New College students participate in the “Plastic Pollution Project.”
New College students participate in the “Plastic Pollution Project.”

By Abby Weingarten

With a packed schedule of park and beach cleanups, the “Plastic Pollution Project” is set to be a major eco-conscious endeavor this April at New College.

Student volunteers will collect castaway items—such as microplastics and other nonbiodegradable tidbits—and transform them into a mural on the boathouse shed along the Caples Campus.

“This mural will be a permanent piece to express the need for changing behaviors to help the environment, and for the students to leave a lasting legacy,” said AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Lapton, who is one of the project organizers. “Also, we have a ton of people from Sarasota and Manatee counties who go to that part of campus to do watersports, and these people will hopefully be inspired when they see this to respect our earth.”

The idea for the mural was actually born in October, when New College first-year Bristen Groves uncovered several pieces of brightly-colored microplastics along the Sarasota Bay shoreline during a “Kayaking & Clean The Bay” event. The findings left her inspired to make art. And the creativity of Groves and her classmates inspired Lapton to spearhead more environmentally-focused events at New College.

Students can earn volunteer service hours for attending these events, which they can add to their professional resumes. Also, the office of Student Activities and Campus Engagement (SA[u]CE)—of which Lapton is a part—often gives out prizes to students for participation. Plus, it is just an excellent, open-air opportunity to simultaneously connect with peers and help the planet.

“This project was created to help the environment and help change people’s habits, but it turned into a way to help students due to the effects of the pandemic,” Lapton said. “The project is going to give students a chance to get out of the house and meet other students, all while learning about the environment.”

The April cleanup lineup kicks off on Thurs. April 8 and will include spots like Newtown, Indian Beach and Myakka River State Park, as well as the New College campus and public beach accesses.

Site cleanup schedule (meet outside Sudakoff Conference Center 30 minutes before to carpool):
10 a.m. to noon Thurs. April 8 (Location TBD)
9 to 11 a.m. Sat. April 10 (Newtown)
10 a.m. to noon Mon. April 12 (Indian Beach)
9 a.m. to noon Wed. April 14 (Myakka River State Park)
10 to 11:30 a.m. Thurs. April 15 (New College campus)
10 a.m. to noon Fri. April 16 (public beach access)

Mural-building schedule (meet at the boathouse on the Caples Campus):
10 a.m. to noon Mon. April 19, Wed. April 21, Mon. April 26, Wed. April 28 and Fri. April 30.

Any students who are interested in participating in the project should contact Sarah Lapton at

Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.

Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is a top-ranked public liberal arts college and the state’s Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in arts, humanities and sciences, a master’s degree program in applied data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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