Duanduan Han and Yanpu Zhang are chemical engineering doctoral candidates with a desire to contribute to a cleaner society. By applying for a microfund through the Aggie Green Fund, they designed a reusable bag with the aim reduce the amount of plastic bags used by college students.
In 2008, Zhang originally had developed this idea during her undergraduate program in China, however, the idea never fruited into a tangible product.
“Back when I was in college there was an innovation competition in our university,” Zhang said. “At that time I noticed the importance of the environment and then I came up with the idea of the reusable bag. It was just a design and it was kinda innovative. I did not produce any bags, until last spring.”
Early in 2017, Han and Zhang heard about this opportunity through a committee member of the Aggie Green Fund, who was also a member of their mutual organization. After continuous reminders through emails, Han thought this was a project that she could handle.
“I had also seen their email and I thought that this sounds like a really good opportunity and we would be able to manage small amounts of money in order to contribute to the green side of campus,” Han said.
Immediately after the development of their idea, Han and Zhang started and submitted the application for a Microfund by the end of April. With monthly application rotations, their application was promptly reviewed and they were provided with suggestions to edit their application, by the end of April. Finally, in May their application was approved for $1,500 to produce reusable bags.
With the approval of their grant, they moved onto the next step, production. Along with focusing on using reusable bags, they wanted to highlight other ways to help the environment also by adding graphics on the bag to remind students of the various ways to conserve.
“We also put several different figures on the bag to represent different green-living tips like carpooling, using recyclable water bottles and other aspects of green-living,” Han said.
Instead of just handing out the bags, Han and Zhang prepared a new approach to deliver these bags to students that will allow them to gain information on how they are making an impact.
“The major revision we did in the proposal that was suggested by the Office of Sustainability is you have to have a way to quantify your impact on the campus,” Zhang said. “We were collecting feedback from the students who stopped by our resource table. We asked them how many times they went grocery shopping each month and how many plastic bags you use each time. So we can make a final prediction of how many plastic bags we could save.”
Jaime Krauter, allied health sophomore, said given the chance, she would definitely prefer to use reusable bags, but doesn’t believe everyone would.
“Personally, I do not use them, but if I had some I definitely would,” Krauter said. “However, I don’t think everyone would because of convenience reasons, but some definitely would because we are all on campus and are aware of environmental issues.”
After all 800 bags had been given out to students on Sept. 27 and Oct. 25 at the REC center, Zhang and Han decided they wanted to continue to plan small projects like this one through other local sponsors, as Aggie Green Fund will not fund the same program again.
With the holiday season approaching, Zhang wishes that students take these bags home to educate families on their project.
“I think it will make a great change,” Zhang said. “We have 800 bags and we are trying to distribute them before Thanksgiving and we hope the students could take this back to their home to influence their family and friends.”