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Kelleen Cullison

Trashless for a Day

by Kelleen Cullison | Apr 07, 2017

Manchester stresses social awareness. You can see that in its social justice clubs, the amount of recycling bins on campus, and the presenters who are brought here. Even by the products they sell in the bookstore and serve in the cafes.

Once you’ve noticed that, it’s hard for that attitude not to rub off on you. I thought I was socially aware before coming to Manchester, but being submerged in the atmosphere on campus has me thinking about my impact on the world more than ever.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much trash I produce. Being a college student, I think I might be making more than ever. Plastic utensils every day for food, snacks in individual packaging, smoothies every other morning in plastic (although recycled plastic) cups. Being a college student means being on the go, and all the trash that comes with a lifestyle of convenience.

As a nature lover, I was washing and recycling my plastic, but I realized that wasn’t enough. First off, because 60% of what Hoosiers put in the recycling ends up in a landfill anyways, but also because I was ignoring the steps in “Reduce Reuse Recycle.” I was recycling, but that was the last resort in the slogan! Ignoring the first two were a part of living conveniently, but I realized if I wanted to live the Spartan way, if I wanted to live aware and active of the world around me, I couldn’t just take the easy way out.

So I tried to go a day without producing plastic trash on campus. And my experience is as follows:

    Manchester is probably the only place I would attempt to do this, because the people who work in the cafe’s on campus are just so nice. I started the day off going to get a smoothie like I always do before journalism class. Except this time I brought my own cup, a souvenir from Nashville’s “The Peg Leg Porker” (their food was great by the way, would 10/10 recommend).

The woman at the register looked at my cup and said, “You want it in here?” “Yes ma’am, I’m going trashless today.” And she shrugged and filled it up. That was by far the most forward action I took that day. I avoided the Oaks during lunch, since they serve sandwiches in wax paper and a paper boat, and their sides in plastic. I ate at the Union instead for dinner, which has washable utensils and plates. I didn’t eat any individually wrapped snacks that day, and carried my trusty Peg Leg cup around instead of a water bottle.

I went a full day without producing waste on campus, but I don’t think I could do that every day. As socially conscious individuals, I think it’s more our responsibility to change the type of waste we’re producing instead of avoiding it altogether.

We can contact the government and recycling companies, and ask WHY only 60% of our recycling is actually getting reused. We can recycle more faithfully, and pick litter up off the ground. We can look into and advocate for alternatives to petroleum based plastics, such as Harmless bags created by the company Cyberpac in the UK, whose bags are biodegradable and nontoxic and can be either composted or left to disintegrate harmlessly into warm water. Or the new bag made by Kevin Kumala out of Cassava plant starch, that is both edible and biodegradable when submerged in warm water.

It turns out a lot of people are just as concerned as I am about the plastic waste in our environment, and they’re doing something about it. It’s our job, as socially conscious citizens to support individuals who make these ecofriendly products by bringing our patronage to stores that utilize their innovations, and it’s up to us to persuade the government of Indiana, which is behind in terms of eco friendliness as a priority, that its citizens care about the environment, and the ecological consequences of the products our state businesses are serving.

Attached is a link to view the awesomeness of Kevin Kumala’s new product: http://www.businessinsider.com/green-cassava-bag-bali-biodegradable-compostable-plastic-wast e-ocean-dissolve-drink-kevin-kumala-2016-12

KelleenCullison
Kelleen Cullison ’20 is pursuing an English major and minors in Journalism and Peace Studies. She hopes to work as an editor for a publishing company, and hopes to help current and prospective Manchester students avoid the mistakes she is currently making.

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