Turning the Tide on the Single-Use Plastic Culture at Eckerd College

Posted Wed, 07/10/2019 - 13:17

By: Angelina Kossoff, Eckerd College 

Located in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida, Eckerd College is a campus surrounded and defined by water. With the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Prevention Grant, the college recently implemented “The Sea Around Us: Reducing Single-use Plastic Consumption on a Coastal College Campus”, a project focused on reducing, and ultimately eliminating, single-use plastic consumption on the college campus, as well as items that could potentially become marine debris. The Sea Around Us project raises awareness about the negative effects of single-use plastics, and encourages students to use reusable alternatives.

In April 2019, one of the most notable events hosted through the project, allowed participants to visit activity stations and create their own reusable alternatives to single-use plastic items found in daily campus life, including snack bags, plastic wrap, bottles, toothpaste, and pre-packaged snacks. About 100 students attended the event and created alternatives to these single-use and disposable items such as:

  • Beeswax wraps
  • Reusable bags made from t-shirts 
  • Reusable bleach cleaning wipes 
  • Do-it-yourself toothpaste
  • Minimal waste/bulk vegan snacks
  • Upcycled planters made with bottles and cans
College students iron wax onto sheets of fabric on a table.
Students iron wax onto sheets of fabric to make beeswax wraps, an alternative to snack bags and plastic wrap (Photo: Ann Flaherty).

In addition to the activity stations, there were also booths where students could learn about The Sea Around Us project and art exhibits. One booth called “Can I Recycle This?” provided opportunities for participants to speak with recycling experts and ask questions about how to properly dispose of and recycle items on their campus. Planet Forward’s Storyfest Finalist and Eckerd student, Anna Lindquist, also displayed her plastic awareness art for students to view. The plastic collected for her artwork was from a beach cleanup sponsored by The Sea Around Us earlier in the semester.

A woman stands near a collection of clear, plastic bottles that are hanging from the ceiling.
Eckerd College Student, Anna Lindquist, with her artwork (Photo: Eckerd College).

Eckerd College’s Organization of Students Environmental Responsibility Committee was also present at the event and passed out free reusable grocery bags. The Public Interest Research Group, a group housed at Eckerd College, engaged with students at the event to share more information about single-use plastic reduction.

A woman hands a reusable bag over a table to a college student.
Eckerd College’s #ECOECKERD campaign distributed free reusable bags (Photo: Anne Flaherty).

The goal through these types of events is to educate the Eckerd community about the negative effects of single-use plastic consumption on the planet. Eckerd College is already seeing changes across campus: the bookstore no longer hands out plastic bags, meal services have replaced plastic utensils with wooden ones, and the Admissions office is committed to eliminating single-use plastic water bottles!

For other campuses interested in implementing a similar program, follow the step-by-step infographic here or contact Eckerd College at reducesingleuse@eckerd.edu if you are interested in implementing these types of events on your campus or if you have questions about our projects.