In an effort to improve the University of Rhode Island’s campus environment, the organization Student Action for Sustainability (SAS), is advocating for plastic reduction.

“People say, ‘oh well I don’t really mind if there’s plastic on the ground,’” said sophomore Nicole Iannone of SAS. “Well you might not mind, but the bird that’s choking on the piece of plastic that you threw on the ground is going to mind. That’s for sure.”

Iannone, along with other members of the student organization, is making suggestions to the URI community to improve the environment by using less plastic. “We’re going to get zero to no support if we just start with a ban, so we’re taking baby steps,” she said. “Start with a reduction and then see what we can do from here.”  

Reducing the use of plastic, Iannone said, means asking yourself how we, as a community, can avoid using what we don’t need. “Everyone just takes and takes and they don’t realize, ‘hey, do I really need this?’ or ‘am I going to eat or drink a quarter of this and throw it out?’ because then it’s like why even bother in the first place,” Iannone said.

In recent weeks, SAS has approached facilities management in individual buildings around campus and asked them about their current and future methods of plastic reduction. Iannone said that they are focusing more on individual areas of campus first in order to have a greater influence, rather than tackling the private communities like Dunkin Donuts or CVS Pharmacy.

SAS has explored different ideas like implementing the reusable cup rule at The Daily Grind in the 24-hour room. “I think in Dunkin Donuts they have the same thing so you can bring your cup back and get a discount,” Iannone said, “It’s perfect encouragement to bring your cup back and use your cup again so you won’t throw it out as soon as you get your drink and finish it.”

Brooke McCarthy, a junior at the university, said that she likes the idea and she agrees that plastic is a problem. “I try and reuse my water bottles and everything if I can. It’s hard,” she said, “But I know other states and countries do a lot more than we do, so if we can step up and try and save the world, we might as well.”

Iannone said that even if they can’t get a large change from the university as a whole SAS would still work on the individual aspect. “Plastic doesn’t ever go away,” she said. “If it does, it takes a long time, so it’s just sitting there in landfills and animals’ stomachs. I think it’s still very important to touch on individual people because they’re the people who also have to make that change and make that conversion on cutting down on what they use.”

Right now, SAS is in the first stages of the process and getting a general consensus as to what the university is already doing right now for plastic reduction. “We can only get as far as they allow us because it is their rules,” she said.  Next semester, Iannone said they have plans to make more suggestions that would save money and improve the environment. “If we can cut down on what we use in general and only use what we need, that would be a huge step to what we could actually accomplish and see a brighter change everywhere as a whole on campus.”