What is Plastic Free Campuses?

School and college campuses are often the source of enormous amounts of plastic pollution.  “Plastic Free Campuses” is a global community of university and school campuses working towards reducing their plastic footprint. Join the community now!

The goal of the project is to measurably reduce plastic pollution on campuses around the world, with a special focus on the reduction and ultimately the elimination of plastic bottles, plastic straws and utensils, and plastic food packaging. Plastic Free Campuses are students and schools that have identified plastic pollution as a key concern, and are taking action to confront the issue. This means different things for different schools, from hosting a plastic free sporting event, to ending bottled water sales across the campus. Any school or student group with the intention of fighting plastic pollution is eligible to join, and will be featured on the Plastic Free Campuses Global Map.

What is the Plastic Free Campuses Global Map?

The Plastic Free Campuses Global map is an interactive feature of the Plastic Free Times website. It includes schools at all stages in their fight against plastic pollution, and anyone is eligible to join. Schools on the map include universities, high schools, and primary schools working on their own, or together with a variety of programs around the world  that help students learn, organize, and act. If you’re not sure where to begin, keep reading!

Each year PPC will provide the campuses with the best action plan to reduce plastic pollution with a small “seed funding”, outreach materials, and assistance in developing relationships with a list of recommended vendors for plastic alternatives.

There are a huge number of organizations around the world addressing plastic pollution issues with students at their campuses. Click here to find out about programs that are active in your area, including organized campaigns, workshops and presentations, and experts on all sorts of plastic issues.  Global Plastic Free Programs for campuses. (If you are part of an organization that would like to be added to this list email campus (at) plasticpollutioncoalition (dot) org.

Are you interested in joining the project? Here’s how to start.

Step One: EDUCATION

Learn in the classroom, conduct a peer education campaign, or bring in outside presenters. A brief summary of plastic pollution, myths and common misconceptions could be found here on this site. More in-depth information, including news stories and peer reviewed articles can be found at the Plastic Free Times website. Find other organizations that offer presenters and workshops here.

Understand exactly what items contribute to plastic pollution – Before you get the student body involved, educate yourself on what are the greatest contributors to plastic pollution. Many items in your backpack or in the classroom are made of plastic  and are disposable. These items are the real problem, and the greatest contributors to plastic pollution. A short list (but by no means complete) of such items is: plastic straws, plastic bottles, plastic utensils, plastic cups, plastic wrapping for your sandwiches. These are some of the most common items on campus. For a great list of alternatives, click here.

The Educators Toolkit is a summary of great efforts shared with us from educators around the world. Click here to visit the page.

Step Two: COLLABORATION

Get a team together, including peers, educators, administrators, and outside organizations with tools to help. To really address the problem, you’ll need peers to help spread the word, teachers to provide help along the way, and campus administrators that are willing to listen and ready to make change.

Share the Knowledge  - share what you have learned. A great start is the one-sheet you can download, print and share, or organize a screening of the abbreviated version of the film BagIt, available for educational purposes, complete with an educational guide.

Step Three: INVESTIGATION

Find out how much and what kind of disposable plastic your campus uses, in a year, a month, or a day. This is your school’s plastic footprint. Understanding your campuses plastic program is the key to change, because it will help focus your efforts on the biggest problems, and you may be surprised by what you find.

The plastic footprint should include items that are regularly thrown into the garbage or recycling bin, including plastic bottles and cups, polystyrene trays and cups, plastic straws, plastic utensils, plastic baggies and food wrap, and other food packaging.Finding out how much plastic your campus goes through can be hard, but you may be able to measure it through surveys, trash audits, or working with the people who purchase the disposable plastic stuff on campus to find out what they buy (just think, you might be able to save your school money!).

We will be scouring the globe for the best tools for this difficult job, and posting them here. In the mean time, give it a try and let us know what you did by registering as a plastic free campus, or emailing ben (at) plasticpollutioncoalition.org

Step Four: ACTION

Take on the biggest contributors to your campuses plastic footprint, and set a goal for reduction. Find appropriate alternatives, and work to implement them throughout the campus.

Create a plan that includes the following areas:

  • The problem: the most common sources of plastic pollution on campuses, including approximate quantities consumed per week;
  • The path to education: a plan on hosting a screening of “BagIt” (a documentary about plastic pollution) with a subsequent participatory discussion; a plan to develop and distribute  outreach materials to the student body; and a plan to expand the advocacy of alternatives;
  • The solution: specific delineation of reduction targets, including a timeline, a strategy for community engagement, and description of tools for measurement and assessment of goals.
  • Future plans: expansion of target reductions beyond the original plan, year over year and including the entire student body

And don’t forget to contact us and register your project. Anyone is welcome at any stage of the process, and we will reflect your work on the Plastic Free Times global Plastic Free Campus Map. Please register your project with the Plastic Pollution Coalition, become a fan on Facebook and tell us about your work!

Contact us at campus(at) plasticpollutioncoalition (dot) org for further details.