THE BLOG
01/30/2012 11:00 am ET Updated Mar 31, 2012

Plastic Free Campuses: Because It's Their World to Change

If students today, want to change the world they're going to live in tomorrow, let them!

Don't discourage them, don't pepper spray them, and don't deny them the promise of the world they can see, even if we can't.

College students are taking up the challenge of saving the Earth for themselves, because the "grownups" in our nation's capital, and the state capitals as well, just don't get it. They think it's OK to ascribe labels and play politics with the environment. But, it's not.

It's time to set aside all the political rhetoric and acknowledge that this is "our" environment. We are at a defining crossroads in our history; and who better to choose the new path than our youngest and brightest college students.

The week of January 9 - January 13, 2012, saw the students at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) coming together and making a courageous statement about the world they want for their future.

With the launch of the Plastic Free Campuses (PFC) project, the students at UCSB became the
first in the nation under the PFC project to directly take on the plastic industry by targeting their mainstay single-use products. They are joined by other students from campuses around the world including Peru, Colombia, Japan, South Australia, and Spain.

These college students have made a commitment to reducing their plastic footprint; pledging to measurably reduce plastic pollution on school and university campuses, with a particular focus on the reduction and elimination of plastic bottles, plastic straws and utensils, single-use plastic bags and plastic or "Styrofoam" food packaging.

The PFC project and the REFUSE campaign are part of the Plastic Pollution Coalition's efforts to advance our society beyond single-use plastics.

The January 2012, kick-off of the PFC project comes just in time as the plastic industry and their well-paid proxies and special interest organizations are spending more money, and lobbying harder than ever, to thwart the democratic process of our representational government; stalling and opposing progressive environmental policies every time they are raised.

Unchecked corporate money and influence in our political system enables cronyism to pervade and permits plastic industry surrogates such as the American Chemistry Council to edit environmental textbooks in California in an attempt to manipulate the youngest minds in our elementary schools; espousing propaganda thinly veiled as a perversely positive message about the virtues of single-use plastic shopping bags.

That's just not right and we shouldn't stand for it -- it's a question of environmental justice.

All these actions by the plastic industry have one common theme: keep the status quo; don't question if there is a better way; don't dream of a better product; keep society entrenched in single-use plastics and keep the profits high -- no matter the cost to the environment or to the health of us and our children.

But the students of the UCSB-Plastic Pollution Coalition are not willing to settle for the status quo. They are engaging their imaginations, while their teachers are challenging their minds. And we, as a society, need to do everything we can to encourage them, and enable them to change the world.

We need to move beyond the stagnant culture of the plastic industry and the likes of the American Chemistry Council, and let the next generation of scientists, innovators, inventors and visionaries show us how an "Alternative Chemistry Council" can change the world and make it a better place to live without single-use plastics.

We need to make knowledge -- not profit -- our prime motivation for change and advancement.

Don't let the plastic industry tell us what we can and cannot do. Don't let their narrow minded vision determine what is and is not achievable with biodegradable and compostable alternative materials. Don't let them "greenwash" the perils of their products to our oceans and marine life.
And never let them tell you that a world without single-use plastics is impossible.

Become inspired, become empowered, and then go out and change the world -- because it is yours to change.

(Source material about the Plastic Free Campuses project was provided by the Plastic Pollution Coalition.)