Cassie Lefleur, University of New Hampshire
UNH Sustainability Fellow Partners with NH Network’s Plastics Working Group to Reduce Plastic Overuse Across New Hampshire
Cassie Lefleur was awarded a University of New Hampshire Sustainability Fellowship to collaborate with volunteers across the state to produce a roadmap to reduce plastic overuse in schools and municipalities. The volunteers are the core of the Plastics Working Group (PWG), a part of the non-partisan New Hampshire Network for Environment, Energy, and Climate https://www.newhampshirenetwork.org/. The PWG began in 2021 as a few dozen people working on plastic reduction in a grassroots educational campaign called the Ten Towns • Ten Actions Toolkit to Rethink Plastic. The group now has active volunteers in 40 New Hampshire towns engaging in one or more of 30 actions, such as presenting to school children and civic groups, and helping restaurants shift practices to cut plastic waste and costs too. All these actions and more are on the PWG website, the Ten Towns Toolkit https://www.10towns.org/ visited by users across the Granite State and 70 countries as well.
Ms. Lafleur, her mentor, retired professor, Cynthia Walter, and other PWG members will focus on providing options for public schools and town departments to switch from single use plastic to reusables and substitute non-plastic products whenever possible. The Chemical Engineering student began this work in high school when she and a few other students decided to find options for their cafeteria to replace throw-away plastic utensils with something better. Their well-researched presentations convinced school managers to shift to reusable metal utensils. This summer, Ms. Lafleur will reach out to managers for schools and municipal departments across the state to learn their goals and challenges to reduce plastic waste. She will provide pathways forward drawing from concrete examples in our state and beyond. Reducing plastic overuse not only cuts waste; it also reduces our exposures to the toxic chemicals often found in plastic and the harmful emissions from producing plastic.
This Sustainability Fellowship project is one of 40 Fellowships this summer in a long-standing program of the Sustainability Institute at the University of New Hampshire that connects students with organizations and businesses working on many facets of sustainability.
Support for the roadmap project comes from the generous philanthropy of
Mascoma Bank geared to strengthening New England communities https://www.mascomabank.com,
Community Action Works, a group that partners with every day people to confront polluters, https://communityactionworks.org and the
New England Grassroots Environmental Fund, dedicated to building an inclusive movement by shifting power at the community level and across environmental justice philanthropy https://grassrootsfund.org .
For more information on the Plastic Reduction Roadmap, visit the Ten Towns Toolkit website, https://www.10towns.org.
To learn about the UNH Sustainability Institute programs visit https://unh.edu/sustainability/