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Happy Plastic Free July! 

First I wanted to introduce what we are doing to celebrate Plastic Free July: Plastic Free Campus Action Camp. We just finished our first week of camp, with 10 incredible students scheming to make their schools eliminate plastic. Read about the campers below! I always struggled with the idea of Plastic Free July because it focuses on individual action, and only lasts a month. So, in response, this camp is meant to expand into a campaign that will last many years on each of these 10 campuses. Hopefully, we will have another camp run later this year, if it all goes as planned! Look out for the registration and announcement! 

I just celebrated my one year work anniversary with six other co-workers, which means we are one year into this campaign with a dedicated staff member. We have accomplished quite a lot, and have a lot to be thankful for, despite how hard 2020 has been for so much of our movement. We have learned and won together, and I’m excited to continue this journey for another year. 

I’m happy to announce that we had our 6th school in the US sign the pledge: Durham Technical College. I am so incredibly proud of the student organizer there, Rachel, who is a high school student taking college classes! She worked with StudentPIRG to secure this win, despite all the controversy around plastic being the most sanitary option on campus. This showed how we will continue to persevere even through tough times. It also marks the first community college to sign our pledge! We hope to have many more to come this next year. 

We also hired a student as our Environmental Justice Intern in May. Alex Gordon is one of our star students who got her campus, Eckerd College, to sign the pledge in November of 2019, and she has been researching colleges and universities that are in regions most affected by petrochemicals, as our Summer 2020 intern. Alex Gordon was our champion at Eckerd and I feel so lucky to have her on our team. The work Alex is doing is leading us to the future of our campaign. 

See, I came to the plastics world in a different way than most. I organized mostly on climate change and environmental justice before I took on this campaign. There was even one point in my past where I thought plastic work was not as important as climate change work, and got in the way of real change. Little did I know then that plastic work is climate change work. I learned this when Shell constructed a Petrochemical Cracker Plant just north of Pittsburgh, my home. Cracker plants are where oil turns into plastic. I think most people know plastic comes from fossil fuels, but not many know the harm that these plants cause. Death Alley, which used to be called Cancer Alley, is famous for the harmful effects that these plants enact. They cause cancer, air pollution, and other human health hazards. Not to mention, the Carbon Footprint they create in burning fossil fuels to turn them  into a product that will be used for 10 minutes. 

Our campaign, thus far, has focused on plastic elimination: starting a reusable system, implementing compost, changing purchasing policies, and more. But, it has yet to move to upstream solutions. To stop plastic pollution, we need to stop producing plastic. This is why this Fall we will be hiring 6 student organizers to start campaigns to resist petrochemical build-out in the Ohio River Valley. Because colleges have big influences to the communities they are located in, they can make a huge impact when they say they don’t want a petrochemical corridor in the Ohio River Valley. And with that energy, we will create a resistance that the corporations will not be able to ignore! We will stop them from producing plastic! Remember, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.