Program aims to decrease plastic bag use on campus
Following its initial launch at the Penn State Bookstore over the summer, the EcoCoin program is now expanding to Market East, an urban-style neighborhood market located in Findlay Commons at University Park.
Customers who check out at Market East will have the option to take a plastic bag or receive an EcoCoin. Customers can then place that EcoCoin into one of three boxes, with each box representing a student philanthropy organization engaged in social impact for sustainable development. Each EcoCoin represents a 5-cent donation to the chosen organization.
The goal of the EcoCoin program is to reduce the number of plastic bags used at Penn State. Since implementing EcoCoin over the summer, the Penn State Bookstore has seen a reduction in plastic bag usage by more than 4,000 bags.
“I think that allowing customers to donate to philanthropic causes reinforces the positive behavior of not using a bag,” said Sam Anawalt, student sustainability coordinator in the Sustainability Institute and director of the EcoCoin program. “The impact will start to multiply once these student philanthropic organizations begin projects and initiatives with the funding from the program.”
According to Lisa Wandel, director of Residential Dining, approximately 192,000 plastic bags were used in Market East last year, and more than 660,000 plastic bags were used in all five residential convenience stores on campus.
“Our plan is to test the EcoCoin program in Market East during the fall semester,” Wandel said. “If we see a reduction in the use of plastic bags, we will then roll this program out to our other four residential convenience stores in January. We are thankful for Sam Anawalt’s efforts to implement the test pilot at Market East, and the support of the Sustainability Institute.”
Jamie Robinson, senior assistant director of Residential Dining, also helped to launch the program, and she said her goal is to help students better understand the outcomes of their choices as consumers, so they can take this knowledge with them when they graduate.
“Residential Dining is really focusing on the impact each student’s choices have toward sustainable options in our locations,” Robinson said. “Choices such as Green2Go versus styrofoam, reusable or no bag versus one-time use plastic bags, plastic straws versus no straw, and how not finishing food taken at dining locations can add up throughout the year to contribute to excessive and unnecessary waste with associated costs.”
The EcoCoin program is supported by the Council of Sustainable Leaders, Penn State Residential Dining, and the Penn State Bookstore.
For more information, contact Anawalt at firstname.lastname@example.org.