More than two years ago, a version of the Plastic Waste Reduction Act was introduced in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. The act aimed to ban plastic bags in order to improve state sustainability practices, as well as to eliminate a major source of pollution in Narragansett Bay. After facing opposition in the past, the bill was reintroduced last January as similar bans continue to take hold throughout the United States. While such a law would apply to retail stores, restaurants, farmers markets and flea markets, Brown should actively work to eliminate plastic bags not only on campus, but also throughout College Hill and the greater city of Providence.
As an institution of higher education, the University has played an influential role in the community in terms of environmental sustainability. In myriad ways, Brown is already significantly involved in environmental issues in Providence. The University currently partners with several Providence businesses, community groups and government employees — including the Emerald Cities Collaborative, the Providence Sustainability Roundtable, the Ivy Plus Sustainability Working Group, the International Sustainable Campus Network and the Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council — in order to make the city a greener place.
Much of this collaborative effort has strengthened sustainability practices at Brown. From 2007 to 2013, for example, the University reduced its carbon footprint by 30.6 percent by switching to natural gas at its Central Heat Plant, according to the 2013 Sustainability Progress Report. And from 2007 to 2012, the University decreased its energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29.4 percent and cut its annual energy costs by $3 million, according to the 2012 Sustainability Progress Report. This marks the eighth year that Brown will file a Sustainability Progress Report — an initiative that originally stemmed from an undergrad’s proposal.
Additionally, through programs such as Brown Market Shares, the University promotes the consumption of locally grown foods by Brown community members — thereby connecting students, faculty members and staff members with greater Providence.
In light of these efforts, the University should compensate for the lack of support shown for the Plastic Waste Reduction Act in the past few years. Utilizing its role as a powerful voice in the Providence community and leveraging its existing relationships to encourage sustainable practices, Brown should take the next logical step and wage the battle against plastic bags. Extending a hand to ease the transition to a plastic bag-less city should be an easy move on the part of the University — a move that could ultimately provide the final push that the House needs to pass the bill.
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16 and Baxter DiFabrizio ’15. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.