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Winter ScholarSip continues Theme of Climate Change & Sustainability with “Food for Thought” Discussion featuring Professor Caroline Schauer

April 19, 2023

The Drexel Libraries winter ScholarSip event, featuring Professor Caroline Schauer, continued the event series’ exploration of the theme Climate Change & Sustainability. The virtual event held Monday, March 20 featured “food for thought” on Dr. Schauer’s research and expertise in creating sustainable plastics out of food waste.


The virtual event drew a diverse audience of 37 faculty, staff, students and community members hailing from the College of Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, College of Nursing and Health Professions, College of Arts and Sciences, Dornsife School of Public Health and more.


Attendees were eager to engage with Professor Schauer's expertise as the head of Drexel's Natural Materials and Polymer Processing Group. Primarily focusing on research surrounding natural polymer processing and active fibers, Dr. Schauer explained how her lab uses waste like cranberry pumice from flavored beverages and snacks to develop usable filaments. Professor Schauer’s engaging speaking style enabled her to communicate complex chemistry, captivating the audience and sparking a lively session.


The session also inspired attendees to take action. Dr. Schauer repeatedly emphasized that a major culture shift is needed to change perspectives about plastics and recycling. Unfortunately, only 9% of recycling efforts have been successful since 1980, even though the production of plastics has gone up from two million tons in 1950 to 381 million tons in 2015.


“Let us not forget Tupperware parties!... At that time, we were producing two million tons of plastics. Fast forward to 2015, we find plastics in all aspects of our lives,” said Professor Schauer, Margaret C. Burns Chair in Engineering and Interim Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement at Drexel. “Even more so during the recent pandemic, [with] the food and other items being delivered. We have containers and packages that are everywhere.”


During the event, Professor Schauer emphasized the importance of giving plastics a “second life” by buying secondhand when possible and urged participants to consider the impact of disposing of such items.


“Craigslist is fantastic. If you have an ugly lamp that doesn’t fit in your aesthetic, there’s somebody out there who might like it. So, by reusing it or selling it to someone else, the product gets a second life, ” she said. “We have to think of plastic not as a disposable item, but an item with value. By switching our focus from the use to the end of life, we can then think about the whole cycle.”


The discussion left attendees with a deeper understanding of the critical issues facing our global ecosystems and the need for collaborative efforts across disciplines, whether through research or by making sustainable choices in our daily lives.


Sessions like these emphasize the critical role of libraries as hubs of knowledge and intellectual exchange, underscoring the vital role they play in fostering scholarly engagement, interdisciplinary learning, and community collaboration. The Drexel Libraries is committed to organizing events like ScholarSip to promote learning beyond the classroom and provide valuable resources to improve our world and inspire a life-long quest for learning.


Additional Resources Shared During the Event:


Missed the event? Watch the complete recording of the session on the Drexel Libraries’ YouTube page.


About ScholarSip

Now in its 11th year, ScholarSip is an annual event series hosted by the Drexel University Libraries that seeks to nurture Drexel’s intellectual life and cross-campus community through informal gatherings where faculty and professional staff exchange ideas sparked by greater awareness of interdisciplinary research. Each event includes social time to build acquaintances and a short “food for thought” presentation from a member of the Drexel community. ScholarSip provides an opportunity for members of the Drexel community to gather for conversation – along with a toast to the end of the academic term.

For more information about ScholarSip or to suggest a future topic, please contact Libraries Communications Manager Stacy Stanislaw at