Carlos Figueroa, a physics teacher at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California, could no longer stand the waste of the dozens of dry-erase markers he was throwing out every semester. When he considered all the plastic markers being discarded every semester by all of the college instructors combined, that’s when he turned his Science Division onto refillable dry-erase markers, marking another step in the Cabrillo College’s systematic efforts to go green. “I’ve been teaching for 14 years,” explained Figueroa doing a quick mental calculation of the number of markers he has gone through, “Just imagine what this is doing nationwide.” Using a dry-erase marker that is refillable is a ‘no-brainer’ according to Figueroa. Since then, approximately half of the instructors in the Natural and Applied Sciences Division have opted for AusPen non-toxic, refillable markers – a step that has significantly reduced waste at Cabrillo College.
“Some people are very sensitive to the toxins in regular dry-erase markers,” explains Figueroa, acknowledging one of the benefits of choosing a non-toxic marker, “but what really hit me was the waste of disposable markers. There was a drawer in one of the classrooms that had hundreds of used, dried markers. That drawer was the real thing for me in realizing the amount of waste.” Figueroa discovered that a colleague was using AusPen eco-friendly markers, a dry-erase marker made of recycled materials that is non-toxic and refillable. Five years later, Figueroa continues to use AusPen markers and persuade his colleagues to make the switch.
Using a refillable marker is a no-brainer. The students say: ‘That’s an obvious choice.’
To make a stronger case for the reusable product, Figueroa compared the cost of purchasing disposable markers each semester versus refilling his AusPen markers. In addition to reduced waste and a non-toxic alternative, the cost savings convinced the administration to offer this alternative in addition to the regular, single-use markers. Now the Natural and Applied Sciences Division of Cabrillo College makes refill inks available for its instructors, saving approximately $600 per semester in the Physics Department alone.
Non-Toxic, Refillable AusPen Markers
Despite the cost savings, Figueroa says that given a refillable option, “It is wrong to use disposable markers. [AusPen markers] are easy to refill. I do it in front of my students because it doesn’t take long, and they see it as part of my routine.” The students themselves see the refillable marker as an obvious choice. “There is a drive in Santa Cruz, as in other parts of California, to be as green as possible, to search out alternative products and practices. And this fits right in,” explains Figueroa.
In late 2012, a sustainable purchasing resolution was passed by the Student Senate at Cabrillo College requiring all clubs, their members, and the Student Senate to purchase and use sustainable products, not only for the sake of those on campus, but also in consideration of “the health of those who produce” the consumer goods. Sustainable options for plates, utensils and napkins include products that are biodegradable, (such as potato and sugar cane-based products), washable, or recyclable.
Cabrillo College is going green with a diversity of other initiatives, including a bike sharing program, an online carpooling option, and GreenSteps, a program which, among other things, focuses on energy savings and sustainable practices, campus-wide. To really mark the campus as a leader in sustainability, Cabrillo College opened the new, Solari Green Technology Center in Fall 2012, which has achieved the ‘Platinum’ Certified level under the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.
As Cabrillo College continues to build its way into a more sustainable future, its instructors are learning how to leave their mark, without accumulating untold marker waste. For a physics instructor who is imagining the waste savings over the next 10 years, he can continue to teach his courses a little less haunted by the drawer of dead markers.
For more information on the sustainability initiatives at Cabrillo College, go to: http://www.cabrillo.edu/associations/climate/
For more information about AusPen eco-friendly markers, go to: http://www.ecosmartworld.com