When I first came up with my idea to ban plastic bags on campus, I thought that as soon as I brought it up to organizations on campus, it would miraculously happen. I obviously had pretty unrealistic expectations. I expected people to be as excited about banning plastic bags as I was because plastic bags are terrible!
The importance of sustainability is becoming increasingly recognized by businesses and consumers and is now an essential factor that all businesses have to consider and implement into their business plans and structure. Companies that fail to recognize the importance of sustainability risk their reputation and leave themselves to be examined by the public. Is if everyone’s responsibility to look after the environment and make an effort to achieve environmental efficiency.
UMBC is a wonderful school that is already doing a lot of great sustainable work, but banning plastic bags and providing reusable bags is the next step.
Worldwide, a trillion bags are consumed each year and the number increased 5% in 2010. The ingenuity of plastic bags is what drives environmentalists to reduce its use, as its durability and lightweight makes it easier to be scattered as litter. They can be carried by wind and end up in the sea, where they may be consumed by marine animals. The production of plastic bags requires petroleum and natural gas, producing pollution during its manufacturing process. Some plastic bags can be recycled, however rates are low caused by the old consumer habit of throwing away plastic bags after using them one time. Other than being recycled, plastic bags may end up in landfills, where they take 400 to 1,000 years to break down. Plastic bags do not degrade, they are reduced into smaller particles that contaminate water and soil and act like sponges that absorb and concentrate toxic chemicals.
Here are a few great examples of universities that successfully banned plastic bags.
Throughout the semester I emailed a lot of people. Like, a lot of people. Using the UMBC sustainability website I received the names of all of the organizations on campus involved in sustainability. I emailed the president and vice presidents of all of the organizations and never got any responses. I tried sending the emails to one person at a time, re-wording the subject of the email to sound really urgent, and re-wording the entire message all together. I went to a few meetings, which was definitely a step in the right direction. Everyone I met at the meetings seemed thrilled about my idea to ban plastic bags, but when I asked them to help me they explained how they already had current projects. I completely understood, but was still disappointed. This is really hard work to do on your own. After meeting with sustainability coordinator on campus, I was able to contact Charwells, which is UMBC’s food provider. The people I stoke with were very agreeable and encouraging. When I asked them how likely it was that they stop providing UMBC with plastic bags they said that it’s not up to them. Hearing this was disheartening. I felt very discouraged. Then I took a step back and though about it. Chartwells only provides the school with what we’re ordering. So who is doing the ordering? Tom Deluca. After sending him an email everyday for two weeks I got a response! His response was short a sweet. He told me that I need to get a group of students together and begin lobbying. I went back to my computer and send some more emails.
What worked was my persistence. Sending one email was never enough. I found that when I called someone I reached him or her much faster. I wish that I would have worked in a group, but I didn’t foresee the amount of work that was involved. More planning the early stages of the project would have been helpful. If I were to do this project again I would definitely ask any classmate if they wanted to work with me.
There is still so much to be done, it’s overwhelming. I’m really glad I was able to experience the hardships of activism. I had no idea how must time and effort is involved in every aspect of activism. It’s all consuming and I love it. This project has helped me understand the importance of getting involved with things that matter to you and speaking out about them. It has encouraged me to get involved and not to fear my own voice.