The Ithaca College library is generally nondescript — students studying, working on papers and completing other academic work. This changed Wednesday evening when a tiger and a crowd in neon spandex danced through the library to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” to protest a shortage in consumer recycled paper.
Sponsored by ELAN, or the Environmental Leadership in Action Network, the flash mob was a “destress and vent” event designed partly to promote relaxation the week before finals and partly to protest the library, which uses 30 percent post-consumer recycled paper paper. The group hoped to urge the college to move up to 100 percent recycled paper, according to ELAN.
Without a table or chair empty in the library, more than 30 people were dancing and yelling in protest. The mob met at 5:20 p.m. at the Free Speech Rock and then danced its way across the Academic Quad to the library. Some students in the library snapped photos and recorded video with cell phones. Public Safety responded to a disruption in the library, but officers did not take down any names.
Sophomore Allison Currier, a member of ELAN’s executive board, stressed the importance of the mob’s message through “Operation Tiger,” the group’s name for the flash mob protest, due to deforestation.
“Our campaign is kind of based out of the Paradise Rainforest in Indonesia,” Currier said. “It’s the example we keep bringing it to. There is a lot of natural, beautiful places around the world that are being illegally torn down and ruined because of corporate relationships with illegal pulp industry loggers. It’s really unfortunate, and it’s something a lot of people don’t know is happening.”
Currier said the deforestation is negatively affecting the people native to the area and Sumatran tigers, a species that may have as few as 400 left in the world, according to the Sumatran Tiger Trust. By using recycled paper, she said, demand for logging decreases and reduces carbon emissions.
The library’s General Services said 30 percent post-consumer recycled paper is the current standard on campus. Lisabeth Chabot, a college librarian, said the college places an emphasis on recycled paper, but the school has had problems with entirely recycled paper in the past.
“General Services has had some experience with 100 percent recycled paper,” Chabot said. “They found that the increased amount of paper dust led to a high number of service calls and increased downtime for the printing and copying machines while they were being serviced.”
Chabot said the library’s goal is to upgrade to 50 percent post-consumer recycled paper in the future and perhaps even more down the road.
“As production technology improves, I expect that the issues with 100 percent recycled paper will be resolved,” Chabot said. “It will eventually become the college’s standard paper.”
Sophomore Rebecca Billings, one of the participants in the flash mob, said she was pleased with the protest’s turnout.
“We had a lot more people than I was expecting at least, so that was really good,” Billings said. “It’s just the idea that we are getting the organization out there and getting everybody to start thinking about the issue that’s really important.”
Some students, such as sophomore Malcolm Temple, thought the mob was a distraction in an environment designed for study, not protest.
“I got the point of the mob,” Temple said. “It was kind of annoying for the library since you come here to study in a quiet setting.”
Despite a few noise complaints, Currier said ELAN will not stop advocating for a change toward 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper at the college, especially since the college is credited as one of the most sustainable schools in the country.
“There is a lot that people don’t know about where their products come from, and pulp and paper products are something we can’t help but use every day in an educational institution,” Currier said. “I know Ithaca College wants 100 percent post-consumer recycled sustainable paper, but we just need the students to speak up and demand it.”