Environmental group launches initiative for plastic-free campus

Petition receives over seven hundred signatures in five days

Society for Conservation Biology Kingston Executive.
Credit: 
Supplied by SCB

Last Monday, the Society for Conservation Biology Kingston Chapter [SCB] launched a petition asking Queen’s to transition into a plastic-free campus. 

In just two days, the petition exceeded its goal of 500 signatures and reached over 700 by Saturday. 

In a phone interview, SCB Vice-President Minoli Dias, ArtSci ’20, said the positive student response encouraged the Society. 

“It’s a big contribution,” she said. “We were so surprised and excited about it.” 

According to Dias, the Society is hoping to work with Queen’s administration and the AMS over the next few years to replace all plastic products on campus with sustainable alternatives. 

Queen’s doesn’t allow the sale of plastic water bottles on campus, while locations like the Campus Bookstore provide reusable bags for customers. 

Dias thinks Queen’s can do more. 

“We do understand it’s quite a transition, and it’s a little intimidating at first when you hear plastic-free,” she said. “That’s why we really want to partner with Queen’s.” 

Although the Society has not received a response from the AMS, Queen’s Hospitality has expressed interest in changing suppliers this fall. According to Dias, Hospitality is considering banning plastic straws and introducing a fee for plastic bags. 

“We’re thinking bigger and more ambitious,” Dias said, adding that the Society has been researching sustainable alternatives and considering different fundraising ideas to aid in the transition. 

At Trent University for example, Dias said students have the option of paying a one time, $5 fee for plastic containers to bring to different food locations on campus.  

Dias told The Journal that, although these containers are still plastic products, implementing this practice at Queen’s could help students move away from single-use plastic and foster a reusable mindset. 

Dias thinks it would be positive for Queen’s to “adhere to the values that we’ve been trying to express in terms of our environmental impact.”

“We’re trying to move towards a more modern and more environmentally conscious way of doing things,” she added. 

For this reason, the Society wants to avoid introducing paper products and “transferring” the problem to another material.

According to Dias, when recyclables reach a high volume at the Kingston recycling centre, they’re transported in trucks to a reprocessing centre in North Bay. 

The recycling is then collected and compressed before being put back onto trucks, transported to Montreal and exported to Asia or the United States.

By using biodegradable materials instead of paper and plastic, Queen’s can reduce its number of recyclables and its overall carbon footprint.

Dias hopes to use The Tea Room—a zero consumer-waste student-run café on campus—as a model going forward.

While she believes it’s positive to have an education on sustainability at Queen’s, “being able to express these values in the Queen’s administration and our actions on campus and our policies would be great to see.”  

The Society will leave the petition open until the end of September, and then present it to the AMS. 

 

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