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February 2, 2018

Student recycles sustainability campaign

In the spirit of her dedication to reusing and recycling, FGCU student Carly Bergman is rebooting #FuturisticFebruary.

A year ago, the environmental science major launched the hashtag with a call to her peers to save recyclable aluminum cans, plastic bottles and other items for the entire month and post a picture of the accumulated materials on social media at the end of the month with the #FuturisticFebruary tag. (Before recycling them, of course.)

“Last year I had 60ish participants, and this year I have over 500,” Bergman says. “The idea is to raise awareness of pollution and over-consumption.”

Photo shows FGCU student Carly Bergman with one month’s worth of recyclable waste she saved.
Carly Bergman with one month’s worth of recyclable waste she saved.

The idea for the campaign came to her last school year when Bergman spent a month in Nicaragua to learn Spanish and teach English. During her time there, she was inspired by fellow eco-tourists to minimize her waste by “refusing, reducing and reusing.” Nicaragua, like many developing countries, does not have a proper waste disposal system, she says, and burns all of its waste — including recyclables.

So, Bergman took measures to reduce her waste and saved her recyclable cans, bottles and paper in Nicaragua. She thought twice about buying granola bars with wrappers, refused plastic bags and straws and avoided using paper towels when possible. At the end of her stay, Bergman was able to fit all of her recyclables in a small plastic bag and bring them on the plane home to dispose of them properly.

“As an environmentalist and holistic-health enthusiast, it clicked for me that I couldn’t call my lifestyle sustainable while still using plastic regularly,” she says. “My goal is to have the least amount of impact on the planet as possible while bettering myself and the environment in the process. Going minimal waste is not easy initially since one has to break loose of old habits. It truly is a journey but is completely necessary in order to heal the planet. Every effort to make the planet a cleaner place counts.”

After her travels, Bergman was motivated to implement changes in her lifestyle and continues to learn new ways to be more sustainable. Because she eats a plant-based diet, she can compost food trimmings and use the compost to enrich soil for permaculture.

“The best way to reduce your waste is simply to buy products that are reusable. Things like bamboo toothbrushes, mesh grocery bags, reusable bottles, glass straws and compostable dish brushes are all great options,” she says.

Other sustainability practices Bergman has adopted:

  • Bringing a mug to coffee shops that don’t provide reusable options.
  • Keeping a dedicated “sustainability bag” with mesh grocery bags, reusable mugs, reusable bowls, a metal to-go tin, glass straws, reusable water bottles and bamboo utensils.
  • Buying food in bulk in reusable bags – it cuts costs and waste.

“What’s better than reducing your carbon footprint while saving money in the process?” Bergman says.

Americans do not recognize the detrimental effects that consumer culture and waste have on the environment and surrounding countries, she says.

“The small islands in Nicaragua experience climate change first hand, and their land is being destroyed by erosion and increasing sea-levels. If people do not change their unsustainable habits, our future will be similar.”