Colleges for Change kicking butts

PLATTSBURGH - Some people don't consider cigarette butts to be litter. Others don't realize the true health and environmental issues related to cigarettes. Colleges for Change is working to change that.

The program, which is funded by the New York State Department of Health Tobacco Control Program, has been working with the State University of New York at Plattsburgh since August.

"The ultimate goal is to make the campus to tobacco-free," explained Linda LaFave, program coordinator.

However, LaFave said small steps have to be taken, with the school and community meeting more goals than anticipated.

"What we had to do was work with fraternities and sororities, work with all clubs on campus, work with the sports," she said. "We had to work off-campus with community groups."

Recently, the city of Plattsburgh council made the decision to have all of the 17 beaches, parks and playgrounds in the city go tobacco-free, something far beyond what LaFave had expected.

"We're very fortunate that the council made [them] tobacco-free all at once," she said. "That was supposed to be spread out over three years. One beach, one park, one playground."

The fraternities and sororities also made large strides as well, with all of them signing a "No Thanks Big Tobacco" policy.

"Which means they will not accept cash contributions, sponsorships or in-kind donations," explained LaFave. "It was only supposed to be four per year and we were able to get those all at once as well."

To show their commitment to changing the campus, all of the sororities and fraternities from SUNY Plattsburgh participated in a city-wide clean-up April 17. Enough cigarette butts were picked up to fill a small aquarium.

"We said this would be a great way for them to be able to take part in the community and they were very, very excited to be able to do that," LaFave said. "They do a lot of work, but I don't think they get a lot of credit for the work they do."

The Colleges for Change program has completed so many goals in its first year, the program may become a model for other colleges, LaFave explained.

"It's going to be an example of what you can accomplish when the colleges and community work together," she said.

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