Two Allegheny Students Serve as Panelists For Pittsburghers Against Single-Use Plastic

Earlier this year, Allegheny College students Rachael Pieto 23 and Megan Swing ’22 shared insights as panelists during a virtual event hosted by Pittsburghers Against Single-Use Plastic (PASUP). PASUP’s mission is to create awareness on the effects of single-plastic, support individuals or groups against single-plastic, and advocate for sustainable solutions. 

Rachael Pieto
Rachael Pieto

Allegheny’s Director of Sustainability, Kelly Boulton, initially presented the opportunity to Pieto and Swing. Both students interned with Boulton to help implement two on-campus programs directed at students.

Pieto focused on the Reusables For First Years program. The initiative provides first-year students with a reusable kit to promote sustainability early in a student’s college career. Reusable tumblers, sporks, and straws were distributed to students outside dining halls.

Pieto says the PASUP panel expanded her knowledge of sustainability initiatives.

Megan Swing
Megan Swing

“I learned a lot about how Pittsburgh-area colleges and other universities in cities deal with waste reduction and how different their situations are,” says Pieto, who is majoring in environmental science and sustainability and minoring in art, science, and innovation. “I have found some great people through the PASUP panel who I would have missed out on otherwise.”

After graduation, Pieto plans on pursuing a position in environmental education. 

Meanwhile, Swing worked with Boulton on revising a reusable to-go container program that was halted by the pandemic but recently restarted on campus. The program encourages students to exchange reusable containers at dining halls to reduce single-use plastic and waste. An automated return system accepts the used boxes, and then dining services staff clean the containers and make them available for a student’s next meal. 

The PASUP panel provided Swing with a new perspective on sustainability programs.

“One of my major takeaways is that there is no one ‘right’ way to be sustainable. While many of the colleges had similar programs, some had very unique ones,” says Swing, who is double majoring in environmental science and sustainability and Spanish. “I think we can all learn together and from each other to make higher education more sustainable for all.”

Swing hopes to earn an advanced degree or gain employment that furthers the mission of sustainability upon graduation. 

“If people start with the small changes that they can make on the individual level and then encourage these same habits in others,” Pieto says, “you begin to see the beauty of environmental science. You see possibilities for sustainability in everything you do.”