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By Kathleen Parrish

Did you know 500 million plastic straws are used each day in the United States?

Lafayette’s Office of Sustainability does and used Reunion weekend as a platform to educate alumni about the absurdity of single-use plastic by handing out stainless-steel straws under a tent on the Quad.

“It was a great conversation starter for us,” says Kendall Roberson, the College’s sustainability fellow. “It was a way to engage all of the classes about what our office is doing to make Lafayette more sustainable. Everyone loves a freebie.”

The College’s food service provider Bon Appetite plans to phase out disposable plastic straws by 2020, Roberson says, and the campus has already started to reduce the number of them it is buying. Paper straws and compostable ones are replacement options, but reusable metal ones are the most sustainable, she says.

The idea is similar to a reusable water bottle, says Ben Cohen, associate professor of engineering who helped Roberson and others hand out the metal straws, which came with a cleaning brush. “Some people use disposable straws not because they actually need them, but because they’re always available,” he says, while others, like people with disabilities, may require a one-use straw. “It’s not an all or nothing kind of thing. It was an effort to get people to think about the issues of reusability and disposability.”

Alumni snapped up about 200 of the metal straws Saturday of Reunion although many of them took two or three to pass along to family or friends working in the sustainability field, Roberson says. “It was encouraging because the class years at Reunion graduated before an environmental science major was offered” seven years ago, she says, “and people are working in the field.”

Roberson hopes to enhance the culture of sustainability at Lafayette by infusing more educational activities like the straw giveaway at College events including Family Weekend and Homecoming.

“We know students are passionate about it, but we want parents and alumni to move in that direction as well,” she says.


Categorized in: Featured News, News and Features, Sustainability