Plastic Free Campuses Officially Launches at UC Santa Barbara

Plastic Free Campuses Officially Launches at UC Santa Barbara

Charlie Eckberg, UCSB Alumni, Addresses the press

Charlie Eckberg, UCSB Alumni, with speakers and student leaders

It seems appropriate that UC Santa Barbara, home of one of the oldest environmental studies programs in the nation, would also be home to an incredibly active group of students working to release their community from dependence on disposable plastics. UCSB students will serve as a model for campuses around the world, as members of the Plastic Pollution Coalition’s new Plastic Free Campuses program.

The Plastic Free Campuses program will identify student groups at schools around the world that are responding to the multiple threats of plastic pollution and embracing sustainability by taking steps to measurably reduce their campuses plastic footprint. At UCSB, a variety of student groups have come together to call themselves the UCSB Plastic Pollution Coalition. As a member of the Plastic Free Campuses , the UCSB-PPC joins schools in Peru, Colombia, Japan, South Australia, and Spain that have made a commitment to reducing their plastic footprint. To register, a school needs only to have an existing initiative addressing the issues of plastic pollution on campus or in the community.

Daniella with UCSB PPC student organizers

PPC Executive Director Daniella Russo with UCSB seniors, Ally Gialketsis and Matt Gilliland

Last week, students at UC Santa Barbara organized a week of activities as part of the annual ‘UCSB Reads’ program, which “encourages a common reading and intellectual experience for the community,” according to the specially printed forward of the book “Moby Duck”, by Donovan Hohn, 2,500 copies of which were distributed for free at the UCSB library last week.

The community focus on plastic pollution is in part, recognition of the work being done by several campus organizations that have joined efforts in their work to bring the issue to the fore of discussion on campus and in the community of Santa Barbara. The group, which calls itself the UCSB Plastic Pollution Coalition, is formed in part by the Associated Students Coastal Fund, CALPIRG, the Isla Vista Surfrider Foundation, and the UCSB Environmental Affairs Board. Additionally, the UCSB Reads program is supported by academic departments across many disciplines at UCSB, as well as several community partners.

It is this kind of cross-disciplinary, student led effort that PPC seeks to support with the global Plastic Free Campuses program. Why students? Matt Gilliland, UCSB senior and Oceans Campaign Coordinator for CALPIRG UCSB, says, “The Santa Barbara community is full of concerned citizens, but they need something to mobilize around. A force of young students that are committed to building a better community will spark a movement. We’ll lead by demonstration – getting plastics off of our campus to show that it can be done.”

Rubber Ducky made by Art from Scrap

Students helped build a Rubber Ducky with local org, Art from Scrap

In addition to the distribution of 2,500 copies of “Moby Duck,” last weeks activities included a visit by the author, lectures and panels related to the book, and the building of a giant rubber ducky out of ocean trash, organized by the local organization Art from Scrap. The week concluded with a press conference highlighting campus and local community efforts to deal with plastic pollution. PPC’s Executive Director, Daniella Russo, took the opportunity to announce the official launch of the global Plastic Free Campuses program.

Kathleen Reddington, of the Carpinteria City council, spoke about her own communities success in banning plastic bags, commended the students of UCSB for taking this on, and encouraged the entire UC system to follow the trend. Last semester, UCSB student volunteers collected over 3,000 signatures from the community in support of plastic bag bans on campus and in the community of Santa Barbara, their goal is to have 6,000 signatures by the end of the school year.

“I want to be able to tangibly see the effects of my work,” says Ryan McInerney, a senior in Environmental Studies and Political Science, who joined student volunteers in helping to gather signatures on Friday. Ryan has researched and written about the issues of plastic pollution, but is happy to be outside, engaging peers in the issue, and working to take action.

In the coming months, UCSB will host a variety of activities on campus, including ‘Day without a bag’, a reusable bag swap, and a sustainable vendors fair. In addition, UCSB is working on installing hydration stations across the campus. Two pilot stations have been installed, and a proposal for 40 more across the campus is being developed.

“The PPC provides an outlet for us to show the rest of the world that a plastic-free campus is a very tangible goal.” Says Ally Gialketsis, a senior at UCSB and Plastics Coordinator and Co-chair for Isla Vista Surfrider Foundation. “Students are driven and motivated by the issue of plastic pollution, and the PPC is the best way for students to put that energy towards their goal in the most efficient and constructive way possible.”

For more information about the Plastic Pollution Coalition’s Plastic Free Campuses program, visit

See more photos from the event on facebook (and join the PPC page while your at it!)

See a VIDEO of the event, produced by UCSB’s Bottom Line.

Other coverage of the UCSB Reads week:

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