As 2020 comes to a close, we would like to take this opportunity to extend our gratitude to you, our network. This is our first letter to you as the new Co-Executive Director team, Ciara and Faye! We want to thank you for keeping us supported, motivated, and focused in our work with the student-led zero waste movement. The challenges and obstacles we’ve faced together demonstrate how zero waste and the fight for a just and joyful future are interconnected. Before we look forward, let’s take a moment to look back at our year. Through the efforts of PLAN staff, students, board members, and donors, we’ve accomplished so much:
- Adjusted our membership pricing system to a sliding scale to better support community colleges, trade schools, and Minority-serving Institutions (MSI)
- Digitized our Beyond Waste Leadership Certification to keep our member schools engaged from a safe distance
- Graduated our first cohort of Zero Waste Atlas Fellows, who conducted campus-wide waste assessments in-line with their school’s COVID safety protocols
- Hired 6 student organizers to support localized efforts against the Petrochemical Industry in the Ohio River Valley via our Break Free From Plastics (BFFP) programming
- Launched our Beyond Waste Student Summits, which will return in digital format in spring 2021
- Launched the Plastic Free Action Camp to prepare students to build a campaign around the Break Free From Plastic Campus Pledge on their campus
- Reached 92% of our fundraising goal for the year with less than $10,000 to go! (We need your help, keep reading!)
We’ve also institutionalized increased support for the team:
- Hired Isabel Jenkins, the first Communications Director in our history as an organization
- Established fully paid healthcare and unlimited PTO days
- Established a Work From Home support fund in response to COVID-19 and the need to go digital
This year we engaged thousands of students and hundreds of campuses in education and system change. Check out our FY7 Impact Report to learn more about our work. This year has shown us the power of collaboration and mutual-aid—without such, none of this would be possible. We want to tell you a story of how one of our projects was challenged this year and how the support of the network inspired us to pull through.
Student Power and Break Free From Plastic
This time last year, Young, the Director of our Break Free From Plastics Campus Campaign, was planning their trip to the Philippines to be a part of the global launch of the Plastic Free Students Campaign. As we watched the Coronavirus get worse in the Philippines, and then take hold in the US, everything began to move very quickly. We had staff on the road leading Beyond Waste Student Summits and attending conferences, but it all came to a screeching halt in March as every campus across the country evacuated and we went into lockdown. The world began to adapt to this new reality. Students independently formed The Student Mutual Aid Network within days. This network connected students all across the country to ensure everyone’s basic needs were met. When campuses tried to evict students who had nowhere else to go, the Student Mutual Aid Network found them housing. They made extensive spreadsheets for resources, coordinated rides, grocery and medication pick-ups, and advocated for each other’s rights to the campus administration. This was the generation of changemakers at work!
We saw the energy of the students but we were still concerned that one particular part of our work, the Break Free From Plastics Campus Campaign, would not survive COVID. A future free of single-use plastics seemed impossible because we could not ethically promote reusables until we knew it was safe. By May, the virus had highlighted other cracks in our system. With the crash of oil and gas, the petrochemical industry was beginning to invest in expanding plastic production. We could not let that happen. So, in partnership with some amazing movement partners, The People Over Petro Coalition and the Break Free From Plastics global movement, we received funding from the Funders Collaborative on Oil and Gas to launch the first cohort of STOP (Students Taking On Petrochemicals) in the Appalachian region for the fall of 2020. This project addresses the issue of single-use disposable plastics at its source—the frontlines of the petrochemical industry. Turns off the tap, so to say. It directly supports student leaders in partnership with grassroots organizations to position their campuses in opposition to the expansion of the petrochemical industry and inform students about the relationship between petrochemical extraction and plastic. And it’s working! Read about the accomplishments of these students here!
The pivot this program made during this challenging year is a huge testament to the power of our supportive network. Our movement partners built a network of grassroots support. Our funding partners ensured we had the funds to pay each student organizer and removed barriers to access. But above it all, we are grateful for the students who build up their communities to fight the systems that favor corporate greed. These are the students who inspire us to continue working toward a more just and sustainable future. They are creating the future they want to live in.
We must invest in this network to keep this work going! We are calling on you to support PLAN and help us continue to build this movement. Help us reach our end of year fundraising goal and get involved in any of the ways we’ve included below!
- Become a monthly or one time donor
- Sign your campus up for PLAN membership
- Apply or nominate someone to join our Board of Directors
- Help spread the word for our upcoming events
- Join our newsletter to stay informed