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ECOS’s Environmental Responsibility Committee’s second annual Waste-Free Winterfest

By Claire Barnett '27
Published December 12, 2023
Categories: Student Life, Students, Sustainability

The scent of hot chocolate and sugar cookies laced the air as students crafted their own seashell ornaments, watched Frosty the Snowman and learned more about the Remora App in Triton’s Pub during the Eckerd College Environmental Responsibility Committee’s Waste-Free Winterfest on November 30.

The ERC teamed up with Reduce Single-Use at Eckerd College, creators of the Remora App, to celebrate the upcoming holidays and show Eckerd students how easy it is to have fun while being sustainable.

A hot chocolate buffet with toppings including whipped cream, marshmallows, sprinkles and Oreos—with a side of sugar cookies—was provided for all in attendance. Students had been asked to bring their own mugs, and those without were given a holiday mug purchased at local thrift stores by the committee, whose members had found more than 50 holiday-themed mugs to share.

To promote the committee, guests also received metal straws with the ERC logo for their hot chocolate.

The goal is to build a coalition of sustainability across campus clubs, says Jayde Parker, a sophomore environmental studies and visual arts student from Savannah, Georgia, and co-director of ERC. “We reach out to all environmental clubs on campus and help them out,” she explains. “We want to build a Green Team that is a group of all. Getting our name out there is not just for the benefit of us but for the benefit of all.”

The cozy environment for students to relax and experience a waste-free event showed students, instead of telling them about, small ways they can be sustainable in their everyday lives.

Junior marine science and economics student from Oswego, New York, and ERC Director Maddy Vashaw says, “A lot of Eckerd students have the sustainable mindset. But when it comes to implementing the practices on the day-to-day, it’s hard to do because of habit. So we wanted to throw a party for fun but also promote easier sustainable practices.”

“I’m from a small town,” Jayde says, “and sustainability is not a thing there. It’s really important to me to spread information. Many sustainable products are so expensive we wanted to showcase little, easy and cost-effective ways to be sustainable.”

Right next to the hot chocolate buffet was a table with every chair filled with students making seashell ornaments. Maddy had gone out a few days earlier and gathered all the seashells used to make the ornaments. “An aspect of being waste-free is being resourceful and realizing you have access to a lot of the things around you,” she explains. “Nothing was bought. It was all borrowed or found. I went out to the beach and found all of them myself. Consumerism is a major thing to think of.”

Mugs and holiday lights adorn a table in the pub

With holiday music blasting, students talked and laughed as they created their “snow-shell” masterpieces. Sierra Ingram, a first-year environmental studies student from Cape Coral, Florida, said, “I really like it. It is very Christmassy. The hot chocolate is so good, and I’m excited to hang my new ornament on my tree!”

At the end of the table line was a display for Eckerd’s very own Remora App, which helps users track their plastic consumption. The table promoted the app, provided information about sustainability, and offered a raffle for reusable eating utensil sets—with all profits going to Eckerd’s refining of the app.

By night’s end, all the mugs were gone, the shells were used up, and the ERC’s message had been spread. First-year marine science student from Fairhope, Alabama, and event helper Emma Kuehl said, “I think it was very successful. A lot of people came, all the mugs are gone, everyone looks happy and jolly, and it’s wonderful that everyone came out to support.”