By: Stefany Olivas, Managing Editor | Photo By: Stefany Olivas, Managing Editor
Student Campaigns for Fewer Disposables on Campus
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The owners of O’Niell’s Irish Pub are buying reusable water bottles for Communications major Dana Chandler’s Public Speaking class, she said.
Chandler, who is an employee at O’Niell’s, is raising awareness about the Great Pacific Trash Heap for her persuasion speech and offering her classmates free reusable drinking vessels and homemade reusable grocery bags in exchange for their pledge to use the items, she said.
“Not only do I want a really good grade in this class, but I really do want to persuade everyone to reconsider their habits,” said Chandler.
She said that getting O’Niell’s to help her class is a small part of a larger goal: getting all of the CNM deans to sponsor a reusable water bottle or grocery bag for every student.
She has always been aware of the heap, but she became inspired to raise awareness after a discussion in her geography class with instructor Justin Fuller, she said.
“I think it seems like an abstract concept because, here in New Mexico, we’re far removed from it. We don’t really see any direct correlation or causation,” said Chandler.
The class was studying ocean currents and Fuller handed out a National Geographic article which explained problems of the trash heap and used it as an example of how ocean currents flow, said Chandler.
“A lot of people around me didn’t know what it was. I was already familiar with it, but I don’t think I realized how much it was until I was looking at this article. It’s kind of sobering I think,” said Chandler.
She began doing research and learned that the trash heap is estimated to be 90 feet deep below the surface, weigh 3.5 billion tons, and be twice the size of Texas, which normally takes an average of 16 hours to drive across, said Chandler.
The growth of the trash heap and the damage it does is a very feel-bad situation, but she wants to get people as positively motivated as possible, she said.
“I understand it’s totally unrealistic to change habits right away. I get that; I want to be realistic and I don’t want anybody to feel bad about it,” she said.
It is important to her that the drinking vessels are BPA-free and made in the USA, she said.
Although there is no definite data that BPA causes cancer, using products with it is not worth the risk, she said.
Bottles made in the USA will not only reduce the carbon footprint from shipping, but will help ensure that the bottles were made in a safe way for the environment and employees.
“I was really specific about the standard of bottles that I wanted. They had to be something that I felt good about giving out,” said Chandler.
For her project she calculated that a single person uses 500 disposable plastic bags per year on average, and only uses them for about 30 minutes transporting the groceries.
“As long as we need them they’re going to keep producing them,” she said.
At the current rate of use of disposable plastic products, she is worried that future generations are going to have difficulty cleaning up after the current generation, she said.
“At this point the damage is already done, but we could try to minimize how much we add to its growth, and freeze it in it tracks,” said Chandler.
She said petroleum products do not generally bio-degrade, only photo-degrade with sunlight and although the pieces get smaller over a vast amount of time, they never truly disappear.
“They just get smaller with the sunlight then it outnumbers the plankton. They’re like the same size, and all of the animals are eating it,” she said. “These animals are being found with cancer, even though nobody really knows if it’s just the plastic causing it.”
She wants students to reconsider their values, think about the costs of convenience and wonder if this is the legacy they want to leave behind, she said
“I think we do things, myself included, that are easy for us, and out of convenience. I don’t consider myself to be a crazy activist and I don’t plan in chaining myself up to any trees,” she said.