A new Go Plastic-Free initiative will promote sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic products through a pledge for individual students, semesterly training sessions for the leaders of student organizations and a pledge for those organizations.
Launched by the Georgetown University Student Association sustainability policy team, the campaign aims to address global trends regarding reliance on single-use plastic, according to a Feb. 21 campus-wide GUSA email. The project is in collaboration with the Georgetown Office of Sustainability.
The campaign was motivated by low rates of global recycling — less than 20 percent of all plastic — and the fact that eight million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, according to the email. The resolution on a plastic-free pledge for student organizations passed the GUSA senate Nov. 11 with a vote of 25-0.
The team designed the GPF campaign to focus on single-use plastics within their organizations, an aspect of sustainability that students can control, according to Samantha Panchèvre (SFS ’19), chair of the GUSA sustainability policy team. Panchèvre hopes that GUSA’s new campaign will bring environmental advocacy to the forefront of campus dialogue.
“What I’m most excited about this policy is that it’s opening a huge door for a campus-wide discussion about how we can each do better to be environmentally conscious, while also holding the administration to be accountable,” Panchèvre wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The goal of the campaign is to not only reduce plastic use but also bring the issue of environmental consciousness to the university’s attention, according to Panchèvre.
“It’s not just about plastic; it’s about thinking more broadly about sustainability and showing the University that students care a lot about doing the right thing and that we want our school to make doing the right thing as easy as possible,” Panchèvre wrote.
GUSA and the Office of Sustainability are set to host three training sessions starting Feb. 24 for leaders from student organizations adopting the pledge to learn about green event planning and campus sustainability policies.
To adopt the Go Plastic-Free Pledge as a student organization, at least one member is required to attend a training. The first 15 student organizations that register to attend a training will receive 15 free sets of reusable bamboo utensils for their members.
The plastic-free push from the GUSA sustainability policy team comes on the heels of ongoing student activism surrounding environmental issues on campus.
GU Fossil Free, a campus student group advocating for Georgetown University to adopt socially responsible investment policies, submitted a proposal Jan. 16 for Georgetown to divest from fossil fuel companies.
Juliette Leader (SFS ’19), a member of GUFF, said that she is impressed by the initiative’s commitment to plastic-free goals (Full disclosure: Leader is a member of The Hoya’s editorial board).
“Go Plastic Free Initiative is a great idea — it was actually in part spearheaded by a GUFFer — and provides a structured way for students and student organizations to reduce their plastic usage,” Leader wrote in an email to The Hoya. “As a member of other student organizations in the past, I’ve seen how much waste there can be at student events, and I applaud the Go Plastic Free Initiative for helping students take that step.”
Tangible change around sustainability issues requires participation from the entire Georgetown community, according to Leader.
“I love that students are stepping up and taking action, but I do think actually fixing the sustainability issues requires commitment from students, faculty, staff, and the university,” Leader wrote. “For example, the university and Aramark need to work on reducing plastic usage in dining locations.”
The Georgetown Renewable Energy Environmental Network has been working with the university to promote composting and recycling initiatives in O’Donovan Hall and campus residence halls.
Lucy Chatfield (COL ’22), GREEN co-chair of recycling, said that GPF is an unprecedented and tangible initiative.
“Personally, I don’t think anything like GPF has been done before,” Chatfield wrote. “GPF is different; it’s a campaign that asks ALL Hoyas to commit to make this campus more sustainable by not only signing a pledge to reduce their waste but to also convince their organizations to make their events more sustainable, while drawing more attention to campus sustainability as a whole.”