Plastic Free July

Jasmin Rostamnezhad, Austin Community College’s Sustainability Coordinator, is interviewed by ACCENT’s Editor-In-Chief, Pete Ramirez.

By Pete Ramirez

Take a look around you. How many items in your vicinity are made from plastic? 

With a quick scan around my room, I can count at least twenty things that have some sort of plastic used in the product. I’m sure your number is nearly the same, if not, more.

 Plastics have infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives. They are so ubiquitous that it’s hard for me to imagine a world without them.

Our global obsession with the low-cost and convenience of plastics has come with a hefty price to our environment. 

You’ve seen these images of huge, floating garbage patches in the ocean. Next time you go to a beach or to the Greenbelt, take a good look around and you’ll find plastic waste throughout the most popular locations. 

For those of you who are tired of the abuse we are inflicting on the Earth, Plastic Free July is a perfect opportunity for you to commit yourself to being more conscious about your plastic consumption and adopt new habits that decrease your use of plastic altogether.

Jasmin Rostamnezhad, Austin Community College’s Sustainability Coordinator, said that Plastic Free July is an “educational opportunity to bring this issue of plastic pollution to the forefront of people’s minds.”

The month-long event gives people the opportunity to take on the challenge of decreasing their plastic consumption or eliminating plastic from their lives entirely.

“It’s not about telling people, ‘Don’t consume plastic for the whole month’ and then don’t think about it,” Anne Cuzeau, a computer science major and sustainability steward at ACC’s Energy & Sustainability department, said. “It’s more about having a really big global conversation about plastic and how we can address this crisis.”

“[ACC] is always trying to come up with ways to do Plastic Free July all year long,” Rostamnezhad said.

In 2020, ACC officially became a styrofoam free campus, Rostamnezhad said. This means ACC does not purchase products with styrofoam packaging. If a product arrives with styrofoam, the energy & sustainability department will reach out and notify the vendor that the school needs their products packaged differently.

As many of us now know, recycling is not all it’s cracked up to be. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, less than 10% of plastics actually find a repurposed life as a new container, the majority of the remaining 90% is usually buried in the ground at a landfill.

The folks at ACC’s Energy & Sustainability Department have long recognized this and have taken concrete steps to embrace composting throughout it’s campuses. It’s not hard to locate a compost bin when at an ACC location.

Not only is plastic harming the environment and its biodiversity, it’s also harming the health of human beings.

“Plastic is made through the oil industry and the chemicals that are within the plastic can leach into the foods that you are eating from packaging or can leach into the foods that you heat up in the microwave,” Rostamnezhad said. “Those include a lot of cancer causing chemicals so you’re basically ingesting the plastic which is really bad for your health.”

In addition to the chemicals plastics can leach, microplastics, which are microscopic particles of plastic less than 5 millimeters, are another way plastics end up in our bodies, Rostamnezhad said.

“The average human eats a credit card of plastic a week,” Rostamnezhad said. The study by the University of Newcastle in Australia, who first made this assertion, says that most microplastics are ingested by humans via tap and bottled water.

In an effort to reduce her plastic consumption, Holli Sampson, a sophomore geology major at ACC, said that she implements creative ways to repurpose her plastic containers to organize and store her school supplies, spices, and makeup.

“It becomes a fun game to see how you can reuse an item instead of sending it on its way to somewhere you’re not sure of,” Sampson said. “Also, it saves you money!”

Rostamnezhad is currently working on an educational flyer that explains exactly what steps people should take in order to reduce plastic waste in their personal lives. 


Anne Cuzeau, sustainability steward at ACC’s Energy & Sustainability department, speaks to Pete Ramirez, ACCENT’s Editor-In-Chief.

A few simple tips shared by Rostamnezhad, Cuzeau and Sampson are:

  • Consider carrying a pouch full of compostable utensils and straws in your car so you won’t need to accept single-use plastics when you pick up food from a restaurant.
  • Contrary to common belief, the city of Austin does not recycle plastic bags. Instead, take your plastic bags to your local grocery store and they will recycle the bags for you. Go to this website to find the nearest participating grocery store.
  • Buy reusable water bottles and containers that bring you joy so you are more likely to continue to use them.

“At the end of the day, just do your best,” Cuzeau said.

If you have any questions or ideas you would like to send to ACC’s Energy & Sustainability department, email them at green@austincc.edu.

The Energy & Sustainability Department is also working with the purchasing department at ACC to develop training and rules to limit and eventually eliminate the purchasing of single-use plastic.

All three of the women interviewed for this piece brought up a common issue of pushing back against large companies that are the main culprits of plastic creation and waste. 

“How can we get the big corporations who are putting these plastics out for us to consume to scale back?” Cuzeau said. “Clearly, this is not going to come from them. It’s going to come from the bottom up.”

“I don’t think we’ll be able to make a difference until we start holding companies accountable,” Rostemnezhad said. “They need to start innovating and coming up with ideas on how to change packaging and change their products.”

We all have the power to change these corporations and that starts in our wallets and where we choose to spend our money. Look to spend your money with businesses who are making steps to reduce and eliminate their plastic consumption.

“Plastic Free July is great,” Sampson said. “It’s a start, but we should all work together to become a plastic free society as much as we can.”

Juneteenth: History to Present Day

Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day. Although it has long been celebrated in the African American community, this monumental event which is also known as “Black Independence Day” and “Texas Emancipation Day,” is beginning to see mainstream celebrations. While the holiday was informally commemorated for years, Texas became the first state to honor the day as a state holiday in 1980.

By Kimberly Dalbert

Many cities have parks where Emancipation Day celebrations took place, which also includes Austin. Austin’s Eastwoods Park prior to 1930, was referred to as Wheeler’s Grove. The site is historically significant for hosting one of the earliest Juneteenth celebrations in Austin in the latter part of the 19th century. The restrooms at the park now used to be the Eastwoods Shelter House.

On “Freedom’s Eve,” also known as the eve of January 1, 1863, at the stroke of midnight, all enslaved people in the Confederate States were declared legally free, but not Texans. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, most slaves in Texas were still unaware of their freedom and that the war had ended in April of 1865. When Union troops arrived in Galveston Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, commanding officer, District of Texas, from his headquarters in the Osterman building (Strand and 22nd St.), read ‘General Order No. 3’ on June 19, 1865. This order stated that the people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free.


Juneteenth Historical Marker, 2201 Strand Street, Galveston, TX, on June 6, 2021.


Photo Kim Dalbert


The mural was created by Houston artist Reginald C. Adams.


Photo Kim Dalbert


Eastwoods Shelter House, Eastwoods Park

Photo Austin History Center

Eastwoods Shelter House, Eastwoods Park, is now the restrooms.

Photo Kim Dalbert

Austin’s 2018 Juneteenth Parade

Photo By David Brendon Hall

Photo By Jana Birchum

June 18, 2013

Juneteenth day celebration in Texas, 1900.

Photo Austin History Center

King “fuh-fuh” X, an Austin activist who organized StarPower Black Collectives, and has led many protests over the past year. Emancipation Proclamation that leads to the Bell of Freedom.

Carver Museum, Austin, Tx, September 29, 2020.

Photo Kim Dalbert

 There are five statues, the lawmaker, the minister, the former slaves, both male and female, and the child, a daughter.

 Carver Museum, Austin, Tx, September 29, 2020

Photo Kim Dalbert

Juneteenth day celebration in Texas, 1900.

Photo Austin History Center

Taking Initiative: Why, and How Students Should Start Honoring Asian Heritage This Month

ACCENT spoke to Asian-American career counselor, Shun-Heng (Henry) Tsai, TV production major student Opal S. Framnes, and engineering student Alex Hsu who spoke on several aspects relevant to Asian American heritage month.

By: Renata Salazar

How much do you know about Asian American heritage? 

This is the question students at Austin Community College should ask themselves when learning to embrace and honor different cultures and their traditions– a crucial factor to creating a welcoming and inclusive community at ACC. ACCENT spoke to Asian-American career counselor, Shun-Heng (Henry) Tsai, TV production major student Opal S. Framnes, and engineering student Alex Hsu who spoke on several aspects relevant to Asian American heritage month.

“Something I will never forget is where I come from, my background and origin is from Asia,” Tsai said.

Tsai honors his Taiwanese heritage in America by enjoying local Asian food as well as keeping up with films and books from his culture.. There are also official and local communities with events to celebrate diversity through Asian art, political issues, food, and other traditional rituals. Tsai is also able to help students with their career goals as an Asian American career counselor at the college like Hzu.  

Hzu, an engineering major at ACC, is a taiwanese student who moved to Texas four years ago. As a minority in the U.S. Hzu consistently absorbs and learns more about different cultures, while still honoring his own.

 “A big part of our Asian culture/heritage is having a very strong family bond,” Hzu shares, “we have a lot of festivals that are meant to be celebrated with family members, such as Lunar New Year, Moon Festival, and Qingming Festival.”

Student Opal Framnes, an Taiwanese student and mother working towards a major in TV production, believes being able to interpret and explain your own culture is an important factor when letting people hear your story.

“We have to do our own part first, and create opportunities that allow people to understand our culture”  

“Everybody has different stories no matter who you are, so we need to let people listen to us”

“Even though most of our cultures are not similar at all, I think ACC, or any other institutions should do the same to educate their students to be open-minded” states Hzu.

“Different departments officiate events organized by the college that allows students and staff to participate and learn more about or even just help promote social justice.” 

Implementing these events to get to know other people from various cultures sparks a conversation where students can mutually benefit from each other’s experiences.

To shed a light on the positive and interesting aspects of Asian heritage Framnes believes “It comes down to being a better person, we are living in a different country and we can contribute to a lot of things.” 

Educating students, and ourselves is pivotal. Whether through your own research online or participating and seeking to learn about different heritages, you are taking the initiative to honor a different culture unlike your own. It is common for ACC students to come from a homogenous background. Tsai believes it is “very important to promote awareness of the idea of multiculturalism, diversity, equity and inclusiveness coming from any curriculum design”  

ACC’s Dean  made a statement regarding recent hate crimes against Asian Americans, officially demonstrating their stance of support against anti-Asia hate crimes. “The college is working to establish a new Asian-American cultural center and it has been an ongoing project now becoming part of the 2022-2025 Academic Master Plan.” 

“It will be so nice for students to know that they have a student organization that belongs to them, and feel comfortable sharing their culture.” Tsai states.

With the following steps: hiring personnel and establishing other aspects, we should look forward to seeing ACC’s Asian American Cultural Center be installed in Spring 2021. 

Alongside the new cultural center, students like Hzu are also in search of ways to get more Asian American voices involved at ACC. One of Zhu’s goals is to become a person that advocates for Asian American voices like his own. 

“People only listen to the ones that are influential, so to let more people know our heritage, the way is to succeed and use your power and influence to change what people thought about you stereotypically.”

“This is all about educating oneself,” With relevant climates pertaining to Asian Hate crimes, it is important to know what you can do to support Asian Communities and prevent racially motivated crimes, and his response was–participate. 

“Everything comes down to being aware of the prejudices and stereotypes we might usually project on to other races,” Tsai says.