Eckerd College’s Hough Quad buzzed on Oct. 7, as students, faculty and staff gathered for scoops of ice cream and to celebrate the campus’s recommitment to Break Free From Plastic—a pledge to prohibit the purchase of nonessential single-use plastic items with College funds.
Interim President Jim Annarelli, Ph.D., and Eckerd College Organization of Students President Christyna Reagan participated in an official ceremony to sign the pledge, which was accompanied by an implementation calendar aimed at reducing and eventually eliminating nonessential single-use plastics campuswide by next May.
During the event, students weaved in and out of the quad, stopping at various tables that promoted sustainability efforts on campus. One table held a station where passersby could make their own reusable tote bags out of recycled shirts, while another advertised biodegradable glitter and alternative sustainable products like bamboo toothbrushes.
As crowd members chose their ice cream flavors and perused the tables, Chloe McKenna, a senior environmental studies and animal studies student from Yorba Linda, California, gave a speech about the history behind the Break Free From Plastic movement at Eckerd College. The pledge was originally signed in November 2019 by then-President Donald R. Eastman III, Ph.D., and Eckerd became the first college in the nation to implement the pledge in January 2020.
When health and safety protocols prevented the use of many common reusable items during COVID-19, the College complied with best practices set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As restrictions relaxed, Chloe worked with groups like the Florida Public Interest Research Group Students and interned with the Reduce Single-Use at Eckerd College project to push for a recommitment to the pledge.
During her remarks, Christyna, a senior political science and women’s and gender studies student from Concord, North Carolina, praised the pledge and the students who supported it through the pandemic, emphasizing the importance of a sustainable culture on campus. “As ECOS, we hope to help create a culture of environmentally aware students,” Christyna said about the student government she leads. “While this adjustment will take time, it is one I am confident we can do.”
Interim President Annarelli also spoke, thanking Associate Professor of Marine Science Amy Siuda, Ph.D.; Professor of Marine Science and Biology Shannon Gowans, Ph.D.; Director of Sustainability Evan Bollier ’11; and the Florida PIRG Students for bringing their “dedication and passion to the project.”
He also acknowledged the support of the campus community, calling the pledge “perfectly suited for Eckerd College as a liberal arts college committed to sustainability.”
As the two leaders signed the pledge in the shade of a Florida live oak, students, faculty and staff finished their vanilla, chocolate and vegan lime treats in waffle and cake cones—illustrating how to enjoy a community event without single-use plastics.