By Julia Barstow
BENNINGTON - On Thursday, April 21 a group of students organized by the Bennington Environmental Action Group (BEAG) walked the college grounds picking up cigarette butts. The students collected hundreds of cigarette butts in under half an hour.
Groundskeeper Melissa Leland has noticed an increase in the number of improperly disposed of cigarette butts on campus this term, and has spent more of her working hours picking up butts off the ground than any other term. Leland said she picks them up each morning, often for an hour at time, which detracts from her usual work.
Consistently placing cigarette butts in ashtrays will free up time for groundskeepers to do other work. Groundskeeper Nate Cornwell said of picking up cigarette butts on campus this term, “It's a never ending task. You pick them up and they're back again the next day.”
Student Cleo Zars, a member of BEAG and participant in the cigarette butt pick up noted, “Other than some litter after weekend parties, Bennington College does not have a litter problem, with the exception of cigarette butts. It seems that over time we turn a blind eye to the seemingly simple act of tossing a butt. There are ashtrays provided throughout campus, so littering cigarette butts is not a result of a lack of proper places to put them. We need to raise awareness with faculty, students and staff that they need to be accountable for their cigarette butts and take advantage of ashtrays instead of polluting the campus.”
Littered cigarette butts are known to leach toxic chemicals into water and soil. By disposing of cigarette butts in ashtrays, this is prevented from happening.
BEAG made a challenge for the grounds to be cigarette butt free by last Friday, Earth Day. Though the challenge may not have been fully met by then, it is a continued effort that BEAG hopes the college community will work toward over the rest of the term and beyond.