Plastic pollution is a major threat to the world that requires immediate and substantial action. Georgetown University must lead by example by encouraging reduced consumption of single-use plastics. Student organizations should go plastic-free, marking a commitment to shift Georgetown toward a more eco-friendly campus culture.
All Georgetown student organizations, clubs and teams — recognized and unrecognized, undergraduate and graduate — should commit to significantly reducing their consumption of single-use plastic at events by signing the Georgetown University Student Association’s plastic-free pledge. In particular, clubs could contribute positively by implementing the pledge at social events, where plastic cups are ubiquitous.
Taking the pledge means encouraging event attendees to bring reusable water bottles and cups, using paper or compostable alternatives when disposable utensils are necessary, and reusing supplies when possible. We are working to design training sessions and educational materials to help student clubs implement the pledge holistically. Consistent with the Office of Sustainability’s work to promote eco-friendly events, the pledge also lists additional recommendations such as ensuring recycling facilities at events, requesting compost from caterers and opting for digital advertising, though these ideas are not required by signatories to adopt.
In 2015, Pope Francis wrote the environmentally conscious “Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home.” In the encyclical, he called attention to the challenges of climate change, which “require that we look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity.”
The pope’s call to action inspired Georgetown’s increased efforts to pursue meaningful efforts to improve campus sustainability, but further action is needed. In response to this global environmental and health crisis, Georgetown University should do its part by reducing single-use plastics, which account for about half of annual plastic production in the world.
The plastic-free pledge will be available through GUSA’s media accounts and promoted through Georgetown Environmental Leaders, a network of Georgetown organizations focused on sustainability. Groups will be able to sign on at the first training session planned for February 2019. These trainings, which will occur once per semester, require only one leader from the signatory group to attend, but they will also serve as a mechanism for disseminating the most up-to-date information related to campus recycling and waste policies.
This pledge will amplify sustainability conversations across campus. We will continue to push for policy initiatives to address excessive consumption and waste on campus. The Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network is already engaged with revamping Georgetown’s recycling infrastructure and pushing for compost in Leo’s, among other initiatives to address waste. Overall, we hope these efforts will help foster a culture of sustainability on campus.
Taking the pledge to limit consumption of single-use plastics requires effort, but it is an important step that the Georgetown community must take to protect our environment.
The future of our health and environment cannot be compromised for the expediency of single-use plastic. It is time for Georgetown to take a stance. Take the pledge; go plastic-free.
Samantha Panchèvre is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and chair of the GUSA sustainability policy team. Olivia Torbert is a junior in the School of Foreign Service and president of the Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network. Gary Xie is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and a GUSA senator.