The Beyond Plastics Initiative was formed in the fall of 2019, by Campus Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Mitten and Sustainability Ambassadors on the Beyond Plastics Team with other faculty and staff partners at SUNY New Paltz.
During the Fall of 2019, the newly formed Sustainability Program Implementation Team, a team of student Sustainability Ambassadors led by Shahnoor Khan ('20), resolved to spend the year focusing on reducing single-use plastics, particularly in dining services. Throughout the year, this team weaved together education, campus engagement, and operational change. With the Office of Campus Sustainability and inspired by Judith Enck of Beyond Plastics at Bennington College, this team formed the initiative with students, faculty, and staff partners dedicated to moving "beyond plastics." The team began with self and community education: we organized an educational conference call with Judith Enk in the late fall of 2019 informing this larger group about the challenges of plastic production, use, and pollution.
Operational Change for Moving Beyond Plastics
Over the years, SUNY New Paltz has taken the following steps to eliminate single-use plastics and related items:
- Switched from plastic bags to paper bags across campus in 2015
- Discontinued the sale of bottled water in 2015 and installed 65+ bottle filling stations and gooseneck bottle fillers across campus
- Switched from mostly plastic bottles to mostly aluminum cans in the fall of 2020. To learn more, explore this written case study and view this virtual interview with Shahnoor Khan about the educational and engagement process that preceded the switch to mostly aluminum cans.
- Adopted 100% reusables (to-go containers, soup/salad bowls, utensils, and cup) academic year at our campus' main residential dining facility at Peregrine Dining Hall during COVID-19 during the 2020-21
Campus Education & Engagement for Moving Beyond Plastics
In March of 2020, we invited Judith Enck to campus to speak before a packed house at Lecture Center 102. Following Judith's talk, Sustainability Ambassadors Shahnoor Khan ('20) and Belle Steed ('20) co-facilitated an open forum on the future of single-use plastics at SUNY New Paltz with Student Association President Pink (Taijah Pink), RHSA President Matthew Kreuz, Campus Auxiliary Services Executive Director Steve Deutsch, and Campus Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Mitten serving as panelists. Steve Deutch of Campus Auxiliary Services also presented on the economic and environmental considerations of moving to mostly aluminum cans.
Beyond Plastics Partnerships
The Sustainability Program Implementation Team formed an ongoing partnership with Executive Director Steve Deutsch of Campus Auxiliary Services and Sodexo General Manager Kevin Dicey in the fall of 2019.
Sustainability Ambassadors Emma Trotto ('20) and Tevin Green ('21) and other students from Professor Michael Sheridan's Introduction to Managing Sustainability class developed a proposal to use a suite of reusable containers at Element 93 to reduce single-use plastics and other single-use items in dining.