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ISSUE 121 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/29/2008

Bookstore generates hypocritical rubbish

By Adam Ludvigson
Staff Photographer

Friday, February 29, 2008

Sustainability! Heard of it?

This word appears with great frequency throughout campus literature, as you are no doubt aware. Our food is sustainable, our science center will be one of the most sustainable buildings in the entire country and our wind turbine, while terrifying, certainly does its share to reduce St. Olaf's energy consumption (it can power the entire church organ for up to 40 seconds at full power!).

I love sustainability. I love the fact that our college is so committed to it, and not just in appearance like so many other institutions, such as car companies that advertise an incredible 12 miles per gallon on the highway. I think sustainability is an admirable goal and carried out well at this school.

But what I don't like is being manipulated, which is why I currently have a substantial bone to pick with the St. Olaf Bookstore. Perhaps you've been subjected to the new "Read Locally" ad blitz carried out by means of cafeteria flyer, and perhaps, like me, you can't suppress a little surge of anger every time you read it.

In case you haven't experienced the magic, let me sum it up for you: while the St. Olaf Bookstore might be expensive, it's also a sustainable organization. Hence, if you choose to purchase your textbooks from an "online conglomerate," you automatically join the ranks of the ecoterrorists.

Every time you buy a book from an evil Internet corporate fatcat, you're ensuring that the book will be shipped tens of thousands of miles to your location, producing CO2 waste which will kill dozens of adorable baby seals and possibly penguins.

Since fir trees aren't as cute, the St. Olaf bookstore apparently has no problem clear-cutting them by the acre to manufacture the piles of note cards that clog your P.O. box every few weeks. If you can point to a single instance when you didn't throw those fliers directly into the trash, I will eat my watch.

The flyer also includes this impressively condescending phrase: "And isn't that worth a few extra dollars?" Disregarding the fact that this ecoterrorist saved over $200 buying his textbooks online (used, from other college students), I am not stupid enough to assume St. Olaf receives its books from a fleet of solar-powered zeppelins.

I am also not stupid enough to assume that my textbook is shipped from the "online conglomerate" in its own coal-burning steam locomotive. Unless I'm mistaken, my packages come on the same truck along with the rest of the mail. Maybe this is the same truck which transports the bookstore's 400 tons of colored note cards to print the weekly "New Sale at the Bookstore" notices.

Perhaps the paper stuffed into our P.O. boxes could be used for something, well, useful. I'm referring here to the Bookstore's use of what seems like half-inch thick plastic bags instead of more environmentally friendly paper bags.

Plastic bags remain our only option, unless you want to carry your "sustainable" textbooks back in a big pile, which would interfere with the glowing sense of self-righteousness you're supposed to feel when "reading locally." Reading this article, you might get the impression that I'm just another one of those liberal tree-hugging hippie college students you always read about, so let me say, with all sincerity, that the environment and its health is of paramount importance to every person on the planet, and fixing it is probably not going to be financially simple.

However, I refuse to be lectured (via paper flyer) for buying a recycled textbook online by an organization that doesn't seem to be overly concerned with its own levels of waste.

I know it's not kosher to whine about high textbook prices, but my brother can rent almost all of his textbooks at his college every year, free of charge. He goes to a state school, where more funding is availiable for these programs, but at least his school doesn't have the gall to accuse him of willfully damaging the environment if he chooses not to take part in the process.

The Bookstore's flyer begins and ends with the phrase "think about it," which is a bit obnoxious and anything but prudent, given the problems one starts to see if one does think about it, as they suggest.

Perhaps the Bookstore could learn a lesson from Bon Appétit, which recently put a basket in the Caf of all the intact fruit we had been throwing away, which is a tasteful (ha!) and effective way to make a point about waste. Addressing us like kindergartners while flooding our mailboxes with unnecessary junk mail is the exact opposite: hypocritical, condescending and definitely non-sustainable.

Adam Ludvigson '08 is from De Pere, Wisc. He majors in biology.

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