It’s not a particularly hard thing to do, picking up a can or bottle. It’s a process that takes seconds: you finish your beverage and then find a plastic bag or box to place it in. Repeat after each drink. If you are at the beach, the trash can be placed in cans (cylindrical bins of uniform color) usually located in the parking lot. Collected cans can be taken to one of Oswego’s multiple bottle return centers – for money! It’s quite a great system, really.
Now, this information is extremely basic, and thus is typically a terrible way to start an article. But it seems necessary, nonetheless, as this simple concept has managed to elude far too many Oswego State students. Go to the Flat Rocks or any of the lake’s shores accessible through campus and you’re guaranteed to run across a series of bottles, wrappers and other mystery items thoughtlessly left on the beach by students.
The problem became especially noticeable after this summer’s Harborfest, when throngs of college-aged men and women (many of whom, it should be noted, weren’t actual Oswego State students) swarmed the Flat Rocks area to create an MTV spring break-type atmosphere. Fun as the party may have been, it left the area buried in trash and empty bottles that bobbed back and forth as the tides swelled in and dragged the debris into the lake.
A photo of the mess found its way to Facebook and spread from there to the Facebook account of the Oswego D-Bus and then to the Oswego Tweets Twitter account. A majority of the reactions to the photo were anger toward students for a selfish and abusive attitude toward the city. It’s a sentiment that is hard to argue with, especially when the city’s beaches are literally being lined with garbage.
And that’s the biggest shame of it all. Beyond the fact that littering is illegal, bad for the environment and generally abhorrent behavior, the littering of the beaches, whether in summer or while class is in session, is indicative of a much larger problem: that the actions of a few students destroys our reputation in the city as a whole. I’ve been at this school for three years, and the majority of the students I have interacted with love the city and often go out of their way to support its businesses and respect its residents. These students are all just as disgusted by the behavior of these few inconsiderate students as many of the residents. These students know that, no matter what they do, the reputation of students among city residents will always be influenced far more by trash left on the streets than any of the good they can do.
So, while the weather stays warm, here’s a plea to all beach-going Oswego State students: pick up after yourself. We slog through months of some of the harshest weather on the East Coast and are rewarded by a few glorious weeks each semester when the weather thaws and opens up beaches that can compete with any in the state. Between the lighthouse, sunsets and harbor, our lake is a large part of what makes our school and city the unique place that it is. So, please, take care of it.