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Penn State Bookstore Introduces EcoCoins As Incentive To Reduce Plastic Bag Use

In hopes of reducing the amount of plastic bags used on campus, the Penn State Bookstore is implementing a new program this summer.

When customers check out, they will have the option to choose an EcoCoin instead of a plastic bag. Each EcoCoin is equivalent to a five-cent donation that can be placed in one of three boxes to support a student-run philanthropy group. In addition, the Penn State Bookstore will donate $500 every semester to each organization.

Inspiration struck EcoCoin director, Sam Anawalt, in the UPUA office last semester when another student approached him about plastic bags distributed at convenience stores around campus.

“We talked about different countries that had outright banned plastic bags or placed a tax on them,” Anawalt said. “Looking at Pennsylvania, it is a lot more difficult to change the mindset of people, especially when we have an older generation filling in most seats for our elected officials.”

Jennifer Guyer, the general manager of the Penn State Bookstore, was receptive to the idea and helped make EcoCoin a reality. The bookstore currently orders around 160,000 bags annually, but it hopes that this program will be able to cut this number in half.

“Jennifer, a proud PSU alumna, and the Penn State Bookstore have shown that they value giving back to the Penn State community and supporting students that are trying to further sustainable development,” Anawalt said.

Anawalt explained that plastic pollution is a large issue and it’s important to be proactive and find solutions to better the community. 

If all goes well, he plans to expand the program in the fall to all commonwealth campuses.

“Unlike a ban on plastic bags or a tax, the customer is actually offered an incentive. In some cases, the consumer is going to need a bag and that’s okay,” Anawalt said. “The goal here is to eliminate any unnecessary usages of plastic bags by allowing the customer to pick a charity to give back to.”

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