Sustainability Club Raises Awareness of Pollution During Spring Break

Kristin Anderson, branch leader for the UCF chapter of IDEAS for Us, talks to beach goers about their responsibility to do something about pollution during spring break on March 9. IDEAS for Us UCF is a nonprofit student organization on campus focused on environmentalism.

While some UCF students planned to spend their spring break relaxing on the beach, others planned on cleaning it up.

According to Project Know, 40 percent of college students who are often "rift with alcohol and drugs" travel for spring break and bring their trash with them to Florida’s beaches. This includes everything from plastic straws and cigarette butts, to beer cans and bottles.

Project Know is a national organization that looks into the habits and trends of college students regarding their alcohol consumption. 

IDEAS for Us UCF hosted a beach cleanup on Cocoa Beach Saturday to counter the pollution problems occurring during spring break.

The organization is a nonprofit organization that aims to make UCF's campus sustainable as the organization educates, engages and empowers students, according to their website. 

This Orlando-based nonprofit organization creates global environmental solutions through local action, according to the IDEAS for Us website.

The IDEAS website states its mission is to develop, fund and scale solutions to the world's most pressing environmental and social challenges. They are involved on campus by participating in environmental projects and attending regular Hive meetings.

The IDEAS Hive is an interdisciplinary community designed to educate the public about sustainability and to develop their ideas into local action projects, according to their website.

Members of the club aim to raise awareness about pollution on and off campus. Every month, they learn about current environmental issues and then apply what they have learned to events in the community. 

"[Club members] want people to understand that it really is up to the individual to reduce their use of plastic and dispose of their trash properly over spring break," said Kristin Anderson, junior biology major and member of IDEAS for Us UCF.  

Junior creative writing major Melanie Anderson said every choice a person makes affects the environment.

The club works to find solutions to environmental challenges happening today.

According to Keep Brevard Beautiful, ocean trash affects the health of wildlife, people and local economies. Trash in the water and on the shores can be mistaken as food by wildlife or entangle animals with lethal consequences.

Keep Brevard Beautiful is a network of volunteers striving to maintain and improve the environment of Brevard County, Florida.

Kristin Anderson said she felt the need to take action on behalf of these creatures. She said she focuses her studies on conservation, evolution, and ecology.

“Plastic pollution in the ocean is such a serious issue because the ocean can withstand a lot of tension — it’s like a rubber band," Kristin Anderson said. "It can only be stretched so far and it can bounce back. But at some point, it will snap and there’s no return.”

According to Ocean Crusaders, the estimated decomposition rate of an aluminum can is 200 years. For plastic bottles, the estimated decomposition rate is 450 years.

While the plastic issue is a global one, UCF students are doing their part in trying to reduce their carbon footprint. 

“No one is exempt from their carbon footprint, but we can do our best to help reduce it,” Melanie Anderson said.

Several students participated in the cleanup, such as junior environmental studies major Anousack Nachampassak.

“I thought I could be useful here, and I wanted to start cleaning,” Nachampassak said.

While a variety of items were picked up during the cleanup, a majority of these items were plastic.

According to a report by Keep Brevard Beautiful titled "Florida International Coastal Cleanup Results," 173,552 pounds of trash were collected in 2018. This includes 95,679 cigarette butts, 74,420 plastic bottle caps, 26,500 straws and stirrers, 14,190 plastic bags and more.

A handful of students participated in this beach cleanup event, and several of them reached out to the beach goers to raise awareness regarding the increase in pollution during the weeks of spring break. 

The total trash pickup at the end of the event totaled 6.6 pounds picked up over the course of four hours, Kristin Anderson said. She also said IDEAS for Us at UCF hopes to start a trend in awareness for plastic pollution on beaches during spring break.

She said she ultimately wants to leave UCF students with a reminder.

"Challenge yourself to use less waste," she said. "We all have the right to live in a clean world."

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