Hand holding straws at the beach

Longwood students embraced an important change in the movement to become more environmentally friendly this spring—and won a national challenge in the process.

The Pledge Against Plastic Straws Campus Challenge is a nationwide campaign that seeks to end the use of plastic straws at colleges and universities. Longwood had 878 students pledge to “Kick the Straw” and stop using plastic straws, putting the university on top of all other institutions who participated in the national challenge.

We had an incredible group of students that led this effort and fortunately every single one of them will be back this fall to pick up where we left off.

Dr. Justin Ellis, an honors faculty scholar and assistant director of Clean Virginia Waterways Tweet This

“We had an incredible group of students that led this effort and fortunately every single one of them will be back this fall to pick up where we left off,” said Dr. Justin Ellis, an honors faculty scholar and assistant director of Clean Virginia Waterways. “This group also just met with Aramark, Longwood’s food service management company, to encourage the next era of positive steps to reduce the use of plastics on campus.”

Clean Virginia Waterways, a nonprofit dedicated to stewardship of Virginia’s waters that is housed at Longwood, sponsors events to clean up and remove litter from rivers and beaches. “Straws are consistently in the top 10 items that we find during those cleanups,” Ellis said.

The environmental impact of single-use plastics has become one of the top concerns when it comes to worldwide pollution, leading to discussion about ways to increase awareness of the harm plastic waste causes, especially to waterways and the ocean.

Adopting behaviors such as the use of a reusable straw prevents 30,000 straws from ending up in a landfill or in waterways over one person’s lifetime. Ellis said they are working with Aramark to end the use of plastic straws at Longwood campus dining locations. Aramark plans to gift a reusable metal straw to every incoming freshman during the Fall 2019 orientation, along with an invitation to take the Kick the Straw pledge. Reusable metal or silicone straws will also be sold at various locations on campus, such as the P.O.D. market.

Last year, Aramark announced a national single-use plastic reduction strategy and Longwood dining implemented reusable take-out containers for the dining hall. Other sustainability ideas, according to Ellis, include adding more soda cans to campus vending machines in an effort to cut down on plastic bottles.

“We are really taking positive steps when it comes to the greening of the campus,” Ellis said. “It only takes a few champions to usher in a new era. We clearly have all the ingredients necessary here at Longwood.

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