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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Hesperia Campus Goes Green

February 6, 2013

DSC05569Staff and faculty at the Hesperia campus are all on board for a Go Green campaign to replace Styrofoam cups in their employee lounge with travel mugs and lids. Misty Christensen, Dean of Student Services, came up with the idea in a management meeting when Facilities Manager, Mike Shuster, asked for ways the college might decrease supplies spending by 5% over the next year.

“It just makes sense and would be fairly easy to do,” says Misty. Everyone agreed. Monday, Feb. 11th is the target date for the conversion. The approximately 80 staff and faculty members will bring their mugs from home to enjoy during breaks and find them fresh out of the dishwasher at the start of each new day.

But, the campaign impacts more than the fairly modest cost-savings realized from taking Styrofoam cups off the supply list. “Styrofoam cannot be completely recycled and will pile up in landfills for 500 years,” says Misty. “Also, when it is heated the harmful chemicals in Styrofoam can leach out into hot food.” The advantages of replacing Styrofoam cups are threefold: curbs costs, protects the environment and provides health benefits.

Styrofoam is the brand name of a plastic product whose generic name is polystyrene. Here are a few facts that convinced SJVC staff and faculty to kick the Styrofoam habit.

Health effects:

  • Irritation of the skin, eyes, and upper respiratory tract, gastrointestinal effects. Chronic exposure affects the central nervous system showing symptoms such as depression, headache, fatigue, and weakness, and can cause minor effects on kidney function and blood. Styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).*
  • This material is notorious for breaking up into pieces that choke animals and clog their digestive systems.*
  • Toxic chemicals leach out of these products into the food that they contain (especially when heated in a microwave). These chemicals threaten human health and reproductive systems.*
  • These products are made with petroleum, a non-sustainable and heavily polluting resource.*


Earth effects:

  • Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam coffee cups every year. **
  • Styrofoam is non-biodegradable and non-recyclable. According to Washington University, Styrofoam takes 500 years to decompose; it cannot be recycled, so the Styrofoam cups dumped in landfills are there to stay. With enough Styrofoam cups produced each day to circle the earth if lined up end to end, the potential for major ecological impact is great.**
  • Polystyrene recycling is not “closed loop” – collected polystyrene cups are not remanufactured into cups, but into other products, such as packing filler and cafeteria trays. This means that more resources will have to be used, and more pollution created, to produce more polystyrene cups.*

“I never liked seeing all the Styrofoam cups in the trash can and am happy we are all going to do something about it,” says Misty.

This just may be an idea that catches fire. Already the campus is looking at ways to take the green plunge even deeper. Creative thinking includes the possibility of recycling in the student break room, declaring a Paper-free Day for the school where all of the usual paper-driven correspondence and assignments are done electronically, and introducing a carpool initiative that builds a database to promote student ride-sharing. The side benefit to a sophisticated ride-share system is the potential to impact student attendance, enrollment/census and a positive effect on the environment with decreased auto emissions.

Hesperia staff and faculty launching the Go Green campaign are using posters, e-mail reminders and active word-of-mouth to keep the momentum strong.

If all the SJVC campuses take Hesperia’s prototype and make it work on their campuses, an even greater dent will be made toward costs, environmental concerns and individual health.

*Source – Earth Resource Foundation – Costa Mesa, CA

**Source – Live Strong