Plastic Free On-campus event

Students help make potted plants out of reused plastic and aluminum material. The Reduce Single-Use event was held last spring and is an example of the Eckerd community developing their environmental mindsets.

While COVID-19 has scattered Eckerd students around the country and world, their knowledge is spread with them, and not just the ones in the classroom.

Eckerd prides itself on building environmentally-conscious citizens. The Reduce-Single Use team, the Office of Sustainability and PIRG have all helped to instill this environmental awareness by providing students with alternatives to single-use plastic. 

After campus was evacuated, students are still learning virtually.

Director of Sustainability Evan Bollier hosts a weekly sustainability webinar on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. He discusses with anyone who comes about various sustainability practices, including how to be plastic-free at home.

“We just had a few different ideas and were just kicking around about how to minimize single-use consumption at home,” Bollier said.

On April 8, four people logged onto the meeting. Bollier claims that a lot of these online webinars are not popular yet, but he has also had some technical issues.

How can students be plastic-free at home? Bollier recognizes that this is not feasible for everyone, as living situations differ after leaving Eckerd. But, students can take some steps to keep up with their sustainability.  

“It felt like two steps forward and one step back, but, just hopefully we take two or three steps forward after all the COVID stuff is over,” Bollier said.

It can be hard sometimes to switch to sustainable alternatives due to resistance from family. So, Bollier talked with the students about how to communicate with parents about it, although he said most parents are supportive.

“Talk about single-use plastic and just try to find other viable alternatives, maybe not get into all the reasons behind it,” Bollier said.  

Buying food with less single-use packaging, choosing sustainable food, using reusable utensils and water bottles or reusable bags are only some of the options students have.

However, reusable bags are becoming less and less of an option. According to Bollier, some local stores in St. Petersburg like Publix are refusing to accept reusable bags. This is because COVID-19 can survive on various types of surfaces, so people bringing reusable bags into the store can spread the virus faster. 

“I'm really bummed because I do it every single time,” Bollier said.

Most sustainable practices include small individual choices. Bollier has decided to make his own seltzer water instead of buying single-use bottles and cans. He also buys real limes and lemons instead of juice within a single-use container. 

“I personally love seltzer water,” Bollier said. “Instead of buying polar seltzer water or Lacroix seltzer water we just make our own seltzer water [...] So I brought that to the table, and just kind of just discussed what it's like being at home, and all that possible.”

Reduce Single-Use Intern and junior Angelina Kossoff could not attend these meetings due to wifi issues but also had some tips and tricks.

The Reduce Single-Use website, shows multiple recipes for snacks that are usually prepackaged. 

“I now have peanut butter power balls and stuff that I’m keeping in my fridge and I just snack on at home and throughout the day. So that's always an option if you have that availability,” Kossoff said. 

She also mentioned she found tablets that one can put in a reusable spray bottle for multi-purpose cleaner instead of buying multiple bottles. Swiffer also offers reusable pads or cloth instead of disposable ones. 

Personal protective gear (PPE) including gloves and face masks are more challenging. homemade washable cloth face masks are an option when possible, but gloves are harder since they must be disposed of in a certain way. 

“We have our own masks. My mom actually sewed them,” Bollier said.

While students are taking online classes, the Reduce Single-Use team has also gone virtual. Kossoff and senior Trisha Schranck have been analyzing data that they have collected over the last year and are already seeing results. 

“We've actually improved so much like all these minor changes have just added up to those really big cultural shifts and I love it,” Kossoff said.

While students are not on Eckerd’s campus, this environmental mindset is with them.

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