us because they didn’t think enough faculty would be able to [pursue] it like they do for [Martin Luther King Jr. Day] or that there wasn’t enough student support… So getting that motivation from other students [can] really put climate change as an actual priority, not just something to put on the webpage,” said Cotton in an interview with The Phillipian

To work towards a more sustainable academy, we cannot wait for the administration to make the change for us. The students and administration are currently at a standstill, waiting for the other party to act. Students must be first to move. Starting with the Green Cup Challenge, we can bring our vision of a greener blue to fruition. 

This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, Vol. CXLVI.