Students use black bags to make campus more green

This semester, the Concordia bookstores have launched an assault on the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag in hopes of promoting a sustainable environment and reducing the university’s ecological footprint.
“I love it!” says Jennifer, an independent student, walking out of the downtown bookstore with a black bag over her shoulder. “It’s much nicer than a plastic bag and it matches my shoes!”
On Sept. 3, the bookstores at the Loyola and SGW campuses began distributing free reusable cloth bags to all students that made a purchase of $100 or more. Approximately 15,000 have been distributed so far.
“The idea was to reduce the amount of plastic bags that are being used by students and staff on campus,” said Danny Kane, the merchandise manager for the bookstores.
Kane says that the Concordia bookstore purchased 25,000 bags at a “good price.” Several college and university bookstores in the greater Montreal area pooled their money together and made a massive purchase of 180,000 bags.
“It’s an expense, yes, but we’re thinking about it as a goodwill gesture towards the community,” Kane says. “We just wanted to get this project launched. We now only hope that students bring the bags back to the bookstore. We hope they use them so that we don’t go through more and more plastic bags.”
Many environmentalists worry about the approximately 10 billion plastic bags that are distributed in Canada each year. Worldwide, they say, an estimated 500 billion bags are tossed in the garbage. That translates to over 1 million plastic bags every minute. Every minute, the world disposes of a substance that can take up to 1,000 years to break down.
“Everyone should already have a cloth shopping bag,” said Veronique Leblanc, a political science student at the university. “But they don’t and that’s why I think this campaign is a good one. It’ll give people who don’t already use reusable bags the idea.”
After Sept.11, the bookstores started selling the reusable bags for $2 each. But according to Kane, the money is going towards a good cause. The proceeds will be divided straight down the middle: $1 will go to Sustainable Concordia and the R4 (Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) campaign, while the other $1 will be donated to the Concordia emergency food fund at the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy.
“The general value of reusable bags is what we are about,” says Chantal Beaudoin, the Environmental Coordinator of Sustainable Concordia. “We were involved in the creation of the campaign from the beginning because we hope to entice students to adopt behaviors that are in line with environmentalist ideals.”
Beaudoin says that the overall goal of these cloth bags is to reduce Concordia’s dependence on plastic bags because they are made out of petroleum, a non-renewable resource. According to an Institute for Lifecycle Environmental Assessment report, the key ingredients in plastic bags are petroleum and natural gas. The creation of two plastic bags require 990 kilojoules of natural gas and 240 kilojoules of petroleum. Most of the electricity used in the process of manufacturing these bags comes from coal-fired power plants. That is approximately 160 kilojoules of coal for a pair of grocery bags.
“We hope people will carry them around in their backpacks and use them with their general purchases,” Beaudion says. “Whether people are shopping in department stores or grocery stores, we hope they will replace disposable plastic bags with this reusable one. We want to reduce Concordia’s footprint.”


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