Dining Services will continue its sustainability efforts by selling reusable Terp bags in campus convenience stores.
The bags, which say BYOB – bring your own bag – with a terrapin replacing the “O,” should be available to customers for $7 in early October, said Allison Lilly, the sustainability and wellness coordinator for Dining Services.
The initiative aims to reduce the number of plastic bags used on the campus, as well as promote sustainability among students, Lilly said.
“I think the idea of a new product that calls attention to the topic of waste reduction is important,” she said. “We are constantly on campus trying to send the message of having a sustainable lifestyle.”
Lilly, former Student Government Association Director of Sustainability Ori Gutin and Dining Services Director Colleen Wright-Riva worked together to apply for a Maryland Parents Association grant last year to help fund the initiative.
The association awarded Dining Services $1,465, which covered the cost of the first 200 bags, Lilly said. These bags will be sold at-cost to students, meaning all the money made goes toward buying more reusable bags, she added.
Dining Services is working with the SGA to perfect and organize the project, Lilly said. The two organizations began working together on this initiative spring 2013, when the SGA, Resident Hall Association and Dining Services launched the “Bag the Bag” program, no longer active, which encouraged people to refrain from putting store purchases in plastic bags.
“[The program’s goal] was to reduce the amount of plastic bags on campus,” Lilly said. “Each year I’ve been here [SGA] really built on this program, and I feel like this is the next step in the process.”
Over the years, the campus has reduced plastic bag consumption, according to Dining Services’ data. In spring 2014, convenience shops used 125 cases — 1,100 bags a case, or 137,500 bags total — which fell to 124 cases in fall 2014. In spring 2015 there was a decrease to 99 cases, or 108,900 bags.
Last year, Gutin created a list of ideas to reduce waste within Dining Services, and the reusable bags initiative was at the top.
“We wanted to bring sustainability into [students’] everyday lives,” the senior environmental science and policy major said. “It’s just another opportunity to make the right choice.”
Maya Spaur, the SGA sustainability director, said she hopes students will eventually stop using plastic bags in favor of reusable ones.
“I hope students develop a greater understanding of the incredible environmental impacts and stress that results when many people simultaneously use non-biodegradable products,” the junior environmental science and technology and government and politics major said.
Both Spaur and Errin Saunders, an SGA sustainability committee member, said they agree that students should adapt easily to these reusable bags, especially because some nearby counties — particularly Montgomery County — adopted 5-cent taxes as an incentive for people to stop using plastic bags.
“[The project is] all in effort to reduce single use and reduce plastic waste,” said Saunders, who is a junior environmental science and policy major. “We don’t really need single-use plastic bags — that’s out of date.”
Dining Services will be offering a 5-cent discount to students in convenience stores using any reusable bag for items they would usually carry in a plastic bag, Lilly said. Dining Services and the SGA’s sustainability committee are still working on determining the appropriate implementation policies prior to carrying out the discount initiative.
“You need the incentive program and the cool new bag to make a change,” she said. “But the students’ excitement really has the power to make a change.”
Saunders said she designed the “cool new bag” with the hope that the style will attract students.
“I was just thinking what would be the most simple, and what a Terp would want to carry around,” she said. “I went for … something that has Terrapin spirit on it.”