UCSC students pilot sustainability project to eliminate the use of paper towels at Stevenson College

A student-backed initiative aims to stop the use of disposable paper towels at Stevenson College. The backers hope the measure will spread to the rest of campus. 

Last Spring Quarter, the "Path to a Greener Stevenson" program, with help from the Campus Sustainability Internship Program, piloted a plan to remove all paper towels from the residence halls at Stevenson. 

Residents were given “PeopleTowels,” reusable, eco-friendly hand towels, as an alternative to single-use paper products. The Zero Waste Team, a group of dedicated students in “Path to a Greener Stevenson,” collaborated with Associate Vice Chancellor Sue Matthews, to get the project off the ground. 

David Boyle (Stevenson, Environmental Studies and Economics ‘12), a lead student on the project, worked long hours with his group, doing intensive background research, before proposing the sustainability project. To prepare for the project, the Zero Waste Team spoke with custodians and monitored how many paper towels residence halls were currently using. They estimated that the campus dormitories throw away 101 tons of paper towels each year.

Participating students say the project is timely and effective. “Conservation and sustainability are part of the fabric of this university, and removing paper towels from residence hall restrooms is just the start of a larger movement toward sustainability,” Boyle said.

Building on their past successes, participants will hand out PeopleTowels to all incoming Stevenson students for the start of the new school year. 

Stevenson’s zero paper towel goal is just one example of the student-backed sustainability initiatives at UCSC, which aims to create a “zero-waste community” and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels by the year 2020.