March 30, 2016
SUNY Cortland students, faculty unite to ‘Kick Butts’
SUNY Cortland students and faculty members scoured the campus Tuesday for cigarette butts, then disposed of them in a fish tank in the lobby of the Student Life Center.
The initiative was part of SUNY Cortland’s “Kick Butts Day,” when students and staff were invited to volunteer in cleaning up cigarette litter around campus from11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Five years ago, SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum appoint a tobacco advisory committee to research tobacco-related practices at other institutions and to develop a tobacco-free policy on campus.
Jennifer Hamilton, Tobacco Free Program coordinator for the Cortland County Health Department, and co-worker Tirzah Tucci wanted to start an initiative for students through which they can learn about the dangers of tobacco and share that knowledge with the community. They saw SUNY Cortland’s tobacco advisory committee as a perfect way to get involved and initiated the idea for a tobacco cleanup day at the school.
Any student, faculty member orcommunity member could take part. The tobacco advisory committee providedplastic bags, latex gloves and a map of scouted “hot spots” for cigarette litter. Volunteers searched from the north end of the campus to the south looking for anything tobacco related. Once a volunteer filled a bag, or found as much as possible, he or she would return to a booth in the Student Life Center and dump the litter into a fish tank. The tank was used as a demonstration for all passing by to see how much litter is still on campus.
Before the school went tobacco free in 2013, Lauren Herman, SUNY Cortland health educator and member of the tobacco advisory committee, said she remembers the 3-gallon fish tank being just about full of cigarette butts and packages in 2012. The amount has decreased over time, but the tobacco ban has yet to fully prevent all of the litter.
“There are some students that whenthey were freshman, the campus wasn’ttobacco free yet and they’ve continued smoking through the ban,” Hermansaid. “There are staff members here who smoke, who are from a different generation, when environmental safety wasn’tan issue.”
But this year’s tank, well under half full, is a sign of progress. Herman attributes the lower volume to a slowly declining number of smokers on campus.
“It has only been three years since the ban, so I think you’ll see more people begin to quit smoking on campus and possibly less students, who are smokers, will attend the school,” Herman said.
And students are noticing this, too.Erica Kristel, a community health major at SUNY Cortland and a member of the tobacco advisory committee, said that many students have been getting involved with the tobacco-free initiative. She said it was important to educate as many people asthe committee can reach because thereare a lot of facts about tobacco smokers may not know.
Jenna Saraceno, also a community health major at SUNY Cortland and a volunteer for the event, said there were some students who contributed because they saw a friend volunteering, but there were many who genuinely wanted to contribute to making the campus tobacco-free.
“A lot of students here are health conscious,” Saraceno said. “This is a good way for them to get involved with helping the campus.”
The committee tries to run the event once every semester. Herman is confident that it won’t be long until they can cleanse the campus of all cigarette litter.
“We can kick butts,” Herman said.
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