Fable Booker (SUNY-ESF) conducted a multi-pronged project to reduce the use of polystyrene take-out containers in the Syracuse area, specifically in the Westcott neighborhood. By tabling at SUNY-ESF, she disseminated short surveys and informational stickers to gauge student knowledge and interest regarding polystyrene use, and to raise awareness about its negative environmental impacts. She also organized a cleanup of the Westcott neighborhood that was attended by more than 20 volunteers who collected 17 bags worth of litter. From the litter, she sorted out the single-use plastics and displayed them in a fishing net, along with an informational poster, in the SUNY-ESF quad during Earth Week. Additionally, Fable met with several restaurants in the Westcott neighborhood to learn why they opt for polystyrene take-out containers, to explore the feasibility of switching to recyclable or compostable alternatives, and to help devise strategies to incentivize customers to bring their own reusable containers.
Harris Eisenhardt (SUNY-ESF) developed a strategy for NYS farms to reduce the amount of organic materials they landfill and to decrease their use of single-use plastics. His strategy encourages farms to create an on-site composting system, sell the finished compost as a value-added product, and use the profits from those sales to transition to the use of reusable materials. For instance, an apple orchard could use profits from the sale of compost to offer customers a discount for bringing their own reusable bags, thus reducing the need for plastic bags. To test the strategy, Harris partnered with Grisamore Farms in Locke, NY by identifying their available feedstocks, selecting a feasible compost setup for them, and by performing a cost-benefit analysis to determine the amount of compost that would be needed to generate a profit. He then typed up the case study and shared it with 15 other farms throughout NYS.
Jorge Guarin (SUNY-ESF) explored solutions for eliminating plastic bottle usage by collegiate athletic departments, and for reducing overall material consumption by college and university students. First, instead of purchasing bottles of water and sports drinks for every athletic event, Jorge provided SUNY-ESF’s Coordinator of Athletics with a cost-benefit-analysis for replacing those single-use plastic bottles with five-gallon jugs and sports drink powder. The cost-benefit-analysis demonstrated that this alternative would eliminate single-use plastic bottles while saving the athletic department money. A trial run is being considered for SUNY-ESF’s soccer team. Second, Jorge connected with SUNY-ESF students, faculty, and staff to create a plan for a campus Sustainable Living Center (SLC). The SLC would reduce campus material consumption by providing workshops on repair, composting, and more; by offering collection of materials such as electronics and textiles; and by providing a Library of Things with shareable items such as tools, kitchen appliances, camping gear, sporting equipment, and more.
Jacquelyn Gier (SUNY-ESF) created lesson plans and learning opportunities about single-use plastics and food waste for students, faculty, and staff of Dr. Weeks Elementary School in Syracuse, NY. She first conducted a lunchtime waste audit to better understand the quantity and variety of materials that are trashed. From those findings, she created an infographic that displayed the amount of single-use plastics and food that is wasted by the fifth-grade students every day. Next she taught three sequential lessons to the fifth-grade students that covered how the food they eat is produced, packaged, and shipped; where plastics and food go once they’ve been discarded; and how food can be grown locally and how materials can be reused to reduce waste. Reacting to the lessons, one student replied: “What I learned with Ms. G was where we got our food and what things are made out of, where garbage goes, recyclables and about compost.”
Porter Lesiv & Daniel Ives (SUNY-ESF) worked collaboratively to educate about textile consumption and waste in the Syracuse area. They first facilitated two movie screenings for SUNY-ESF and Syracuse University, which were attended by a total of 24 students, that illuminated issues associated with the fashion industry. They also coordinated a Syracuse-wide clothing drive from which they obtained roughly 60 bags worth of clothing, shoes, and accessories. They then used these donations to hold a Street Store event to benefit Syracuse community members faced with poverty and homelessness. To do this, they obtained a permit from the Syracuse Parks and Recreation Office to use Roesler Park as their event space, and they conducted extensive promotion for the event by using social media, posting flyers, and by directly spreading the word to their target audiences. The event was attended by more than 30 people, each of whom walked away with at least one free article of clothing.
Meena Janekrabuanhad (SUNY-ESF) created a short children’s book to educate first- to third-grade students about water pollution caused by single-use plastics. The book features images made from actual pieces of single-use plastics, and it depicts how these materials enter waterways, affect ecosystems, and persist in the environment. Meena also developed a lesson plan that accompanies the book by teaching the concepts of reduction, reuse, and recycling, and why these actions are needed to sustain vital earth systems that humans rely on. The lesson additionally includes suggested activities such as decorating a recycling bin, growing classroom plants, playing a recycling game, and more. Meena digitized the children’s book and the lesson plans, and distributed them to approximately 100 teachers in the Central New York area, including Chittenango, Lafayette, and Binghamton, NY. A couple of teachers responded that they’re interested and excited to implement the lesson for their students.
Nathan Miller (SUNY-ESF) compiled strategies to help NYS residents reduce the amount of plastic food packaging they use and the amount of food waste they produce. To distribute these strategies, he designed and populated a website entitled LocalFood315. The heart of the website focuses on connecting residents to the local food system (e.g., farms offering CSA’s), which intrinsically encourages people to consider their food sources, packaging, and usage. However, in addition to this, Nathan also developed sections specifically devoted to reducing wasted food and plastic packaging. The reducing wasted food section includes step-by-step instructions on how to create food plans, such as communicating with household members, curating favorite recipes, creating a list before shopping, and more. The reducing plastic packing section features links to prominent zero-waste figures, like Annie Leonard and Bea Johnson, who provide suggestions on how to go zero waste. Check out Nathan’s website at: https://brothernate.wixsite.com/localfood315
Yiran Nie (SUNY-ESF) explored an engaging and tasty means for raising awareness about the wasteful usage of single-use plastic utensils in college and university dining halls. Her idea was to replace single-use plastic utensils with edible utensils for certain areas of Syracuse University’s dining halls, such as the ice cream bars. She identified two companies that produce such a product, Bakeys based in India and FoodieSpoon based in the U.S., both of whom use whole grains to create their products. Yiran met with staff and students to pitch her idea for a trial run in Syracuse University’s Sadler Dining Hall. She provided staff with cost estimates for making the switch, and even though staff and students expressed interest, the option was deemed financially not feasible. The India product was more affordable than the U.S. product, but the cost (monetary and environmental) of shipping edible spoons from Indian was ultimately a significant deterrent.
Noah Schuster (SUNY-ESF) aimed to raise awareness and educate Syracuse University and SUNY-ESF students about the negative impacts of cigarette butt litter. To gain a better understanding of student knowledge and attitudes regarding this issue, he first implemented online and in-person surveys for students from both universities. A total of 117 students participated, and results showed that a significant portion of students are unaware that cigarette filters are made of plastic (cellulose acetate). The results also showed that students consider cigarette butt litter to be problematic and that they would support an increase in collection containers. As a secondary project component, Noah designed an educational flyer that, when rolled up, resembled a cigarette filter. The flyer included some top facts about cigarette butt litter, some actions to help curtail the issue, and a link for more information. The flyers were distributed for students to engage with in visible, highly trafficked locations on both campuses.