Renee Veldman didn’t join the Reduce Single-Use Plastics at Eckerd College team thinking she would be doing outreach, but now she is one of three interns who advocate for environmental awareness.
“When I first joined this team, it was the research side of things that was very interesting to me,” says Renee, a senior marine science and Spanish student from Stevensville, Michigan. “But then as I became more involved … I just realized how important it is to have that communication and that outreach aspect of things alongside the research.”
The Reduce Single-Use intern team is made up of Renee; Makayla Doran, a junior environmental studies student from Media, Pennsylvania; and Skyler Paoli, a sophomore marine science student from San Mateo, California. They are advised by Associate Professor of Marine Science Amy Siuda, Ph.D., and Professor of Biology and Marine Science Shannon Gowans, Ph.D.
“I was specifically drawn to this team because it is working on research and study on plastic consumption on campuses,” Renee admits, but that’s not all the team does. As she discovered, there is a significant outreach aspect as well—hosting events on and off campus. “We have monthly or bimonthly beach cleanups where we separate the trash, weigh it all out, and then send it out to a bigger organization who then looks at large-scale debris for data collection specifically on campus and [in] coastal areas.”
One of the popular recurring events they hold is a do-it-yourself reusables event. On November 10, they invited students, faculty and staff to gather under the Galbraith Marine Science Laboratory to make alternatives to items that regularly fill the campus trash cans. Roughly 100 people spent the evening tie-dyeing masks in an effort to eliminate the use of discardable, single-use face coverings, making bags out of old T-shirts, and creating cling wrap out of beeswax-coated cloth to encourage reusing materials instead of increasing waste.
“Everyone loves tie-dye! But also it’s a cool way to meet some of the clubs and groups on campus that are working with sustainability,” Renee says.
She has embraced her outreach role since joining the team a year ago. While the focus of the DIY reusables event is to have fun and promote reducing single-use plastics, Renee also emphasizes, “The goal is to be having a conversation as well, to potentially learn what the students are interested in and how the students are interested in being more sustainable too.”