Brandeis’ recent installation of solar panels to the library roof is a commendable step in improving sustainability and decreasing our carbon footprint. The new panels generate 25 percent of the library’s electricity usage and have doubled the amount of solar power on campus, an important milestone in reaching our sustainability goals. As Brandeis is pushing to be greener, we suggest the university impose a small tax, around $0.05, on plastic bags available at places like the C-Store and Curritos.
Last November, Boston’s city council passed a single-use plastic bag fee initiative, making Boston one of 57 communities in Massachusetts with such a tax. Implementing a small tax on single-use grocery bags has made a significant impact in hundreds of communities across the country. Six months after Boulder, CO instituted a $0.05 tax, plastic bag use was reported to be down an astounding 68 percent. Other cities, including New York and Washington D.C., have imposed similar fees for plastic bags. We encourage Brandeis to join this environmentally-friendly trend, to take a small but impactful step towards reducing our environmental impact.
In implementing a tax on plastic bag purchases, Brandeis must make sure that reusable bags are affordable and available to students to ensure that reducing our carbon footprint does not present a financial strain on students.
Another way students can avoid using plastic in their daily lives is to carry reusable water bottles. In January 2014, the university began adding water bottle filling stations around campus. While this was certainly an improvement, multiple residence halls still have a shortage of water fountains. The university should consider putting more water refilling stations around campus and students should take advantage of them. Despite the number of refilling stations that are on campus, many students still purchase plastic water bottles from the C-Store and Upper Usdan. The switch to reusable water bottles is an easy one to make and will save students money and time. Though it has shortcomings, the initiative was a positive move to encourage sustainable practices and a model for the plastic bag tax.
With President Trump’s announcement on Monday of a new tax on imported solar panels, it is more important than ever that Brandeis move toward sustainability, both in small individual steps like recycling and turning off lights, and in large, institutional changes like installing our own solar panels. Implementing a small tax on single-use bags would remind students to consider their environmental impact of their actions and would limit the use of environmentally harmful plastics on campus.