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Sharples Utensils: The Sweet Taste of Greenwashing

6 mins read

Today it’s take-out time. The clock ticks; the rush-hour Sharples adrenaline kicks in. I pass people by and the New Yorker within comes out of me. I’m so sorry. 

I get my food into my cardboard takeout container, letting it brew with the bleached “greenness” of my box. I sit down, take a deep breath and open the little brown wrapper with my wooden cutlery inside. I open the box; light and angel’s voices emanate from it. Hallelujah.

I grab my knife and fork, trying to cut the chicken parmesan laying before my eyes. I stick the fork into it, and the chicken cutlet immediately laughs in my face. I’m not going to let it win. After all, I have a knife. Right? I try to cut the meat, but all the chicken does is dance around my takeout box. I try pressing harder. The pressure surmounts to the point where the chicken breast lunges at me and …

Ouch … My poor dress … I guess that didn’t cut it.

But you know what? I have pasta too! Such is the magic of the bizarre combinations afforded by a Sharples meal. I dip my fork into my golden noodles covered with tomato sauce and … shit, they slipped off my puny fork and flopped back into the box, hold on …

Again, I attempt to puncture my food with the wooden fork, hoping to at last get food into my mouth … GOOOOOOOAL! Finally …

But wait … the tomato sauce tastes stale like coagulated blood. Well, this is Sharples after all … But most importantly, the flavor of my glorious meal is overshadowed by the unwelcome tang of the wood inside my mouth. Then I realize, this is the sweet taste of greenwashing.

Cutlery that doesn’t cut and the cocktail of saliva, food, and wood in our mouths aside, this phenomenon is just the work of Swarthmore parading around in its sustainability costume. Of course, denying the importance of composting is not the purpose of my rant. Composting does have important benefits, including reducing landfill emissions. The less trash we send to the Chester incinerator, the better it is for everyone — especially for Chester’s residents, who are the first to deal with the consequences of the emissions. 

What’s more, the energetic transition into renewables is absolutely essential for combating climate change. In that regard, Swarthmore is starting to make firmer steps with its geothermal energy project that is part of New Sharples — if we can call it that. The project also aims to make the campus’ steam distribution for heating more efficient. Go Garnet! With the buzz of construction on this campus being louder than that of the bees, it better be for something productive. Yet, there is also an undeniable truth that unveils Swarthore’s actions as an appalling attempt at masquerading as an environmental justice warrior.

It is no secret that Swarthmore’s endowment has dipped its tentacles in many different sketchy waters. From arms manufacturers, the Israeli apparteid, to the fossil fuel industry, the Board has really used its ink to sign off on all of them. In the vein of this hypocrisy, the Board of Managers managed to include in the same statement a commitment to fighting climate change and a consensus on financing the fossil fuel industry in 2015. What shielded such duplicity from the potential repercussions? The famous and infamous 1991 pledge that stated that Swarthmore will not invest with “social change” as a principle. According to this pledge, the only purpose for investment can be making a profit. Meanwhile, the mission statement sings the tune of social responsibility. The history of the board’s blindness to the damaging effects of fracking and the relatively recent promotion of this practice as a solution to the climate crisis coming from the Board makes the masque slip just a little bit. Turning one’s eyes away from the smoke doesn’t turn off the fire.

This campus can’t ever be net zero if we continue investing our endowment in fracking. Calling our college “Carbon Neutral” while ignoring the money covered by the oil that it receives allows the college to continue to dangle a pendulum in front of our eyes. The trail of carbon our investments leave behind in our atmosphere should also be counted as part of our emissions as a college.

In the meantime, all we have left is a bad taste in our mouths.

1 Comment

  1. what’s your solution then?
    Also, why are you complaining about wooden utensils when they’re better for the environment compared to what we had last year?

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