A visit to Binghamton University’s Nature Preserve is filled with sightings of thriving birds, giant anthills and, sometimes, uncharacteristic red Solo Cups.
On Monday, a photo posted on Reddit, a network to communicate with others, went viral among BU students on r/BinghamtonUniversity. The photo depicted an area of the Nature Preserve trashed with plastic cups, bags and cans. Dylan Horvath, steward of natural areas, said this littering is relatively normal.
“I was afraid the natural areas would get trashed more this semester with students having fewer places to go and perhaps trying to hide gatherings,” Horvath wrote in an email. “Sadly, this is often my Mondays — cleaning up from over the weekend.”
However, Horvath noted that there are larger concerns that often cause more damage like vandalism, unleashed dogs and fires. Dogs can destroy wildlife and be harmed by animals if left unleashed. Their feces can add harmful bacteria to the water that wildlife drinks if not cleaned up. Additionally, vandalism and fires are dangerous to the ecology and can cause irreversible damage.
Horvath said that students have shown initiative to clean up areas, despite the littering caused by a few.
“A student emailed and said that they had cleaned this particular spot,” Horvath wrote. “That is something positive for me that there are those willing to clean up, sometimes, like this time, before I get to it.”
According to Horvath, there are no trash cans in the Nature Preserve, because they would most likely end up in the pond or broken, causing further damage. Michael-Luca Natt, a senior majoring in environmental studies, said that visitors can do more to clean up the preserve.
“Here’s what to do: if you bring any items in somewhere, bring them back out with you,” Natt wrote. “See a plastic bottle or wrapper left behind by some other disrespectful person? Pick it up and carry it out with you. You’ll have done a good deed.”
Natt says visitors should employ “leave no trace” and “carry-in, carry-out” policies, which are two environmental principles based on leaving the place visited as it was found. Anna Shaheen, a senior majoring in environmental science, said she is saddened to see the preserve treated this way.
“Being an environmental studies student, I have taken many classes where we have labs [and] hikes in the Nature Preserve, and we come to appreciate how intricate and diverse the ecosystem is there,” Shaheen wrote. “It hurts to see kids come to college and act like everything is their playground, and the preserve is such a serene place to get away from stress.”
Like Shaheen, Katie Isgro, a junior majoring in human development, said the littering is dispiriting.
“That is disgusting and disrespectful,” Isgro wrote. “It’s called a [preserve] for a reason. It’s sad that people think that’s okay, and they wonder why there’s so many ‘strict rules’ when they’re acting like children. Of course it’s good that they’re not going to parties and bars, but you can tell from the [picture] that there’s clearly a bunch of cups, and, therefore, many people were gathered.”
Despite the troubles that come from littering, Horvath said the majority of people do not damage the preserve on purpose.
“Luckily, the majority of students and visitors are not meaning to do harm,” Horvath wrote. “There’s just that small percentage who do this.”