College Green

Exploring environmental news in Southeast Ohio

Green Culture in Athens: Reusable bags are “In”

Posted by collegegreenou on October 8, 2009

By Sierra Legrier
Commentary Writer
Baker University Center's Bobcat Essentials makes staying green easy by making reuseable bags readily available for purchase to all students. Photo by Elizabeth Linares.

Baker University Center's Bobcat Essentials makes staying green easy by making reuseable bags readily available for purchase to all students. Photo by Elizabeth Linares.

Ohio University campus markets are encouraging students to “Get Their Green On” by purchasing newly available bobcat reusable bags. There are three markets on OU’s campus, at Jefferson, Nelson and Boyd dining halls. At these locations students can use meal plan dollars left over at the end of each week to shop for items such as snacks, frozen dinners and even some school and hair supplies.

Many OU students who shop at the markets regularly are turning to reusable bags as an alternative to plastic bags, which often go straight to the landfill after only one use.

As a Jefferson market employee, I can honestly say that reusable bags are a great addition to our product options for the sake of both fashion and environmental consciousness. The “green bags” are displayed on the front counter with a sign explaining how they are made.

Many people using plastic bags don’t realize how wasteful they are. Americans throw away almost 100 billion plastic bags each year. Only about 3 percent at most gets recycled.

Plastic bags are not biodegradable, and even though some retailers have recycling bins for customers to return used bags, the majority end up in a landfill or blowing across roads and waterways.

Reusable bags like the ones sold in the campus markets are made from renewable materials which helps conserve resources. Believe it or not, OU’s green bags are made from recycled bottle caps (about 100 caps per bag).

Priced at $2.40, the bags seem to be a big hit among student shoppers. According to Gwyn Scott, Director of Culinary and Dining Operations at OU, 100 bags were sold in the first two weeks of the quarter.

Scott explained that the idea to sell these bags in the markets came from Sonia Marcus, Sustainability Coordinator for OU, and members of The Green Network, a group of students and faculty committed to advancing sustainability projects. “[The Office of Sustainability] created and designed the bags to give them a ‘campus pride’ feel,” Scott said, “and we were happy to make them available for students to purchase.”

Some students who forget to bring their own reusable bags when they shop will gladly buy one or two from the market to avoid receiving plastic bags. Freshman Laura Hyde says, “I have no use for those plastic bags. I’ve recently made a resolution to use less plastic, so I always bring my own bag whenever I shop now.”

I’ve noticed during my three years on campus that the idea of reusable bags has transformed from a simple alternative in favor of the environment into a public display of fashion. Nowadays reusable bags can be found just about anywhere from campus markets to campus bookstores, with fancy designs, bright colors and sorority logos.

It isn’t surprising to see girls with their pink and white bags proudly displaying their sorority or their “bobcat pride.” And what is a bold environmental statement to some is simply old habit to others. A junior Delta Pi member said, “I don’t really think about it as helping the environment or being less wasteful, for me it’s just more convenient when I’m shopping to put my stuff in my own bag since I’m always carrying it anyway.”

The accessibility of eco-friendly options creates awareness for those who may not have experienced environmental advocacy in their hometown. The parallel that has recently been created between eco-friendly and fashion-forward brings more attention to environmental issues such as sustainability.

The idea of reusable bags as a fashion trend and their increasing availability should definitely be seen as a positive step in the effort for sustainability; even if it’s a small step.

However, there are still student shoppers who don’t mind the plastic. Freshman Erin Pfahler came into the market to pick up a few items and I inquired about her feelings on reusable bags versus plastic while handing over her purchases. “I don’t mind the plastic bags here because I feel like if I recycle them, then more bags will be made [out of the recycled material] so it’s not totally a waste.”

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One Response to “Green Culture in Athens: Reusable bags are “In””

  1. Here’s the problem, though: plastic bags aren’t recyclable on campus, so what’s Erin Pfahler doing with them?

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