Trinity community votes how to eliminate disposable plastics using online tool

Trinity College Dublin has trialled the use of a new social engagement platform, OneStepCloser, in order to poll the campus population on its decision to eliminate disposable plastics on campus.

The University had agreed to replace or eliminate disposable plastics, and to phase out disposable plastic containers and utensils over the next two years.  In order to help decide which area to focus on first, the College community was asked for their input with the question ‘Which plastic item should we start with?’

“This groundbreaking exercise produced results which were beyond expectations, returning almost 3,800 votes from the campus population and beyond.  This represents an engagement of over 17% of the campus community”, commented Trinity’s Sustainability Advisor, Michele Hallahan.

“The OneStepClose engagement tool helped us test a new way of empowering and getting direct feedback from students and staff which we are now implementing. I am delighted with its success”, Michele continued.

Eliminating disposable plastics with the Provost Patrick Prendergast, from left, Moira O’Brien, Catering Manager, Michele Hallahan, Sustainability Advisor, Joanna Mulkeen, OneStepCloser and student Caitríona De Búrca, TCD Plastic Solutions co-ordinator

The campaign, which ran during the last week in April, asked voters to choose between prioritising the a) elimination of plastic cups from the Buttery, b) replacing plastic straws at the Pavilion with paper straws, and c) exchanging plastic disposable cutlery with compostable cutlery.

When the votes were counted, it was clear that plastic cups in the Buttery were the main offender, and will be phased out during the summer. However, as a result of the strong engagement, all three options will be tackled, with a plan to have them replaced by September 1st 2018.

Environmental and sustainability groups at Trinity were first engaged in the campaign, which saw an immediate burst of activity within minutes of the vote being released.  The vote was then extended to the campus population at large and again, data showed a spike in activity within minutes.

The OneStepCloser platform, created by Trinity alumna Joanna Mulkeen, is being trialled in a number of organisations around Ireland, with Trinity being the largest by far.  “This was the first time such a campaign was run in Trinity and is a clear testament to the power to influence change directly. Within the first 12 hours of the first link to vote being shared in Trinity there was over 400 votes from students and staff. At one point, 622 users were present on the platform, exercising their vote to tell Trinity which item should go first”, explained Joanna.

Trinity has a number of sustainable initiatives, to find out more please visit our Sustainability webpages  and our Sustainability Network Facebook Page 

Media Contact:

Sally-Anne Fisher, Head of Communications | fishers@tcd.ie | +353 1 896 3606