Campaign: Reducing Packaging Waste

When Megan Leahy and I thought about reducing plastic waste, we wanted to focus on a kind of waste that impacts our daily lives. We noticed that for both of us, the majority of plastic waste we discard is through food packaging. From Giant to GQ, we noticed that most of the food we buy – even whole produce – comes wrapped in plastic. This plastic amounts to 23%+ of landfill waste, and much of it may also wash into oceans and break down into microplastics. Wasteful food packaging contributes to a host of ecological problems (which you can read about more in our blogs– mine is here and this is Megan’s).

One solution is to buy in bulk. This isn’t just more environmentally friendly, it’s also cheaper. Both individuals and institutions can buy more bulk whole foods to reduce waste. We decided to design a three-part campaign; the first, to raise awareness among Muhlenberg students; the second, to supply containers to the same population; and the third, to convince local grocery stores to change their practices. These campaigns could be enacted together or individually.

The following is co-written by myself and Megan Leahy.

STEP 1: POSTER CAMPAIGN

  • Goals: To inform students with a half or full kitchen of the economic and ecological benefits of buying in bulk at the grocery store.
  • Strategy: Place an informational poster on each fridge that displays ways to buy in bulk and why it saves money.
  • Target Audience: Muhlenberg students who live in a MILE house, apartment, Village, or South/Robertson suite.
  • Measurable Indicators of Success: Conduct an Initial Survey and a Post-intervention Survey and compare data; survey students on their purchasing habits, knowledge, and awareness/commitment to buying in bulk; count how many posters are still on the fridge at the end of the semester.
  • SAMPLE POSTER:

 

STEP 2: TABLING CAMPAIGN

  • Goals: To raise awareness about buying in bulk and to sell containers to students. We aim to encourage buying in bulk, and demonstrate that it is possible, affordable, and ecological.
  • Strategy: We would set up a table in Seegers on a few weekdays over the course of one week, from about 11-3, with an aesthetically pleasing display of jars, information on buying in bulk and the benefits/the problems associated with plastic and food packaging waste, and some jars for students to buy. Students who completed the pre-intervention survey would get a discount on the jars (perhaps $1) and students who didn’t complete the survey could still buy the jars for a higher rate (~$4).
  • Target Audience: Muhlenberg Students (and faculty/staff that also pass through Seegers)
  • Measurable Indicators of Success: Amount of money raised / How many containers sold; Pre- and Post-intervention surveys for those who purchase containers.

 

STEP 3: GROCERY STORE LETTER CAMPAIGN

  • Goals: To encourage nearby grocery stores to offer more options to buy in bulk, and to prove to them that there is a demand for food with less packaging.
  • Strategy: With a club or group of volunteers (EnAcT), call and write letters to local grocery stores that students commonly shop at, especially those that don’t have a lot of options for bulk foods (such as Giant, Weis or Target) as customers of those stores. Request more options for buying bulk food as a further reason to continue shopping there. We would first write letters (one for each store, signed by all interested students–this would also act as a commitment for them to buy in bulk more) and make a phone call. We will display this letter at our tabling event (described above) so as to get as many signatures as possible. We may also go in person to speak to the manager.
  • Target Audience: Nearby grocery stores where many students may typically shop.
  • Measurable Indicators of Success: Number of letters sent / signatures on the letters; number of Muhlenberg participants; number of responses from grocery stores; ultimately, any changes in grocery stocking/packing practices.
  • SAMPLE LETTER: 

    To whomever it may concern:

    As students at Muhlenberg College, located within a mile of your store, we’re writing to you about a local campaign for environmental change. We noticed from shopping at your store that Giant, as a company overall and your store specifically as well, is committed to protecting the environment. We love that we can take our plastic bags to your store to recycle them and that you have reusable bags available as well. We also appreciate how you as a store evolve to meet the needs and desires of your customers (like with the recent changes you’ve made in the types of products you stock).  

    We are writing to you as regular customers who also share these values to request that you have more options in your store for buying in bulk (without packaging). We believe that plastic food packaging is a major problem, since plastic cannot always be recycled successfully and often just gets thrown away, contributing to either ocean debris, litter, landfills, or release of greenhouse gases if it is incinerated. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, containers and packaging make up 23 percent of all landfill waste. Besides this, we (along with the thousands of other people joining this movement for change) feel that minimizing packaging is not only easier but also more accessible, since people will buy more at a time.

    By signing this letter, we students are committing to purchasing more of our food in bulk whenever we shop at Giant, if it were to be provided at a reasonable cost. 

    Thank you for your continued dedication to the people of Allentown and the world.

    Sincerely,

                [signatures of interested students]

 

If you are interested in learning more about how to buy in bulk, these resources may prove helpful:

RESOURCES:

http://www.wisebread.com/bulk-buying-basics-what-to-buy-how-to-store-and-money-saving-tips

https://money.howstuffworks.com/personal-finance/budgeting/5-tips-buying-groceries-in-bulk.htm

https://giantfoodstores.com/frequently-asked-questions/#/faqs/in-the-community

https://www.wikihow.com/Grocery-Shop-and-Cook-Frugally

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/simple-guide-to-waste-free-grocery-shopping/

Patagonia: Promoting Sustainability in the Synthetic Clothing Industry

Synthetic plastic materials comprise up to 95% of debris found in marine environments, including shoreline, surface water, and the ocean floor. [1] These plastics take millions of years to decompose. Therefore, this debris will remain if humans do not intervene. Microplastics are, numerically, the most abundant of these plastics. [2] The ecological costs are great. In addition to direct entanglement and ingestion, which directly endangers marine wildlife, microplastics can also spread nonnative species, interfere with chemical processes, and absorb toxins in the ocean water. Once they have absorbed the toxins, the toxins become bioavailable to marine life. [3]

Some microplastics are released through industrial processes—others come directly from consumers, such as cosmetics and clothing. In this essay, I will focus on clothing. Much of textile pollution is from dyes and chemicals used in the processing of clothing, which are released during laundering. [4] We have a fair amount of research on toxicity. However, we have less research on microplastics. Flavia et al do a study of microplastics released by laundering synthetic clothing, which you can access here.

Synthetic fibers make up over 60% of fabrics sold. Polyesters, polyamides, acrylics, and polyolefins are the most common types. [5] All plastics have the potential to become microplastics during manufacturing and laundering—therefore, all synthetic fibers, regardless of size, contribute to this problem. In addition to clothing, menstrual hygiene products and diapers can also contribute to synthetic fiber pollution. The mechanical process of washing – moving the articles and water flowing through the fabric – weakens fibers’ attachments and structure. These weakened fibers can separate and get washed out into waterways. A previous study discovered that a single wash of a single piece of clothing without detergent can spread almost 2000 pieces of plastic smaller than 1 mm in size. [6] 700,000 fibers could be released from an average washload. [7] Type of washer matters—top-load washers can increase fiber emissions by 430% in mass compared to front-load washers.

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That said, there are things that both consumers and companies can do to reduce microplastic pollution. Patagonia, a clothing company based in Ventura, California, forefronts sustainability in its designs. Patagonia’s approach to manufacturing starts “with the knowledge that everything we do comes at a cost to the environment. We then work continuously to lower the environmental and social costs of our products at every phase of their life cycle.” [9] They build quality garments designed to last, which helps prevent landfill waste. In the past two years, Patagonia has prioritized this issue on a variety of fronts: “improving fabric construction,” “supporting scientists working to gain a better understanding of the types and sources of microfibers,” “investing in innovative organizations working to address marine plastics pollution,” and “communicating proactively with our customers and the broader public.” [10]

As far as supporting scientists goes, Patagonia has initiated and partially funded two scientific studies. In this issue, it is difficult to gather a standardized set of data. Some parts of the world hand wash, some machine wash. Different washing machines have different axis angles, temperatures, rotation speeds, and cycle duration. [11] Additionally, other studies have different criteria for what counts as a microplastic. Many clothing fibers are extremely narrow, but may be an inch or two long, so different researchers may classify them differently, which makes estimates more difficult. [12] Patagonia’s support for more research helps fill an urgent gap in our understanding of the problem.

Patagonia’s first study was done at the Bren School of Environmental Science and management at the University of California, Santa Barbara. This study, published in June 2016, measured the extent to which Patagonia clothes shed microplastic fibers, both numerically and compared to other garments. The second study is in progress at North Carolina State University, and its aim is to better understand how different types of fabrics impact fiber pollution. It also hopes to develop a “rapid test method” that can assess a product’s potential shedding before it has even been washed—which can help Patagonia develop more sustainable gear. [13]

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For communication, each garment Patagonia ships comes with instructions that describe microplastic pollution and address how consumers’ habits can limit it: “Buy only what you need, buy high quality, and make it last,” “wash less often and invest in a front-load washer,” and using “fiber filters” installed in washers or filter bags that capture fibers before they are washed down the drain. [15] These instructions are not product specific; they apply to any garment made with synthetic fibers. That means that consumers can use the instructions Patagonia provides on any clothing, regardless of where it was made.

Patagonia maintains key partnerships with other innovators. They funded a German innovation called The Guppy Friend. [16] They gave the company a 100,000 euro grant to develop an effective fiber-catching laundry bag. Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are ill-equipped to handle microplastics, and often the microfibers sweep directly into waterways. While most WWTPs use filters to try to separate out these fibers, inconsistencies on filter size and atypical storm events can lead to pollution, despite precautions. Multiple studies show that filtration systems in wastewater treatment plants are insufficient to combat microplastic pollution. [17] Patagonia advances products like The Guppy Friend that aim to stem to release of microplastics before they hit WWTPs. They have also experimented with closed-loop waterless textile processing systems, which allows the fibers to be captured inside the system instead of washed out into waterways. Patagonia has spent $180,000 in the past five years on grants for nonprofit organizations that counter ocean microplastics.

Patagonia’s commitment to sustainability does not end there. Patagonia pledges 1% of all its sales to environmental causes (which may not sound significant, but it amounts to $74 million in cash and in-kind donations). [18] On Black Friday every year, a day known for huge sales and consumerism, they pledge 100% of sales to environmental causes. [19] They also are trying to make strides in social sustainability. In recent years, the company has investigated its supply chain and ensured that all workers are making a minimum wage. Their next target is to make sure all workers earn a living wage. Most of their gear is Fair Trade Certified. [20] Patagonia, and many other textile companies, have far steps to go—but Patagonia has committed to the journey.

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Core costs of their merchandise are fabric, transportation, and labor. Additionally, Patagonia faces some key resistance. Their clothing is pricey, and the brand has an elitist reputation. In a clothing industry where shirts and leggings can be purchased for a few dollars, Patagonia must convince their consumers that the sustainability of their garments is worth the extra money they shell out. There is also a cultural paradigm that promotes quick changes in trends, where a person buys new clothes any season. Because Patagonia garments are engineered to last, that means that what is fashionable today may not be in two years. Some consumers may be reluctant to purchase expensive clothing that may go out of fashion. Therefore, the kind of consumers that Patagonia caters to are environmentally conscious upper-middle-class people. Because much of their gear is active-wear, they also cater to an outdoorsy crowd. Because it is expensive, most of their consumers have disposable money. These crowds are most likely to be willing to spend extra money on gear that promises the intangible asset of sustainability.

The Ocean Cleanup: Pioneers of Plastic

As I discussed in the previous post, individuals can make a difference by reducing plastic use, supporting sustainable policies and products, and innovating new solutions. Organizations, however, can be more powerful than individuals. The Ocean Cleanup is an organization founded to start a large plastic cleanup project, starting in 2019. [1] In his 2013 Ted Talk, Founder Boyan Slat explains how got the idea as a high school student, when he went scuba diving in Greece and noticed that he saw “more plastic than fish.” After experimenting with nets, he discovered that finer-mesh nets designed to catch microplastics indicated that microplastics were 40 times more common than macroplastics. Current methods of cleanup were usually net-and-boat methods where a single vessel would trail a net behind it. Slat concluded that a net-and-boat method of cleanup would take too long and be too expensive to be effective [2].

Eventually, he created an idea for a “passive concentration system” that would harness ocean currents to capture plastic. Booms hanging from multiple vessels divert debris, instead of capture. Organisms can swim under booms, so it will minimize bycatch damage. He tested a plankton/microplastic separation method that would use centrifugal force to separate the two without killing the plankton, and ran experiments with multiple trawls that tested how deep their passive capture system would have to reach. All this research taught him that there were 7.25 million tons of extractable plastic currently floating in gyres—well beyond previous estimates [3]. Earlier research had estimated that it would take 79,000 years to extract this amount of plastic. Boyan Slat’s system aims to halve the amount of plastic in the North Pacific Gyre in 5 years. This system removes not just plastic, but the toxins (like PCBs) that leach into ocean and into food chain [4].

In March 2013, a Ted Talk Slat gave went viral and helped him raise $90,000 through crowdfunding. This is where the organization The Ocean Cleanup began. After a year of research from almost 100 scientists and engineers, the organization published a lengthy feasibility study in June 2014. [5] It considered environmental and economic costs and benefits. Once Boyan Slat pitched his feasibility study, the popularity took off and ultimately, the organization was able to crowdsource over 2 million US dollars in only 100 days. This means it was “the most successful non-profit crowdfunding campaign in US history” at this time [6].

Original designs hinged on one of Slat’s questions: “Why move through ocean if ocean can move through you?” The rotating ocean currents provide all the needed energy. Platforms shaped like manta rays would attach to the ocean floor. They were shaped like manta rays to let wings sway in current— because moving at the speed of current helps capture more plastic, and makes the system more resilient to inclement weather. Ocean microplastics don’t just have environmental and health costs; plastics are responsible for over a billion US dollars in vessel damage per year. Additionally, Slat found that he could make a profit from selling the recaptured plastics. In his Ted Talk, he shares an economic insight into sustainability work: “If you recognize that change is more important than money, money will come.” [8]

In order to effectively clean the ocean, the organization wanted to ensure its booms would reach deep enough. This can depend on wind speed and wave height. Their experimentation continued—especially with using large multi-level vertical trawls to discover what depths plastic tended to accumulate at. The trawls reached down to 5 meters in depth. Their research found that microplastic concentration decreases exponentially with depth. Their research is published here. [9]

In 2015, The Ocean Cleanup ran scale model tests of their boom passive capture system to simulate how different combinations of wind, current, and wave conditions might affect their system. These tests allow the engineers at The Ocean Cleanup to troubleshoot issues before they become expensive to fix; the difficulty is that, as a very long system, it must also be incredibly flexible in order to withstand weather conditions. More detailed findings are listed here. [11]

In 2016, a 100 meter-long prototype was built in the North Sea to test the design in the real ocean environment. This test taught the engineers that the system could not be fastened to the ocean floor, because the shackles eventually bent the floating boom out of shape. They redesigned the system to be free-floating. [13]

They undertook an aerial survey to estimate the amount of plastic in the ocean. The video is below.

 

Currently, preparations are being undertaken to implement the plan. In early 2018, combined data from the Mega Expedition and Aerial survey will be published in the largest survey of ocean plastic yet to date. In May 2018, the first cleanup system in the Pacific will be set up. By 2020, the system will be fully deployed. [15]

The Ocean Cleanup employs over 65 engineers, scientists, researchers, and computer modelers from multiple countries. Their web site offers a detailed list of past and future milestones, press releases, and published research. They accept donations and sell merchandise. They have won several awards for innovation, design and sustainability. The Ocean Cleanup’s solution to the problem of ocean plastic is autonomous, energy-neutral, and scalable: this means it is open to improvement and limits environmental and economic cost. Expected benefit is a 50% reduction in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years. By 2050, they hope for a plastic-free ocean. [16]

The Ocean Cleanup demonstrates several tenants of economically successful sustainable solutions. They create a new innovation that solves a problem in a profitable way. By harnessing social media techniques, they were able to fund their programs through successful crowdsourcing. Their research team is international and well-respected, and by publishing their research, they encourage transparency. All of these tenants are critical in order to successfully implement their solution.

To donate, please click here: https://www.theoceancleanup.com/fund/

Donations are tax-deductible.

Individual Action: What can you do to help?

We discard a staggering amount of plastic on a daily basis. Those plastics pile up in landfills, and about 10% of them will wash into our oceans, where they float in stable, circular ocean currents called gyres. While macroplastics – debris, tires, plastic kitchenware, bags, and toys – are the most recognizable, microplastics (pieces under 5 mm in size)  are more dangerous [1]. There are two kinds of microplastics: primary and secondary. Primary microplastics already smaller than 5 mm before they are released into waterways. Synthetic clothing, cosmetics, and air blasting technologies are three major sources. Secondary microplastics are macroplastics that get broken down and fragmented by friction, water, sunlight, and biochemical reactions. Either way, at such a small size, these microplastics are easily ingested by marine wildlife. Every year, 1 million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals die from swallowing too much plastic [2]. And this problem affects humans as well. Humans who consume seafood also consume many of these microplastics. Although the direct consequences of microplastic exposure are not yet thoroughly researched, it is fair to suspect that some of the dangerous effects felt in wildlife may grow to affect humans if exposure continues.

There are two strategies to remedy this problem. We can try to reduce our input, so we can slow or stop our disposal of plastics into the ocean; or we can increase output, the amount of plastics we prevent from reaching the ocean. (To be fair, that raises the questions of where will these plastics go? Other storage options for plastics, like landfills, are problematic as well.)

Think of your own life—how much plastic do you use? From your toothbrush to food wrappers to the plastic bags you carry your groceries home in, plastic is everywhere. It’s in our phones and technology, our kitchens and bedrooms. One easy way to aid this problem is to use less plastic. Use glass, porcelain, wood, or metal dishes and utensils. Use reusable bags. Cook at home. Purchase whole foods, rather than single-serving wrapped snacks. Buy a reusable thermos and water bottle, and use them instead of plastic water bottles and Styrofoam mugs. Donate used plastic toys, rather than throwing them away. When you do use plastic, reuse it until you can’t anymore, and then recycle it. Currently, only 5% of plastics used in the United States get recycled [3]. As an individual, you can do a lot to minimize or eliminate plastic from your life. While one individual does not turn a tide, many individuals working alongside one another can turn the tide of social and political will.

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Cities and towns can play a role in discouraging plastic use as well. 16 states currently have legislation discouraging plastic bags ranging from labeling programs, taxes, and even outright bans (Hawaii and California) [5]. Economic disincentives encourage people to commit to reusable cloth bags, because the one-time purchase of a reusable bag eventually rivals the every-time small charge of a new plastic bag. Additionally, communities can encourage recycling by arranging recycling pick-up (in addition to garbage pick-up), giving every household a recycling container, and placing public recycling cans next to every trash can. As an individual, you can appeal to your local and state governments to enact further legislation.

Another way individuals can make positive change is through innovation. While any individual can limit their input of plastic into the system, some individuals also develop methods of improving output. Boyan Slat, a Dutch student and founder of The Ocean Cleanup, invented a mechanism that would use giant floating booms over the ocean’s surface to direct plastic towards a smaller area that could then be cleaned more thoroughly. It wouldn’t need any additional energy input; the booms would guide plastic pollution using the ocean currents alone [6].

Additionally, a team of researchers at La Universidad Católica del Norte in Chile analyzed 68 scientific publications on ocean microplastics and found that, frustratingly, it was difficult to compare results. Different methods and tools were used to obtain data. They uncovered a fact that could partially explain the vast discrepencies in the number of microplastic particles reported: “100,000 times more microplastic particles could be fished out of the water column if a net with a mesh of 85 micrometres was used instead of one with 450 micrometres” [7].

Boyan Slat and the team of Chilean researchers are two examples out of many. As an individual, you can make changes in your everyday life to combat plastic debris in the ocean. Eliminate your use of single-use plastics if you can. Reduce your consumption of plastic goods in general; and reuse or recycle the plastics you buy. Additionally, you can study and innovate. All it takes is one brilliant idea to transform a problem into a solution.

Bagged, Bottled, and Choked: Problem Definition

Annually, humans use 1 trillion plastic bags [1]. The United States uses 100 billion plastic bags alone each year, and the average U.S. household uses 500 plastic bottles [2]. Our national lifestyle assumes the convenience of single-use plastics— bottles, bags, and wrappings adorn almost all of our purchases. And the cost of all that convenience is rising. Many of those plastics will end up in landfills, where it will take them up to one thousand years to degrade [3]. Some of them will be recycled, although the U.S. only recovers 5% of the plastics we discard [4]. And a percentage – around 10% – will flow from storm drains and creeks into rivers, bays, and, eventually, into oceans [5]. Some plastics sink down into the sediment, and some will float along the currents. Over years, ocean currents slowly steer those plastics into broad circular currents called gyres, where they can drift for centuries [6].

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The Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans all contain gyres [8]. The largest gyre is the North Pacific Gyre, which measures 7.7 million square miles across [9]. It is shaped by wind currents, different water temperatures, and the force of the Earth’s rotation [10]. Floating inside it is a phenomenon known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch [11]. The clockwise currents draws debris inward, into a stable center (National Geographic 2014). Millions of particles of plastic float along, spanning an area twice the size of Texas [12]. In a square mile of ocean, there is an average of 46,000 pieces of plastic [13]– see below for a more specific distribution.

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But the problem doesn’t end there. When larger plastics end up in the ocean, microbes, sunlight, water, and friction start to break down the plastic into smaller and smaller pieces. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, once the chunks are smaller than 5 mm, they are called microplastics [16]. The process I have just described – larger plastics being physically and chemically broken down into smaller pieces – creates secondary microplastics [17] . Primary microplastics are when micro-sized fibers in synthetic clothing, soaps, cosmetics, and air blasting technologies leach into the environment, without any further fragmentation [18].

These microplastics often float on the surface of the ocean, where phytoplankton latch on and start to grow. To the many marine organisms that feed on phytoplankton, loose plankton are virtually indistinguishable from the ones that live on plastics [19]. When microplastics enter into the food chain, they accumulate inside the bodies of marine animals. Ultimately, these plastics have a toxic effect. Plastic ingestion negatively affects over 250 marine species [20]. Every year, 1 million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals die because they ingest too much plastic [21].

Plastics disproportionately kill animals at the top of the food chain. Because plastics do not break down inside an animal’s stomach, every fish that eats a smaller fish also ingests all the plastic inside that smaller fish. Because bigger fish need to eat many small fish to survive, they rapidly consume more plastic than the smaller fish did [22]. Eventually, animals feeding upon plastic may starve to death or have their organs ruptured [23]. Many plastics are also endocrine disrupters, although not as much research exists on how much this may currently be affecting marine life [24].

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Our Sustainable Solutions class has defined “sustainability” as a quality something may possess if it contributes in the long term to each of three objectives:

  • 1) Protection of natural systems and biodiversity through the use of resources in a way that maximizes renewal, encourages re-use, and minimizes waste; through the reduction of pollution and the mitigation of global climate change; and preservation.

Our current levels of plastic production, use, and disposal are unsustainable. Plastics require fossil fuels in order to be manufactured, and the process is energy-intensive. When approximately half of the plastics Americans use nationally are single-use, the practice does not encourage reuse [26]. The amount of waste is staggering. The pollution damages marine ecosystems, and the chemical effects of plastics in the food chain are still not well understood. The presence of plastics (in general) and microplastics (specifically) does physical and chemical harm to natural systems and biodiversity.

  • 2) Provision of equitable economic development and opportunity without undermining people’s capacity to meet their own needs in the present and future; and…

This damage to natural systems does not ensure people’s capacity to meet future needs. Many people’s livelihoods depend on the sea. In trash gyres, there is not a richness of marine life. Fishermen avoid the areas [27]. In jeopardizing the natural equilibrium of the ocean food chain, we jeopardize our own food supply.

  • 3) Elevation of human well-being standards which include: improved health and nutrition; access to clean air and water; and education, the empowerment of women and gender equity, and promotion of human rights.

Whenever a divide exists between who pollutes the most, and who suffers most of the consequences of that pollution, there is environmental injustice. Plastics’ effects on marine life are an example of this. Nutritionally, plastics are no better for humans than they are for marine animals. This injustice is a human rights issue, as well– we are part of the food chain, as well.

Over the next semester, it is my objective to examine sustainable solutions to this ecological issue. As a class, we have defined a sustainable solution as one that [meets] these objectives include using a participatory, inclusive process with transparent governance based on scientific principles; and assessment through the development of measurable indicators that show improvement in each of the above criteria.

I will examine different solutions posed that will help improve environmental, economic, and social sustainability. By comparing these solutions against our definition, I will evaluate compelling options. Through individual actions, business solutions, and innovations, we may be able to remedy some of the damage we have caused.

About

This blog examines the problem of microplastics in ocean ecosystems. What are the solutions people are currently suggesting to solve this problem? How do they address long-term sustainability– environmental, economic, social?

 

My name is Genevieve. I am a student at Muhlenberg College (class of 2018) studying Theatre (Directing and Acting) and Sustainability Studies.

Here is the definition of Sustainability I will use throughout this web site. My Sustainabe Solutions class co-wrote it in concert with our professor, Dr. Rich Niesenbaum:

Something is sustainable if it contributes to each of the following objectives over the long-term:

  1. Protection of natural systems and biodiversity through the use of resources in a way that maximizes renewal, encourages re-use, and minimizes waste; through the reduction of pollution and the mitigation of global climate change; and preservation
  2. Provision of equitable economic development and opportunity without undermining people’s capacity to meet their own needs in the present and future; and
  3. Elevation of human well-being standards which include: improved health and nutrition; access to clean air and water; and education, the empowerment of women and gender equity, and promotion of human rights.

Best practice for meeting these objectives include using a participatory, inclusive process with transparent governance based on scientific principles; and assessment through the development of measurable indicators that show improvement in each of the above criteria.