The Reduce Single-Use project, started in fall 2018 by a group of scientists, students and administrators on campus, has big plans for this fall semester in continuing to encourage the Eckerd community to reduce plastics.
The Reduce Single-Use team has many plans to give students reusable options, including hosting events, giving away products and eliminating plastic on campus.
Assistant Professor of Marine Science Amy Siuda, one of the team members, has been preparing all summer for the second year of Reduce Single-Use.
“The project is about offering alternatives, educating the community and hoping to encourage that individual change, for individuals to make better choices,” Siuda said.
The project began with a grant funded by the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Marine Debris Program. The grant totaled over $100,000, and although it ends in July, the team has been working to make this year even better than last year.
“The project is working with existing groups on campus who are contributing to us and getting involved, that then hopefully leads to life of all of this after the NOAA funding ends,” Siuda said.
They have been collaborating with ECOS, Admissions, Palmetto Productions, the Coastal Management Club and the Environmental Responsibility Committee to provide straws, cups, bags and more to students across campus.
Junior environmental studies major Angelina Kossoff, one of the student interns for the Reduce Single-Use project, is thrilled at the changes that have been made and is looking forward to implementing more.
“Students were so excited when we switched from plastic cups at the pub to bringing your own,” Kossoff said. “That was something that students wanted and we still talk about it now. So, just the vibe, and we’re making these changes, and students are excited about them.”
The project’s website, “reduce.eckerd.edu”, shows their plans, statistics, minimal waste recipes and more information on how to help. Professor of Marine Science and Biology Shannon Gowans encourages students to participate in surveys and challenges since it helps provide them data.
“We have this enthusiasm, but we really need to measure that change, because that’s how we document that our approaches were actually effective. So we really need the community support in doing those challenges,” Gowans said.
Removing plastic cups from the pub, plastic bags from the bookstore, ponchos and water bottles at Admissions Office and replacing them all with sustainable, reusable options like your own bottle, paper bags, umbrellas and metal water bottles has reduced the amount of plastic on campus.
“We are really seeing that swell of changes,” Gowans said. “Both from those individual actions of who’s bringing what to class to those administrative changes of deciding we’re going to buy the box water instead of a single use water bottles or buying glow paint instead of glow sticks, but without changing Eckerd. Eckerd’s still Eckerd.”
Adding more water bottle filling stations, totaling to over 70 now, has also helped reduce water bottles.
“There’s over half a million water bottles that have been saved, and that’s the equivalent to the weight of 15 manatees, which is really cool,” Kossoff said.
The team has ensured the support of the incoming first-year class, even before they arrived on campus.
“We had students contact us and be like, ‘Hey, we love your project. You’re one of the reasons we want to come to Eckerd’,” Kossoff said.
With a Sustainability Event during which 376 first-years attended, and a beach cleanup that had all 40 slots filled, Siuda, Kossoff and Gowans were happy to see the support from the first-years.
“We’re kicking it off hard here in Autumn Term,” Siuda said.
They are also partnering with a U.S.-based special recycling program, Terracycle, that recycles products that are usually harder to recycle, like Solo cups. Starting the first week of the semester, special cans will be throughout campus in which students can deposit only Solo-style cups that will then be recycled properly.
“A lot of these things, they have recyclable on them,” Gowans said. “But our local recycling plants can’t recycle them, they can’t handle it or if it’s contaminated. And now that China’s no longer accepting our plastic it’s created a problem. So if we can create a single stream, isolated stream of just solo cups, we can get those recycled.”
Still, there is more. Some of the trash throughout campus is not due to people littering, but furry friends like raccoons and squirrels removing items from trash cans. The team is working on replacing open trash cans with ones that have closed lids to deter animals from littering the campus with trash.
“We’re trying to find a way to move them inside, or replace them with sealed cans, so that we’re reducing the amount of inadvertent waste that makes it into the environment,” Siuda said.
This project has also been reaching out to the broader community, including other Florida schools and even retirement communities. One of their plans for the fall is bringing a do it yourself (DIY) event to a local retirement home, Westminster Communities of Florida.
“I love the fact that we’ve been able to reach out multi-generationally in the community,” Siuda said. “I’ve been really inspired by them and all the changes they want to make. And hopefully they’re reaching out to their grandchildren.”
The Reduce Single-Use project at Eckerd will continue to reach out to students, faculty and the community throughout the year with different events aimed at creating sustainable, long term initiatives.