The new role of college students

Why they may be the answer to many of the world’s problems

By Rebekah-Anne Gebler

SALT LAKE CITY—“The Story of Stuff” video was created by one person, Annie Leonard, and a small team of co-workers in 2007.

Almost five years and more than 15 million views later, that video “is one of the most watched environmental-themed online movies of all time,” according to the organization’s website, With its easy-to-follow cartoons and understandable lingo, this is understandable.

Leonard’s efforts were extensive but those by college students don’t need to be.

Why college students’ actions are so integral to helping the planet was the topic of discussion at a lecture conducted by library accountant Carrie Brooks on February 29. The discussion was about a different video by Leonard called “The Story of Broke” and was part of the Green Bag Lunch Series held at the University of Utah’s Marriott Library.

“The Story of Broke” talked about where the majority of the money in the economy is going versus where it could be going.

Leonard said that instead of spending money on fixing problems, that money should be spent on preventing them.

The prime models for this need of priority changes are college students. Many are pressured daily as to where—and on what—they will spend their money.

“It’s just frustrating…There’s money to do it. It’s just a change of priorities,” said attendee David Maxfield, a senior library specialist.

Maxfield refers to the struggle that college students face daily. With consistently new technology from iPads to crackle nail polish, college students are enticed into spending money on things they want while the economy is begging for that money to be spent on preventing problems.

That’s why Brooks said that education is the main focus of lectures like the Green Bag Lunch Series.

“So many people have no idea why or what or how these things happen,” said Brooks, referring to today’s economic problems.

College students are also the influencers in this plan as well. Many students are at a point in their lives where they have to make their own decisions for the first time.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, 30.4 million 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in a 2- or 4-year college or university as of 2009.

Even if only 10 percent of those students were living outside of their parents’ home, that is still more than 3 million people who are flying solo in making their own decisions since leaving the nest.

The University of Utah’s Marriott Library recognizes that so many students are at a crossroad with their decisions. They act as the center and the source of sustainability for the campus, said Brooks.

Efforts like “The Paper Project”—a campus-wide recycle effort—and “Just Fill It!” –a water bottle-filling station project—were both started at the Marriott Library and were funded by Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (or SCIF) Grants to aid students in their sustainability efforts.

The faculty and students involved in the campus’ sustainability efforts have created simple ways to help change many students’ habits.

Students can find resources on simple changes they can make in their lives, what the U. is doing to “Go Green,” and even give suggestions for new ideas to further these efforts on the “Greening the Marriott Library” webpage at

College students may feel pressured by the many different options of where to spend their time and money, but through simple actions, they can be the solution for tomorrow’s problems.