On-campus sustainable options for panthers

Some students think there should be single use plastics on campus, instead of having to recycle or trash it. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

On campus, students cannot take a few steps before coming across a blue recycling bin or two. The loud crash of a Hydro Flask water bottle hitting the classroom floor will shudder a few nervous students. The young and old of Georgia State are taking the mantra of going green to a greater level.

Social media has given the younger generations an overwhelming amount of environmental awareness. Posts about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch filters through Twitter pages constantly, and if one is not aware of the state of the oceans, they are surely aware of the climate change policy debates led by the youth of today.

Georgia State’s sustainability initiative focuses on local issues that involve students. From speaker series featuring corporate sustainability managers to creative ways to reduce the waste of Keurig cup pods, the group brings awareness to smaller issues that students are able to help with.

If students’ rooms are piling up with electronic waste, such as laptops, cords, chargers and old phones, the sustainability initiative frequently hosts e-waste drives. Not only will they take your waste for your convenience, but the group also collects the items right in the middle of the Student Center East lobby.

The group also encourages using reusable mugs at local restaurants by posting giveaways on the Sustainability Instagram page. Restaurants, including Buenos Dias Café and Rozina Bakehouse, participate in discounts and mug usage.

On a campus with over 33,000 students enrolled, the reliance on every single student to join and participate in sustainable awareness is small. Vending machines with plastic bottles and food packaging are in every classroom building. Restaurants and coffee shops are on campus and are visited daily.

Starbucks is one of the most visited stores on campus with two locations, one in Hurt Plaza and the other in the Equitable building. The cups are recyclable and the company hopes customers will throw the cups into a blue bin once finished (ironically, neither location has a recycling bin).

Hurt Plaza manager, Keisha Rhodes, encourages the use of reusable coffee mugs, but it is hard to encourage every customer to bring in a cup.

“We see up to 40 reusable cups a day, 30 personal cups and 10 of the cups purchased from our locations,” Rhodes said.

While waiting in line, the popular coffee chain displays an assortment of reusable cups to be purchased by customers. Averaging around $16, customers have the ability to purchase their own cup and use it whenever. Anytime a customer brings his or her own mug, the store rewards a $0.10 discount.

Whether a customer enjoys iced or hot coffee, the options are numerous. The location is visited by only a small handful of reusable cup users out of the hundreds that visit daily.

Up the street from the heart of campus, Buenos Dias Cafe, a family-owned establishment, crafts authentic Salvadorian cuisine with the goal of being a fresh, natural and sustainable restaurant for students and faculty to visit.

Husband and wife Ken and Jeanette Katz established the restaurant on campus and enjoy the student and faculty life Georgia State offers. With the core values including “fresh food, natural ingredients, minimal waste and genuine interest in customers,” the restaurant remains on campus as a student favorite.

The majority of the menu consists of vegan dishes. The ingredients are sourced from local vendors. To add to their environmental awareness, the owners encourage customers to bring a mug of their own and use it for each visit. The restaurant has been a pride and joy of campus since 2013.

With the encouragement to “reduce, reuse, recycle,” and the fear of being shamed when not using reusable water bottles, some students find the task of carrying around a water bottle hard to follow.

“I have a reusable water bottle,” senior Sydney Stroud said. “But, sometimes, I forget it, and that’s when I will buy a plastic bottle from a vending machine.”

Convenience is an issue among students on campus. Students find the pressure to be environmentally friendly through social media and initiatives being made by politicians, but the reusable water bottles are viewed as a smaller idea to some.

“We can try to have reusable water bottles and coffee mugs, although I think big corporations should start to worry about their plastic use more than a few college students,” junior Melissa Pearson said.

According to CBS News, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola was one of the four companies that produced 6 million metric tons of plastic waste each year. In response to the scrutiny they have faced, major brands plan to change the system for producing plastic.

Economically, reusable plastic prices can be expensive and the average student might not be able to afford a reusable water bottle. The best-selling bottle on Amazon is $29.95. Prices ranging from $8 to $95 for the high-tech items.

As the trend of using reusable items continues to grow annually, time reveals that the bottles will need to be replaced once a year or else the bottle will begin to break down.

Brands will continue to promote sustainability and strive for less mass production, but the worry of being shamed for not using reusable water bottles remains with the younger generations.

“I don’t think the every-day citizen should be criticized for using a plastic bottle once a week,” Stroud said.

For a student on Georgia State’s campus, there are recycling bins for individual waste in every classroom building. Not only was the Student Recreation Center “Green Globe” certified in 2012, but it provides bicycles and outdoor gear for students to enjoy the outdoors.