Plastic-Free Lower Merion: A Campaign Tool Kit

Plastic-free Lower Merion is a toolkit for the members of the Lower Merion Climate Action Coalition to get students, parents, and faculty involved in reducing single use plastics in the schools and the wider community. These activities are designed to be applied at all levels of the school -- clubs, classrooms, faculty, parents, school leadership -- so that members can choose the one(s) that work best for them.

Participating schools should choose just one or two of these items to work on at time. As a coalition, our work is about the collective. Each of us doing one piece adds up to a lot of pieces.

This list belongs to all of us. It will grow as we explore these ideas, refine them, add to them, and link useful resources. As you work through items listed below, please send us updates, additions, and resources that can be shared with others. 

Raising Awareness and Changing Practices

Research (conduct and publicize widely)

  1. Nature and volume of plastics use in your school (Sample survey from LMC
  2. Interview the school’s recycling hauler to understand plastics recycling  

Publicity and outreach

  1. Assemblies: presentations, videos, skits, etc (LS) 
  2. School paper, newsletter, social media -- factoids and articles
  3. Leafleting at car line
  4. Make or show a video about the impacts of plastics and ways to minimize them (here’s a good one from National Geographic
  5. Create memes/posters
  6. Have students write a guide to reducing plastics at home and distribute to all parents (LS) 
  7. Parents are key -- newsletters, meet-n-greets, parent volunteer groups, events, etc. 
  8. Other visibility opportunities; carry out and publicize widely
    1. identify an existing school event and make it plastics-reduced or plastics free
    2. designate person(s) to collect and carry their plastics waste in a backpack for a week (LS) 
    3. create a display -- curtain of plastic bags, water bottle sculpture, etc (LS) 

Educate the community

  1. Faculty
    1. first, get faculty on board through discussions of the importance of plastics mitigation
    2. classroom supplies: reduce glue sticks, markers, disposable cups, etc 
    3. talk with the students -- why is plastic waste a problem and what can we do about it (LS)
  2. Parent workshops: waste-free lunches, getting children involved in community service through plastics, plastics mitigation as a family project, screenings of documentaries, etc. (Hosted jointly by several schools?) 
  3. Create a how-to guide on reducing plastics 

Activate the community

  1. establish student sustainability captains (LS) 
  2. reclaimed garbage art project, all students donate and help (LS) 
  3. Institute waste-free policy (or start with “Waste-free Wednesday”) for lunches brought from home (LS)
  4. recycling drives for electronics, shoes, batteries, etc (Hosted jointly by several schools?) 
  5. surveys/petitions to students and parents, focused on one or two specific goals
    1. I will talk to my parents about switching to reusable bags
    2. I will use a reusable bag at least three times per month
    3. I will avoid straws for the month of XX. 
    4. Which of the following plastics would you want to give up?
  6. hold a contest for best anti-plastics poster or class that reduces waste most (LS) 
  7. Organize a clean-up of a local stream; document plastics pollution and share widely (LS)

Reach out to administrators about: 

  1. reducing availability of disposable water bottles 
  2. improving water availability (water filling stations, etc) 
  3. reducing/eliminating straws and single use plastics from food services
  4. (best on the heels of a survey or petition, see above) 


Beyond the School

  • Students generate a list of local contacts (Mom and Dad, family friends, extracurricular teachers and coaches, businesses they frequent, etc). Reach out to them with: 
    • educational materials about the world-wide plastics mitigation movement
    • survey to gauge willingness and options for change
    • guide to plastics change
    • (to do this, students must be fully trained and equipped with talking points and all materials)

  • Research the structure of LM government and the major environmental influencers

  • Write letters to the editor and township leaders (LS)

  • Identify regional / national groups and join forces

  • Senior projects are a time when students are typically reaching out to the community. Create the opportunity for them to work with local groups or institute some of the ideas on this list on their own with faculty advising. 



Our campaign to ban plastic bags in Bali

 Melati and Isabel Wijsen | TED Talk


How a Group of Kids Bagged the Disposable Bag in Boulder, Colorado

Student leadership in Action 

Find out more

Green Schools Alliance STOP plastics campaign

Example of established school campaign

Find out more

Reducing single-use plastic at the local level

Keith Tharp | TEDxPortsmouth


“Plastic Ocean”

Film addressing and showcasing the impact of plastic pollution

Find out more

"Plastic Paradise - The Great Pacific Garbage Patch"

Film focusing on the GPGP off the coast of Hawaii 

Find out more