By: Sarah Rowan, Contributing Writer
Following a July 21 general assembly meeting, the University Residence Government Executive Board unanimously voted to ban the purchase of Styrofoam products using URG funds.
URG president Jon Connelly and Director of Civic Engagement Marlee Slaughter, led the resolution. The two recognized the environmental downfalls of Styrofoam and decided to use their positions to do something about it.
“It’s something that was always in the back of our minds,” Connelly said. “Once we got into a position where we were the ones managing all the money, we realized we could make a change. I think we have an obligation to make that difference.”
Styrofoam, a trademarked type of polystyrene, is recognized as a hazardous source of waste in the United States.
The production of Styrofoam releases harmful chemicals and greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Styrofoam is not biodegradable, meaning it does not break down into the environment easily like some other materials. As a result, Styrofoam has accumulated in large amounts in landfills, and within waterways worldwide.
While Styrofoam is less expensive than other materials, Slaughter did a cost analysis of the materials and found that paper and plastic will only cost about one dollar more per product than Styrofoam. URG also budgeted $3,000 for building councils to offset the extra cost of switching materials.
Both Connelly and Slaughter agree that banning the use of Styrofoam will have an extremely positive impact on Towson’s campus.
“Between the building councils and executive boards, URG easily holds over 100 events per year,” Connelly said. “I couldn’t tell you the exact quantifiable impact of this resolution, but it is going to be significant, because we’re eliminating Styrofoam from so many events campus-wide.”
Environmental science professor Jane Wolfson expressed her approval of this initiative.
“I think that Styrofoam has very negative environmental characteristics, even though it has many convenience characteristics,” she said. “There’s nothing good about it, and there’s a whole lot bad about it. Why not change it if you can? I’m glad they did.”
She also said that, while it is cheaper to buy, it does extensive damage to the environment that makes spending extra funds on other materials more effective in the long run.
However, Wolfson said that long-term effects are often not taken into consideration when making environmental decisions.
“The biggest challenge that we, humanity, face is that people do things without really thinking about them,” she said. “Everything we do and everything we don’t do has an impact, and people aren’t mindful. They only think about the immediate and what is right in front of their noses.”
Wolfson feels that with a proper educational push toward environmental awareness, URG’s resolution to ban Styrofoam will greatly benefit both the campus environment and the general mindfulness of the student body.
The Styrofoam ban will be in place until at least the end of the academic year.