Wednesday, March 21, 2012

April 2012 Sustainability Profile: The Untold Story of Bay Tree Bookstore

Article by David Boyle, Zero Waste Team Member
Photos by Melissa Ott
How often do we complain to friends about the Bay Tree Bookstore’s textbook prices? Around the start of every quarter, many of us students enter the bookstore to look at textbooks. Outraged at the prices, we complain to our buddies and then get online to save money on Chegg or Amazon. For some students, their only experience with the Bookstore is one of frustration with textbook costs and on rare occasions, gratitude that the blue books are so cheap.
I am here to present another side to the Bookstore, the cool side that not enough students know about. Despite our frustration with textbook costs, there are many things the Bookstore has done that students should proclaim kudos to. The Bay Tree Bookstore has been consciously working toward more sustainable practices for more than 25 years, and it continues to make strides to lessen not only its own footprint on the earth but also that of the students who shop there. Here are many of the things that the bookstore has done to support sustainability:
  • In-store recycling bins for batteries and printer ink
  • Tapioca compostable bags at checkout are not given by default but offered.
  • Years ago the Bookstore stopped putting unnecessary advertising inserts in their bags in order to reduce waste.
  • The Express Store, which is part of the Bay Tree Bookstore, has been sending its used coffee grounds and other organic material to Chadwick gardens to be composted for nearly 9 years.
  • Offers soy memory foam mattress toppers instead of plastic ones for students to purchase
  • Provides free cardboard for students during move out
  • Student calendar planners are made from recycled materials and include ‘green’ tips that were developed by students
  • Emblematic apparel sold by Alta Gracia supports workers rights by paying “living wages.” Certified by the Workers Rights Consortium
  • Offers the more environmentally friendly option of renting a graduation gown instead of purchasing a new one
As students we yield a lot of power to change what the Bookstore carries on its shelves. Twenty-five years ago recycled paper and notebooks were sparse, but because students demonstrated a high demand for these green products, the Bookstore sought out vendors to supply them.

“All we can do is encourage, all of this is consumer driven” said the Bookstore Director, Bob McCampbell.

The Bookstore strives to be at the forefront of green practices. They receive so much information about new products it is a challenge to filter out the “greenwashed” products from what is legitimately eco-friendly. There are still more things that the Bay Tree Bookstore can do but I have confidence they will continue to improve their green practices and positively impact the student community. Some of these improvements are coming from pressure by student campaigns as well. Currently the Bookstore is in discussion with Take Back the Tap in order to reduce the sale of plastic water bottles. The Bookstore is also investigating an eco-bottle to sell instead of plastic bottles.

The next time you hear your friends complaining about the Bookstore, remind them that all of the sustainable practices that the Bay Tree Bookstore participates in are voluntary, that many of the products sold are reviewed for environmental impact, and finally, how much better the world environment would be if more stores acted as responsibly toward the environment as the Bay Tree Bookstore!

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