Plastic grocery bags permeate households and college dorm rooms across America, and oftentimes are left there to be buried in a cupboard or simply thrown away.
Knowing this, the Mercyhurst Student Government Mission and Sustainability Committee decided to host a collection for all plastic grocery bags to be recycled by knitting them into sleeping mats for the homeless.
This initiative was spearheaded by Erin Jenkins, Hafenmaier College senator, who had been involved with a similar service project in the past. Knitting grocery bags together to create mats for the homeless is a project that is well known and done all over the country. The suggestion was well-received by the Senate and was found to align perfectly with the Mission and Sustainability Committee’s focus.
Brittany Warren, Political Science major and MSG sophomore senator, is a member of the Sustainability Committee.
“This combines perfectly with our mission of sustainability,” said Warren. “We are enhancing the Mercyhurst and Erie communities by reusing things we have to give to those who are less fortunate.”
The city of Erie has an unfortunately high level of homelessness, and this project will provide a more cushioned mat for the homeless rather than cardboard or no shelter at all.
“This project was a great way to start out the year,” said Katie Reisinger, Public Health major and MSG junior senator and the spokesperson for the Mission and Sustainability Committee. “It helps the entire Mercy Mission of service to others in such an easy and collaborative way.”
Plastic bags such as these cannot be recycled on campus, but can be taken to local grocery stores to be recycled. MSG’s plan gives students an easy way to still be sustainable even without leaving campus. The project involved members of MSG going in pairs to each of the residencies on campus to ask for extra grocery bags in the students’ apartments or dorms.
“The door-to-door collection was fun,” said Warren. “ We were able to let people get to know some of their senators as we collected bags at the same time. I was so excited at how willing people are to give their bags. It shows that the Mercyhurst community really cares for other people.”
After collecting from every area on campus, in addition to a donation box in the Student Union, MSG collected about 12 large garbage bags filled with small plastic bags.
“I would like people to know how much even donating a few bags helps and how much we truly appreciate everyone’s help,” said Jenkins. “It warms my heart to see the entire Mercyhurst community pitching in.”
One of the most unique things about MSG’s grocery bag initiative is that it includes various groups on campus such as the Sustainability Club and the Art Therapy Club who helped the team knit the bags together on Monday evening.
“It’s been wonderful seeing how many people are willing to donate their plastic bags for this project,” said Jenkins. “I’m really excited to get started knitting the mats and see the final product come together!”
Mercyhurst Student Government and the Mission and Sustainability Committee are very optimistic about the coming year and plan on having many more events that will promote the mission of Mercyhurst and the values of sustaining our natural world.