Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Get the Plastic Out

Hofstra student Hinson Tang at his exhibit of photos
of plastic bag pollution at the Student Gallery in
Calkins Hall on Campus.
I've written about plastic pollution quite a bit on this blog (see here for example).  It is one of the most common forms of litter and pollution in the environment today.  For example, small plastic beads from skin care products are polluting many surface water bodies.  However, plastic bags remain one of most problematic forms of litter.  They cover the bottom of many lakes and rivers, cover soil, and cause havoc with wildlife.  Because of these problems, many communities have banned plastic bags. Earlier this year, California became the first state to ban plastic bags.  On Long Island, some coastal communities have instituted a plastic bag ban to try to reduce coastal pollution.  Many Universities have also banned bags from campus.

At Hofstra, one student, Hinson Tang, is working to try to get a plastic bag ban on campus.  He started a campaign this year called Pride, Not Plastic (our mascots are lions--thus the pride) that calls for banning plastic bags on our campus.  He, along with Students for a Greener Hofstra, did a number of interesting things.

1.  They created a fabric lunch bag that was available free to students as a prototype for the kind of bag that could be reused in the food service area for "to go" lunches.

2.  They organized a number of campus and neighborhood cleanups.  They collected hundreds of plastic bags that were part of litter in the area.

3.  They organized a student and faculty art show of photographs of plastic bag litter on and near campus.

4.  They met with various university officials to try to achieve a plastic bag ban.  The focus of their campaign is the food service area.  Many students take food from the cafeterias to their dorm rooms to eat.  That food is placed in plastic bags.  The bag is quickly thrown away once students get to where they are going to eat.

5.  They conducted a survey to find out if students would support a plastic bag ban.  They do by large numbers.

The campaign has met with success.  There are definitely fewer plastic bags being used on campus.  Some of the food service areas have removed plastic bags and others are now offering paper as a choice.  While more could be done, I am already seeing the difference on campus and we have a new culture around the use of plastic bags.  Like plastic water bottles, one is not seen with them.

This proves once again that one person can change the world.

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