“Bag It” Leads Students to Refuse Plastic

Marlon Castillo/New University

Members of the Irvine community and “green friendly” UC Irvine students gathered for a free screening of the documentary “Bag It: Is your Life Too Plastic?” on Wednesday, April 25 in the Student Center’s Crystal Cove Auditorium. The film, directed by Suzan Beraza,  is an eye-opening look at the environmental and health dangers posed by the global use of disposable, non-biodegradable plastic products. Told with wit and humor, “Bag It” follows “everyman” Jeb Berrier as he embarks on a global tour to unravel the complexities of our plastic world.


While waiting in line at the event to sign a petition on the state ban of Styrofoam, UCI students added comments to the whiteboard on their idea of “How plastic is your life?” Responses were adverse, addressing the issues that plastics cause. The negative light on plastic was already a clear mindset in the audience’s views before they watched the film.


”One of my big goals is to do more collaborative events, not only with entities on campus, but with members of the community as well,” said Dahnish Shams, Sustainability Commissioner of The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF). Thanks to organizations like TGIF, UCI Theta Psi, the Surfrider Foundation South Orange County Chapter, the UCI Bookstore, My Clean Water Act, the UCI Student Center and documentary filmmakers like Susan Beraza, environmentally conscious ideas are being discussed more openly and earnestly. UCI freshman Behany Stiedl was among the first 100 guests to receive a reusable tote bag. Stiedl shared the interest of Irvine community members who want to get the word out about the importance of sustainability.


“I try to take every opportunity to learn more about these environmental issues,” Stiedl said.


Students from Professor Daniel Stokols’ Environmental Psychology class crowded both sides of the theater. Proud Theta Psi fraternity members took up entire rows of the theater, excited to see the film that their fraternity was sponsoring. Theta Psi is a “green” fraternity that was founded this fall and so far has grown to about 30 members. Kevin Schlunegger, TGIF Accountant (“environmental messiah”), opened the screening, thanking the audience for taking time out of their busy weeknights to learn about the harmful effects of plastic and how to “reduce, reuse, recycle, redesign, and repeat.”


After the film, Sarah Peters, business reporter for the Daily Pilot and Los Angeles Times Community News, South County introduced the panelists, whom she interviewed to the audience. Four panelists addressed questions and concerns that the audience asked: Stephanie Barger, Chief Executive and Founder of Earth Resource Foundation; Lisa Manfredi, the Newport Beach Chapter representative of Surfrider Foundation; Adam Howle, Beach Store Manager of REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) Huntington and Board Director of San Gorgonio Wilderness Association; and Michelle Clark, Public Sector Community Representative of WM Waste Management, North America’s Largest Recycler, were motivated by their views on sustainability and made the audience aware of what steps they can take to reduce wasteful habits.


Schlunegger and panel members asked the audience pop questions on the film and sustainability statistics. Participants won shirts and hats from Hurley, which sponsors My Clean Water Act.


Before Schlunegger concluded the evening, Barger made a shout out to Frances Lam of the South Orange County Chapter, Surfrider Foundation, who was “instrumental in pulling this all together,” thanking Lam over the audience’s applause. Earth Week, which followed Earth Day on Sunday, April 22, developed awareness with a different film screening each day, hosted by various campus and community organizations. The advanced screening of “The Last Call at the Oasis,” featuring UCI professor, Jay Familigietti, on Friday, April 20 was among the four screenings that addresses sustainability concerns in celebration of Earth Week. The Friday screening was sponsored by the University of California Center for Hydrologic Modeling and the UCI School of Physical Sciences. To many students on campus, TGIF means “thank God it’s Friday,” but to the students that have come together with an environmentally conscious attitude, TGIF is The Green Initiative Fund.


“The goal of TGIF is really simple: to empower students, give them the resources they need to make our environment more sustainable on a local level,” said Alexis Kim, Secretary Commissioner of TGIF.


Although TGIF has met some resistance with the Irvine City Council in enforcing a ban on plastic bags, Shams believes that “banning plastic bags is a growing movement.”


Thanks to TGIF, recycling efforts have already made UCI a more environmentally friendly campus. Hydration stations in classroom hallways, the Student Center and Mesa Court are just one of the many projects funded by The Green Initiative grant-making fund. The $3.50-per-quarter student fee that supports these projects began in fall 2009. Although we have many recycling options for plastic throughout the campus, it is TGIF’s goal to first reduce, then reuse, then recycle as a final option. Screenings like “Bag It” give students the information they need to reduce harmful products like plastic. Dmitriy Nikitin, a TGIF who collaborated with Surfrider foundation to make this screening possible, thought that even the students who are hesitant toward taking big leaps into sustainability would enjoy this film because it is not like most green documentaries.


“It’s not a rampant environmentalist documentary, it’s just an average guy who wants to reduce his plastic usage,” he said.


Shams mentioned that other communities have taken on the efforts discussed in the film “Bag It” because it is “less provocative.”


“There is a growing awareness but we want to continue that momentum, in order to push a green and sustainable UCI,” Shams said.