Opinion | Plastic pollution and Sustainability Month

Published by Jessica Crandell, Date: October 4, 2022
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Freshman year. We all remember the newness and unfamiliarity of campus. During my first semester in 2019, I had that same feeling walking into the plastics symposium held in the Smith Student Center.

That event highlighted the issue of plastic across our campus and the world. The way plastic problems were brought to light was beautifully crafted through collaborations with art and environmental classes. On display was the research that student teams had conducted on alternatives to single-use plastic products. They demonstrated why their alternatives helped the environment and could save money.

Since then, there has not been another plastics symposium. After COVID-19 hit, the discussion of plastic usage on campus got pushed into the background.

In 2019, I saw so many initiatives driving away single-use plastics on campus. Weisenfluh Hall mostly offered compostable to-go containers, Boozel had reusable dining ware, and there was a composting station in the library.

There was also forward movement on getting plastic bottles out of vending machines, and only offering cans, but that effort came to a halt. These small changes are what gave me hope for SRU to become a more environmentally conscious school.

Students on campus are often frustrated with the food options and waste produced by the dining halls. When I talked to a group of SRU students, they suggested partnering with more local farms to bring in fresh vegetables and fruits. This would help strengthen the food options on campus.

Ever since Aramark replaced AVI as the university’s dining service, they have not kept up with their promises of sustainability. Due to a staffing shortage, they could not use the dishwashing equipment, therefore students were forced to use single-use plates and silverware. The Sustainability Commission has pushed Aramark to transition back to reusable dining ware and offer environmental packaging at other food locations on campus.

Thankfully, it appears that the agenda has been shifting, thanks to the Director of The Office of Sustainability Paul Scanlon. He has been in meetings with Aramark to discuss how they can make their operations more sustainable to align with the University’s Climate Action Plan.

Not many students know about the President’s Commission on Sustainability which advises the President on the environmental and sustainable matters of Slippery Rock University (SRU). There are several commissions for disability issues, racial and ethnic diversity, women, gender identity & expression and self-orientation, wellness, sustainability, veterans and military affairs and mental health.

Now that things are back at full speed on campus, the President’s Commission on Sustainability has voted to face several issues comprising sustainability at SRU. Plastic Pollution is the leading topic. Specifically, single-use plastic and its availability on campus.

We can make small changes within our community that reduce plastic consumption. Supporting legislation that will force corporations to create less plastic and pollution is a crucial step in making our country less of a polluter and more of an uplifter. If you are interested in learning more about the plastic industry, I highly recommend watching The Story of Plastic documentary.

During October, The President’s Commission on Sustainability is highlighting several events for Sustainability Month. These events are hosted by the President’s Commission on Sustainability, the Macoskey Center, the Birdwatchers Store, GGE (Geography, Geology, and the Environment Club), and Slippery Rock in Bloom. Students and community members should feel free to attend any of the events offered by these organizations.

Every Thursday, the Macoskey Center will have its on-campus farmstand in Boozel Dining Hall. Peruse their produce, homemade bath and body products, and Macoskey merch.

On Oct. 1 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., partake in a bird walk hosted by the Birdwatchers Store in Slippery Rock. Meet at the storefront. Register for the event by calling 724-794-2473.

On Oct. 8 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., volunteer with the GGE Club as they clean up their section of highway. Meet them at the ATS lobby to carpool to the location.

On Oct. 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., volunteer at the Macoskey Center by helping them prepare firewood for the upcoming winter months. Register on Rockserve.

On Oct. 27 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., listen to Ken Ilgunas talk on “Trespassing Across America: One Man’s Epic, Never-Done-Before (and sort of Illegal) Hike along the Keystone XL Pipeline.” His talk will be held in the ATS Auditorium.

On Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., volunteer with Slippery Rock in Bloom at their annual tulip planting. You can register on Rockserve.

On Nov. 5 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., partake in a bird walk hosted by the Birdwatchers Store in Slippery Rock. Meet at the storefront. Register for the event by calling 724-794-2473.

On Nov. 16 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., enjoy a workshop hosted by the Macoskey Center on making bath and body products. The event is held at the Macoskey Center.

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