SRU going “Beyond Plastic” as host of sustainability symposium


“Beyond Plastic: Can’t Reuse it? Refuse it!” Symposium and Product Expo, 9:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Oct. 24, on the third floor of the Smith Student Center.

A symposium and product expo at Slippery Rock University, Oct. 24, will address alternatives to using plastics in daily life, such as filling reusable containers instead of buying single-use water bottles.

Oct. 15, 2019

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. —Slippery Rock University will look to encourage more than 1,000 attendees to think beyond common environmental protection practices - such as reusable water bottles - and to become agents for change when it hosts the "Beyond Plastic: Can't Reuse it? Refuse it!" Symposium and Product Expo, 9:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Oct. 24, on the third floor of the Smith Student Center. The event, co-sponsored by SRU's President's Commission on Sustainability and the League of Women Voters, is intended to help students find alternatives to using plastics in daily life as well as empower them with education.

"This is our big event of the year," said Paul Scanlon, director of sustainability and co-chair of the PCS. "October is Campus Sustainability Month for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and this symposium is a response to the huge issue we have in the recycling industry and the problems caused by the unnecessary use of plastic."

Beyond Plastic is free and open to SRU students, faculty and staff. More than 200 registered high school students and their teachers from 10 local school districts are expected to participate. The event will include speakers, films and panel discussions related to sustainability, as well as demonstrations of environmental-friendly products and do-it-yourself workshops hosted by college and high school students. There will also be hourly door prizes such as bags made of recycled materials, reusable straws, beeswax food wrap and bamboo eating utensils, all of which are alternatives to their single-use plastic counterparts.

Beyond plastic poster

There will be nearly 30 student poster presentations and product demonstrations in the SSC Ballroom, first by high school students from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., followed by SRU students from 12:30-3:15 p.m.

"Peer-to-peer education is important," said Scanlon. "When the message is delivered from student to student, it often times carries more weight than from (their teacher or sustainability expert). For the high school students, this event is a great opportunity to hear messages about something they believe in from their peers and to get experience presenting."

Sylvia Edwards, a senior exercise science major from Monroeville; Morgan Meyer, a junior exercise science major from Newton Falls, Ohio; and Mikayla Peluso, a junior exercise science major from McDonald, will be presenting exercise apparel made from recycled materials, particularly plastic recovered from the ocean.

"I am passionate about bettering our planet and believe it is my duty to grasp opportunities allowing me to educate the general public on information they may have never heard of," Edwards said. "Plastic is everywhere, but people can take small measures to create a larger ripple effect to eliminate plastic or re-using plastic that already exists to our benefit."

Edwards, Meyer and Peluso volunteered to take part in the symposium after Steve Verba, associate professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences, shared the opportunity with the trio.

"As exercise scientists, having a healthy environment contributes to our own personal health and we want to ensure that there are opportunities to enjoy the outdoors," said Verba, who is a member of the PCS. "Once I joined the commission, I really stopped to look at the waste produced just from our industry, from synthetic materials used in clothing to the waste at marathons from cups and wrappers at aid stations."

Verba acknowledged that other faculty and students from other departments can draw similar connections to reducing waste in their disciplines and fields. He is one of the 20-plus members of the PCS, which includes students, faculty, staff and community members, that advise the SRU president on sustainability initiatives, strategies and policies for the University. These include everything from the recycling of dining hall waste to meeting the University's sustainability goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2037.

Symposium speakers will include Mark Dixon, an environmental activist and filmmaker; Lisa Anne Hamilton, an environmental lawyer from the Center for International Environmental Law; Sabrina Culyba, the director of the Human Action Pittsburgh's "No Plastic Please" campaign; and Heather Benek, a local zero-waste advocate and health coach.

There will be an art exhibition, created by SRU fiber arts students, that will include a multi-story, experimental installation using plastic.

Click here for more information about the PCS. For more information about the sustainability at SRU, visit

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