Each year, about one trillion plastic bags are used around the world, with 100 billion of them used by consumers in the United States.
Colorado State University’s Leave the Plastic Plant a Tree Campaign, in which the CSU Bookstore has pledged to donate five cents to future tree-planting for every plastic bag that a student declines, is entering its second year of operation.
The campaign has saved more than 32,000 plastic bags and raised almost $1,500 to help the University plant five trees near Danforth Chapel on the Oval, according to Student Sustainability Center President Jacob Kimiecik and Bookstore Director John Parry.
The Graduate Student Council, the Student Sustainability Center and the CSU Bookstore together initiated this campaign in August of 2014 to help reduce the use of plastic bags on campus after 73 percent of CSU students polled in the spring of 2014 supported a single-use plastic bag phase-out plan.
“We planted the trees as a part of Earth Week in the spring, in connection with the Tree Campus USA ceremony,” said Jeff Cook, current GSC vice president for external affairs. “There were well over 50 people in attendance for the ceremony and to help plant the trees.”
Cook chaired the GSC Green Initiatives Committee last year and was highly involved in the initial development of the Leave the Plastic Plant a Tree program.
The Earth Week ceremony involved planting more trees than just those from the Bookstore funds, Parry said, because Facilities Management provided additional money for tree-planting.
“This effort has been a really positive approach working toward the reduction of single-use plastic bags on campus,” said Stacey Baumgarn, CSU Campus Energy Coordinator. “While this was a student-initiated and student-led project … the campaign would not have been possible without the support and participation of the CSU Bookstore.”
Part of the campaign involves giving students wooden nickels after they refuse a plastic bag at the Bookstore — all 32,000 were displayed in a case last year.
The tokens are made of maple, a hardwood.
“We expect (the tokens) to last for several years and will reuse them as long as possible,” Parry said.
The plastic bags the Bookstore uses are extra thick because they are intended to carry multiple textbooks, and according to Baumgarn, they each cost more than five cents.
“So the Bookstore saves money no matter what,” Baumgarn said.
Those involved hope to see the Leave the Plastic Plant a Tree campaign at the CSU Bookstore for many more years.
“The program is moving into its second year, and we hope to continue the progress we have seen to date,” Cook said. “The goal of the Leave the Plastic Plant a Tree campaign this year is to ensure that the program is institutionalized at the University, so it continues long after we are all gone.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the wooden tokens used by this campaign were made from tree limbs trimmed on campus. This is not the case; the tokens are obtained from a farm in New England.
Collegian Reporter Julia Rentsch can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @julia_rentsch.