Sometimes a Garbage Can is Not Just a Garbage Can

Meredith Wolpe
Class of: 

Of all the exciting things that happened on my first day at St. Lawrence, I remember one thing in particular: the trash cans. I walked into Whitman Hall, found my door, punched in the code, and entered the room. While the large space, the built-in closets, and the view were all great perks, what really made me light up was the fact that both a trash can AND a recycling bin had been provided, each already lined with a new, perfectly fitting plastic trash bag.  

Why was this exciting to me, you ask? You see, this was not my first time beginning college. Having spent my first year at a much larger institution in a city, I arrived at SLU for my fresh start as a sophomore transfer, hoping to finally settle into to my ideal college experience. I transferred to SLU because I wanted to feel like I was an active part of a community, not just a number in the crowd. The rural location was a huge draw for me because I figured it would foster a warm and exciting atmosphere on campus; I reasoned that there wouldn’t be as many distractions in the surrounding area as there are in a city (this is, however, debatable, considering SLU is surrounded by the giant playground that is the Adirondacks). Luckily, my instincts were correct, and the environment on campus was exactly what I was looking for.

As I walked around campus, many people -- people I had never met before -- smiled at me as they passed. Joining clubs and activities felt natural, not intimidating, as people welcomed me into their organizations without apparently giving a second thought to the idea that I was new. I even began forming relationships with my professors and sharing occasional meals with some of them outside of class. College by nature is bound to have its ups and downs, given that we as students are experiencing so much during this time of our lives.  Our relationships change, our world views are altered, and stress in combination with lack of sleep can become an unfortunate mix; but for me, even the lows I experienced at SLU felt okay because it became so clear to me that I had made the right choice and I was in the right place.

At SLU I get the feeling that the decisions made by the administration are made with the intent of creating the most positive student experience. Those trash cans signaled to me that someone, at some point, had observed that if both trash cans and recycling bins are provided, then students will be more likely to recycle. The laundry that required no extra money said to me that someone wanted to make our lives on campus just that much more convenient. The difference between 50 cents and free for laundry is marginal in the long run, but incredibly beneficial in the moment. Likewise, the cost of printing included in the cost of tuition signaled another minor but incredibly beneficial gesture from the school. The list of these small thoughtful details goes on. These decisions were not made by accident, and these gestures add up, creating a snowball effect: it seems like the school really cares.

Maybe the presence of a trash can shouldn’t be what makes or breaks a decision to come to SLU. But then again, it’s the little things that make all the difference.