Over the past year, two student-led groups began exploring ways to reduce one-time use items such as plastic bottles and bags on the University of Tennessee’s campus and the surrounding Knoxville area.
The first team is Project Baggage, whose primary goal is to eliminate plastic bags on UT’s campus during the next five years.
Project Baggage started their project through the Howard Baker Public Policy Challenge, a competition for students to design a policy to be put into effect on campus.
“Plastic bags cost the university unnecessary money, litter the campus environment, pose a threat to wildlife and rely heavily on the production of fossil fuels,” said Shelbie Francescon, a member of Project Baggage and a first-year student in nuclear engineering.
“Project Baggage wants to help fix those problems by promoting reusable bags as an alternative to plastic, starting an inventive system to discourage individual usage of plastic bags and encouraging sustainable practices on campus,” Francescon said.
The second group, G.R.O.W. Knoxville, is working on a similar issue but with a broader focus on plastic bottles and bags in Knoxville.
Like Project Baggage, part of their policies include the creation of an incentive system to encourage customers not to take plastic bags from stores. According to Jenn Christian, a graduate student in Social Work and one of G.R.O.W. Knoxville’s team member, doing this “would not end up costing local businesses any money because they should make back in not having to purchase the cup or bag what they would be giving back to
G.R.O.W. Knoxville’s members have met with over 20 local businesses between Cumberland Ave. and downtown Knoxville, including Sunspot and Bluetique, and have receieved a lot of support.
As more cities and states adopt similar proposals, G.R.O.W. Knoxville hopes for this kind of policy to reach a “critical mass” and are optimistic to see what the future holds for waste reduction in Knoxville.
To find out more about G.R.O.W. Knoxville, find them on Facebook. To learn more about sustainability at UT, visit the Office of Sustainability website or follow student sustainability organizations like S.P.E.A.K. and the Eco-Vols.
Edited by Hannah Hunnicutt