Written for The Argo by Tori Singer
The United States generates roughly 35 million tons of plastic waste each year. The majority of this plastic is known as single-use plastic. Single-use plastics are things like bottles, food containers, and wrappers, straws, bags—they surround us.
Over 99 percent of plastics are made from fossil fuels, which account for 76 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. We have seven years to act on climate change, and many feel higher education should lead the way.
Students urging for environmental safety at Stockton, including Benjamin Dziobek, president of the Environmental Club at Stockton, says that Stockton simply does not do enough in the fight against climate change. “When you scroll down to the bottom of the Stockton University website, they say we’re ‘New Jersey’s Green University,” Dziobek says. “We have to do more.”
Dziobek spends most of his time at Stockton advocating for greener policies, and questions whether the university truly strives for a healthier enviornment, or employs “greenwashing” tactics.
Business News Daily defines greenwashing as, “when a company or organization spends more time and money on marketing themselves as environmentally friendly than on minimizing their environmental impact. It is a deceitful advertising gimmick intended to mislead consumers who prefer to buy goods and services from environmentally conscious brands.”
In the spring of 2020, the Environmental Club presented their 13-page single-use plastic ban proposal to Student Senate. The proposal laid out an ambitious plan to phase out single-use plastics on campus and even included biodegradable alternatives with price comparisons.
The university’s mission statement lists sustainability and environmental stewardship as one of its core values. It reads as follows: “The University seeks to promote an ethic of resource conservation, sustainability, and social justice on our campuses and throughout the region in its strategic planning and operations as well as its teaching, research, and service. Stockton embraces the obligation of stewardship this environment demands.”
When Dziobek met with Chartwells, Stockton’s contracted food service provider, he said they seemed hesitant about making any immediate changes to the current utilization of single-use plastics. “They wanted us to have industrial composting systems in place before making new rules,” he said.
He later discovered that the university already utilizes an industrial composting system, so he plans to organize a meeting with Chartwells again.
Dziobek also emphasized that being a ‘green university’ is a big responsibility and that Stockton has not publicly reported their emissions since 2017. “The University had a goal to lower emissions by 2020, but emissions have increased according to the most recent report in 2017,” Dziobek said.
“Our goal hasn’t been updated since 2014, and we deserve full transparency with these reports.”
In response to Stockton’s partnership with South Jersey Natural Gas, he said, “No matter how you put it, natural gas is still a fossil fuel. Our new expansions in Atlantic City will eventually be underwater. We need to take this seriously and stop greenwashing.”