Green Wall initiative wastes funds and sustainability efforts

On March 6, the Undergraduate Student Government’s Sustainability Committee and Baruch College’s Sustainability Task Force proposed the “Greener Baruch Initiative,” a project comprised of two parts: planting a tree on the corner of 24th Street and Lexington Avenue and installing a “Green Wall” at the south entrance of the Newman Vertical Campus, above the statue of Bernard Baruch. The initiative is largely symbolic, aiming to create conversations and educate students about climate change. While the planting of a tree is a fine idea, installing the Green Wall is not an efficient use of Baruch’s funds.

The Green Wall is estimated to cost $15,000, with a yearly upkeep cost of $2,000. The emphasis on the project’s high visibility is notable; it would be hard to miss a wall of shrubbery that would stand approximately 10 feet tall. There are issues present in the Green Wall as an outlet for sustainability spending, however.

Symbols can be misread or forgotten. As a mostly aesthetic piece, the Green Wall would not be a practical spending of the school’s money because choosing the attention-grabbing green wall over a sensible sustainable initiative is counterproductive. The big wall may start conversations, but it does not create a forum in which the conversation can continue on constructively. Much like the Confederate statues that were discussed during 2017, the Green Wall would be more of a symbol than a lesson. No matter how descriptive a plaque explaining the purpose of the wall could be, dialogue and education about climate change are better executed in a classroom or another, more formalized setting.

Instead of committing funds to the Green Wall, Baruch should choose a more productive, less flashy spending of the money. For example, with all the paper that the school uses, the Sustainability Committee could ensure that there would always be recycled paper made available to students. Alternatively, efforts could be made to reduce the use of plastic water bottles and encourage students to use refillable water bottles instead.

Change is best when it comes not out of a place of performance — trying to show the world how an organization should be seen positively — but from a drive for action. The project proposal says that Baruch can “flex its environmental muscles” through the tree and the wall. Having muscles is fine, but when they are being shown off unnecessarily while they could be used for more constructive purposes, they just seem like a waste.