The Sea Around Us - Raising Awareness and Changing Behaviors to Reduce Single-Use Plastic Consumption on a Coastal College Campus

Amy NS Siuda1, Shannon Gowans2, Evan Bollier3, Jesse Sherry4, Trish Schranck1, Angelina Kossoff4 and Shannon Day4, (1)Eckerd College, Marine Science, St. Petersburg, United States, (2)Eckerd College, Marine Science and Biology, St. Petersburg, United States, (3)Eckerd College, Office of Sustainability, St. Petersburg, United States, (4)Eckerd College, Environmental Studies, St. Petersburg, United States
Single-use plastics are a well-documented major source of plastic debris in the ocean and consequently a marine pollution prevention priority. The Reduce Single-Use at Eckerd College project was launched in August 2018. The project aims to change behavior from consumption to rejection of single-use plastics. Education and outreach activities were designed to raise awareness about marine debris, facilitate understanding of the connections between actions on campus and impacts in the marine environment, and encourage self-reflection and behavior change. To remove barriers and facilitate behavior change, the campus community received attractive and useful single-use plastic alternatives (e.g., bamboo utensil sets, stainless tumblers and straws). Behavior change among students, faculty and staff was quantified via repeated surveys, week-long plastic reduction challenges, direct observation of single-use versus alternative item use in public spaces on campus, and tracking of water bottle filling station use. Behavior change at the department level was also monitored. In the first year of the project, we found that direct observations best elucidated reductions in single-use plastic consumption by individuals. These reductions were coincident with elimination of select single-use plastic items from on-campus vendors. The bookstore switched from plastic to paper bags and the pub replaced plastic cups and cutlery with more sustainable alternatives. The combination of policy change (e.g. the replacing of plastic cutlery at the pub) with the encouragement of individual behavior change through education creates the opportunity to maximize plastic use reduction and can lead to a virtuous cycle where each action encourages further action by the other - educating individuals leads to demands for policy change and those policy changes further educate individuals.