Local Impact, Institutional News, CAPA

Beyond Plastics Project Launched

Bennington College announced today that former Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith Enck is launching a project, Beyond Plastics, that will work with college students and community leaders around the country to reduce plastic pollution.

Beyond Plastics

Press Coverage

Beyond Plastics "will offer solutions on how to clean up plastics that are seemingly everywhere in the environment, such as the oceans, where the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre, a floating mass of plastic and other trash, has grown to about three times the size of France," reports the Times Union.

"We want to launch a grass-roots movement on single-use plastic packaging from the ground up," Judith Enck told The Bennington Banner.

Student Activism

Students in Enck's "Plastic Pollution: What Can We Do About It?" course have written letters to the editor about the need to protect the environment and marine life from the growing problem of plastic pollution.

Srichchha Pradhan '22 and Elene Charkviani '22 hosted a screening of Bag It, an award-winning environmental documentary about the impact of single-use plastic bags.

Beyond Plastics

Millions of pounds of plastic enter oceans every year, posing a major threat to fish, wildlife, and the marine environment, with unknown implications to human health. A study found that over 90% of sampled table salt brands globally found to be contaminated by microplastics. It is estimated that unless major change takes place, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, by weight. Recently, the European Parliament Approved a ban on single-use plastics to help combat this issue.

The Beyond Plastics project will be housed in Bennington College’s Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA), which works to find solutions to the most urgent problems of our time.

Enck is currently teaching at the College. She will become a Senior Fellow and Visiting Faculty member in January 2019, in addition to her work on the project. Enck will be teaching two courses in the spring term: Addressing a Growing Environmental Problem: Plastic Pollution and Plastic Pollution: What Can We Do About It?. The courses will include community engagement and work with local policymakers.

“At Bennington, students take on the complex and urgent problems facing society today, now,” said President Mariko Silver. “The Beyond Plastics project will engage students directly in the thinking and problem solving required to tackle the pressing problem of plastics pollution. We are so pleased to welcome Judith Enck to Bennington College. With Judith Enck’s experienced leadership and the insights and hard work of Bennington students, we all look forward to significant outcomes from this effort. .”

“I am excited to roll up my sleeves and work on policies to reduce plastic pollution while also training college students on civic engagement.  It is an honor to be affiliated with Bennington College and the Center for the Advancement of Public Action at the college. My entire professional life has revolved around promoting public action to protect the environment. I am looking forward to this educational experience and thank Bennington College for embracing this new environmental initiative,” said Judith Enck.

People who are interested can sign up to receive periodic information about the project.

The new project is supported by charitable donations from individuals and foundations. Persons interested in supporting the project can do so by contacting Ms. Enck at JudithEnck@Bennington.edu or 518.605.1770.


About Judith Enck

Judith Enck is currently working on climate change issues as a senior advisor at the Center for Climate Integrity. She served as Regional Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama Administration and was Deputy Secretary for the Environment in the New York Governor’s Office. Enck served as a Policy Advisor in the New York Attorney General’s Office and began her career in the environmental community, serving as Executive Director of Environmental Advocates and Senior Environmental Associate at the New York Public Interest Research Group.


About Bennington College

Bennington College is a liberal arts college in southwestern Vermont that distinguished itself early as a vanguard institution within American higher education. It was the first to include the visual and performing arts in a liberal arts education, and to integrate work in the classroom with work in the field. It is the only college to require that its students spend a term—every year—at work in the world. The College aims to educate students towards self-fulfillment and constructive social purposes in an increasingly complex global society. Bennington believes that equity, diversity, and inclusivity—in community and in curriculum—are vital to achieving those aims.


About the Center for the Advancement of Public Action

Founded in 2011, the Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) at Bennington College is furthering the educational philosophy and pedagogy of the College by connecting classroom learning to hands-on engagements with a wide range of current issues like international conflict and leadership, art in the public realm, incarceration in America, and, increasingly, our region’s food, energy, and water systems. CAPA teaches the essential capacities needed to develop an educated and emboldened citizenry. Drawing together the deep artistic and analytic resources of Bennington College and collaborating with existing public and private organizations, CAPA leverages the classroom as a new kind of laboratory for creative problem solving and innovation.