The Sea Around Us: Reducing Single-use Plastic Consumption on a Coastal College Campus
A group of students on a beach.
Eckerd College students raise their tumblers to toast a successful start to the project (Photo Credit: Angelina Kossoff)

Eckerd College will strive to reduce consumption of single-use plastics across its St. Petersburg college campus by educating students on marine debris, providing access to alternatives to common debris items, and working with the college administration to institute campus-wide prevention and reduction initiatives.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Prevention Grant

Region: Florida and the Caribbean 

Project Dates: July 2018 – August 2020

Who is involved?

Eckerd College, with the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention grant, aims to grow a community of environmental stewards who are acutely aware of their personal role in the generation of marine debris. Surrounded on three sides by Boca Ciega Bay in St. Petersburg, Florida, Eckerd College is an ideal location for such a project, as academic and recreational activities on campus can directly influence the health of Boca Ciega Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.    

What is the project and why is it important?

Plastic water bottles and their caps are the most common plastic debris collected during on-campus beach cleanups, suggesting that at least some of the thousands of single-use water bottles consumed on campus are directly washing into Boca Ciega Bay. While Eckerd College, with its ‘Think Outside’ moto, has a long standing commitment to sustainability, there remains room for improvement in day to day practices on campus. This project will act as a catalyst to shift the focus of the campus community to the adjacent marine environment and the importance of marine debris prevention.

From offering topical courses and hosting engaging speakers to providing the community (students, faculty and staff) with their own reusable alternatives for common single-use plastic items, this project aims to encourage self-reflection and positive change. Eckerd College is already seeing changes across campus: the bookstore no longer hands out plastic bags, meal services have replaced plastic utensils with wooden ones, and the Admissions office is committed to eliminating single-use plastic water bottles.