The War on Plastic: How Student Environmentalists Are Combatting the Human Footprint

Mimi Levine’s morning routine isn’t too different from other college students’, but it comes with a twist. When she wakes up, she brushes her teeth with her homemade toothpaste, puts on the deodorant she creates using online recipes, and, if she doesn’t have time for a shower, pats her hair down with a concoction of cornstarch and cocoa powder — and that’s before she starts her day. She has a slew of unusual practices, such as upcycling old chopsticks to use as stirrers, collecting wasted straws from restaurants and creating art out of litter. Levine has been called “quirky,” but everything she does has a purpose: to reduce the amount of waste she produces.

Levine, who is from Colorado, isn’t alone, but people like her are few and far between. Only about 34.5 percent of waste in the U.S. is recycled, and the average American generates about 4.35 pounds of waste per day — over 1,500 pounds per person each year. This statistic worries Levine, who calls plastic her “worst enemy.”

But Levine wasn’t always conscious of how her actions impacted the environment. It wasn’t until she studied abroad in Copenhagen that she realized just how far behind the U.S. was ecologically. “[My roommates in Denmark] were so surprised that I didn’t compost and that it wasn’t a normal thing for families in the U.S. to do, and they were surprised about just little things I’d do that I didn’t even realize were wasteful,” Levine says.

Levine began researching how the human footprint affects the planet. What she found were harrowing statistics, such as the fact that one hamburger patty uses as much water as two months of showering and that Americans use enough straws in one day to fill up 125 school busses, according to NPS. “I can’t even imagine one bus full of straws,” Levine says. “How is this possible and how is this OK? It’s crazy to think that there’s an island out in ocean that’s twice size of Texas made completely out of plastic, and I just don’t understand how people are OK with it.”

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A Smash Hit: How a Video Game Became Competitive Sport

It started with a fist bump. That was Robert Fraser and Daniel Coppock’s way of wishing each other luck before their big fight. A small crowd began to gather, pressing close to get a better view of the action. With $60 and the glory of being victor on the line, Fraser and Coppock ignored the onlookers as they turned toward the blocky ‘90s TV, gripping their GameCube controllers in concentration as the screen lit up with two large, bold words: “Ready. Go!” And the fight began.

This is a weekly routine for the two. They meet every Thursday at Merchants Pub & Plate along with 30-40 others to compete in the local Super Smash Bros tournament. Fraser, 19, and Coppock, 18, are undisputedly the best players in the house, and nearly every week they find themselves going head-to-head in the grand finals. This childhood game had become a competitive sport that brought them together.

Super Smash Bros is a fighter video game that was first released for Nintendo 64 in 1999. The game got so popular it resulted in three sequels and a worldwide competitive scene that somehow found its way to Lawrence.

“My goal was to always build a community that could sustain an event series that would make people from around the region travel to us,” says Lux Fukato, a University of Kansas graduate and a key player in Lawrence’s Smash Bros scene. “These were especially important since the alternative meant traveling 4-8 hours to other places in order to play in a quality tournament.”

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