Now more than ever, sustainability has become a trending topic worldwide. Issues ranging from climate change and pollution to deforestation and water conservation have sparked passionate support and debates about if and how people can help the environment.
One sustainability issue that has been gaining attention recently is the use of plastics, specifically single-use plastics. One of the reasons for this is that single-use plastics, such as water bottles and plastic straws, are a major contributor to plastic pollution due to their convenient and disposable nature.
Sophomore kinesiology major Arianna Braswell said she tries her best to live sustainably and avoids single-use plastics whenever possible.
“Anything that you can do to help the environment is worth doing, no matter how big or little the impact is,” Braswell said. “I remember my dad making fun of me for lessening my plastic use, but a few months later after watching and reading the news, he understood the problems that I was talking about.”
Braswell said she credits social media for promoting and educating people about plastics, especially among the younger generation and is glad the issue is being discussed more.
“Since the younger generations are more worried about this problem and thankfully there are a lot of us, this issue is being talked about more and more,” Braswell said. “Also, thanks to social media and the easy access that most of us have to it as well as the platforms that celebrities and influencers have, environmental issues have spread like wildfire, and more young people are being educated.”
But as the issue gains more attention, she is also worried about the topic of environmentalism being politicized wrongly politicized.
“I know that this topic has become a political thing, and it shouldn’t. It’s a human rights thing because if we don’t have a safe and clean environment, we will suffer. I know that some younger adults are worried about having kids because they don’t want their child to grow up in a destroyed world,” Braswell said.
Junior nursing major Sydney Stone said she has tried to stop using plastic straws and other single-use items after seeing many posts and videos on social media about their harm to the environment. She also said while she doesn’t consider herself to an environmentally conscious person, she does try to avoid some single-use plastics.
“It can be difficult because so many restaurants plastic straws out automatically and often you don’t even realize, but I do try to do my best because I feel like we all have some responsibility to help our planet,” Stone said.
While individuals are turning away from single-use plastics more and more, businesses and organizations are also trying to reduce their usage per customer demand.
Office of Sustainability’s sustainability coordinator Melissa Olsen said Southern Miss has made some progress with reducing their single-use plastic usage, such as switching to reusable containers and paper straws on the Gulf Park campus.
“We have been working with Aramark to implement the use of paper straws and reusable or biodegradable to go containers,” Olsen said. “Due to cost, they have unfortunately switched back to Styrofoam and plastic straws.”
Olsen recommends students who are trying to avoid single-use plastics should always carry a reusable water bottle, use reusable straws and purchase a small utensil kit to use when eating out.
Braswell said the main thing she thinks the university should focus on better dining materials for students eating at The Fresh.
“I feel like they could change the Styrofoam boxes to a recycled/recyclable material, and the plastic utensils definitely could be made from bamboo or some recycled material.”