Bag use reduction efforts to replace proposed campus plastic bag ban
The resolution, passed by Student Union Senate in October 2012, called for the elimination of the plastic bags distributed at campus stores and suggested that paper bags be used instead. The cost for disposable bags were to be shifted to each consumer who used one, rather than being distributed among all consumers as it is now.
However the Bag Use Reduction Committee (BURC), a group of faculty, administrators and students, which was created to consider ways to reduce bag use on campus, was hesitant to implement this “cost-shift” model.
According to senior and Student Union Executive Adviser of Sustainability Jake Lyonfields, BURC was concerned about a lack of student backing for the plan laid out by the resolution and therefore elected not to implement it.
“What was sort of borne out of that [BURC] meeting that we had after the resolution was passed was a desire, before any other action was taken with respect to the resolution or anything, that more education, outreach and engagement would happen,” Lyonfields said.
In response to this sentiment, Lyonfields and other students developed the Tote Green initiative. Tote Green, which has been active since late January, encourages students to use reusable bags and makes use of social media to incentivize them for doing so. Funding from the Gephardt Institute for Public Service also allowed Tote Green to distribute reusable tote bags to members of the University community who posted pictures of themselves “toting green,” or employing reusable bags, to the Tote Green WUSTL Facebook page.
Although the cost-shift model as described in the resolution will not be implemented, junior Ryan Halvorsen, a College of Arts & Sciences senator who helped write the resolution and sat on BURC, is hopeful that projects such as Tote Green, which was one of the commitments to action featured at the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in April, will help engage students on issues of sustainability.
“I think that the resolution was very symbolic: this is where we’re going, this is where we want to go and this is how we wanted to do it. And I think people were really hesitant to take on that particular approach and those particular methods, and that’s fine. That is a natural response, and that’s why Tote Green and all these other things have come up,” Halvorsen said.