Plastic Free in 2023

March 23, 2023 at 4:46 PM

Everyone at UVA -- students, staff and faculty -- is invited to take the #PlasticFree2023 pledge to reduce single-use plastics on Grounds and in their personal lives. 

By 3rd-year student Kendall Colenbaugh

We are ready to move beyond plastic in 2023. Are you? 

At some point, you may have noticed the introduction of aluminum water bottles at UVA sporting events or compostable materials in the dining halls in place of plastic. 

Starting in July 2021, the University began prohibiting certain single-use plastics (purchased with University funds) in response to the Virginia gubernatorial Executive Order 77 to reduce Virginia’s reliance on single-use plastics and reduce waste sent to landfills. Every state agency, including higher education institutions, was required to abide by this ruling. In April 2022, EO77 was replaced by Executive Order 17, and UVA is continually expanding its recycling and composting programs, focusing on food service containers, cutlery, water bottles and shopping bags. See UVA's single-plastic requirements.  


“UVA remains committed to reducing single-use plastics in alignment with our goal to reduce waste generated on Grounds to 30% of 2010 levels by 2030. Our environment is awash in plastic which can harm water quality, wildlife and human health. UVA is doing its part to reduce single-use plastics and we ask students, staff and faculty to help us meet our waste goal by taking this pledge,” said Colette Sheehy, UVA’s Senior Vice President for Operations and State Government Relations, who took the pledge in March.  


plastic free 2023



The PlasticFree2023 campaign will also help reduce the University’s greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, this campaign is targeting two Sustainability Plan goals at once.

The campaign is designed to inspire behavior changes that will reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastic waste on Grounds and beyond. After signing the pledge, participants will receive a monthly #PlasticFree2023 email with various calls to action. That way, you and your peers will be committed to the same waste reduction goal at once! We hope that these challenges will initiate a culture shift toward more mindful consumption in regards to single-use plastics that can be carried through 2023 and beyond.

Take the pledge today!  

Got questions? Email UVA Sustainability  ([email protected])

Instructions in the monthly emails will detail how participants can submit their completed actions to the Office for Sustainability. For example, you may be asked to share a photo of yourself using reusable utensils. The prizes will be plastic-free gift bundles from local businesses that will inspire further plastic reduction and shifts in consumption (think: reusable bamboo sporks, fabric snack bags, mesh produce bags, etc.). Though the campaign runs throughout the entire year, sign the pledge as soon as you can to increase your chances of winning a monthly giveaway!

Plastic has become ubiquitous in our daily lives, though little thought goes into how damaging it is to the environment. We hope this campaign raises awareness and compliance with UVA’s single-use plastic policy to create a more sustainable Grounds for us all.

Follow us on Instagram at @sustainableuva to learn more about the campaign and other similar waste reduction initiatives! 


kendall colenbaugh

Kendall Colenbaugh is a 3rd-year at UVA studying Environmental Science and Environmental Thought and Practice with a minor in Public Policy and Leadership. She is a member of the Waste Minimization team at UVA’s Office for Sustainability, working to meet UVA’s ambitious waste reduction goal. She is most passionate about reducing food waste on Grounds through various advocacy and educational initiatives.