If you’ve walked through Benson recently, you might have noticed the seemingly endless parade of students carrying brown paper bags from the Cellar or the Bookstore’s plastic bags. For one group of freshman in the SLURP program (Sustainable Living Undergraduate Research Program), enough was enough. The team recently presented their project, titled “BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)” to Bon Appétit, the Bookstore, and University officials in hopes of reaching an agreement on how to promote reusable bags on campus.
The four students – Grace Odegard, Ashley Nguyen, Jordan Webster, and Blair Libby – selected the BYOB project for its potential impact to further progress towards a more sustainable campus environment. The student group surveyed extensively to discover the true interests of the student body. “Previous attempts to integrate reusable bags on campus failed,” says Webster. “They didn’t understand how to incentivize or advertise properly for their audience [undergrads].” By asking students questions regarding price cuts, bag designs, and their interest in sustainability, the project was able to give recommendations for implementation.
While the University strives for carbon neutrality, BYOB’s success also relied on the recognition of business realities. Therefore, the project highlights both economic and environmental benefits of integrating reusable bags. Some of the staggering facts included 65,000 single-use (paper and plastic) bags handed out annually, as well as costs reaching close to $10,000. After calculations based off survey results, the University could decrease bag usage by over 50%, C02 emissions cut 40%, and save at least $5,820 – all by simply “going reusable!"
With such sound data, the group is hopeful for their initiative to move forward and eager that the University is considering their SLURP research as a possible option. “They seemed to be supportive of the idea. The next step is finding a specific bag and making some initial purchases – test the waters,” says Libby. Their recommendations include a small fixed or percentage discount for bag users and RLC-based competitions, in which the community with the most reusable bag usage wins a prize.
Managing to incorporate student interest into an economically and environmentally sustainable system, the BYOB project not only shows great potential for campus life and Santa Clara University as a whole. The project, as well as other SLURP programs, not only increases awareness of sustainable living habits, but also allows for real-world application opportunities for students. Asked to send a parting message to readers, the student group responds, “Ditch the plastic, get fantastic!”
By Blair Libby '16, Sustainability Intern and Cara K. Uy