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Environmental Management and Psychology Programs Team on Research Study Measuring Attitudes and Behaviors Toward Single-Use Plastics

Student and staff participants given reusable silverware kits to use in place of plastic utensils

An interdisciplinary research study at SUNY Cobleskill hopes to be the first step in moving campus café and satellite eatery dining away from single-use plastics and toward a wider adoption of reusable silverware use. The study is being conducted through a collaboration between the College’s Environmental Management and Psychology programs.

Jessica Furlong, an instructional support technician of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Environmental Science, is driving the project through a Strategic Initiative Grant provided by the College and with the assistance of student members of the Society for Conservation Biology Club. Through the grant, Furlong purchased silverware kits (fork, spoon, and chopsticks in a neoprene travel case) to hand out among students and staff to personally keep and carry, encouraging their use when dining on campus, instead of using single-use plastic utensils.

The project is taken a step further through surveys devised by Dr. Amy Corbett of SUNY Cobleskill’s Psychology program, designed to measure behaviors and attitudes toward single-use plastics. Study participants are asked to complete a survey once they obtain a reusable silverware kit, and a second survey after they’ve used the kit for a month. Results will look to quantify changes in participants’ feelings and approach to plastic over the course of the month.

“Our hope is that the findings of this pilot project will help to inform a larger initiative in the future, beginning here on campus with the discontinuation of plastic utensil use, but also extending beyond campus and instilling a sense of sustainable living and eating in all students and all others that share a connection to our campus and our mission as an institution,” said Furlong.

“We are very interested in looking at the psychological changes that may take place over the next month, especially in looking at how people react to changes in the social norm. It’s a small step, but a step in the right direction, and one that opens up the larger conversation on how we can collectively change our habits, and what it will take to achieve a greater level of societal sustainability,” said Dr. Corbett.

During the month that participants are engaged in the study, they are invited to spread the word by using the hashtag #IChoosePlanetOverPlastic and tagging the Facebook and Instagram pages @Choose.Planet.Over.Plastic with a photo of their reusable utensil kit. Each post enters the participant into a prize raffle, including a $100 gift card.

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