According to the website, theworldcounts.com, we consume about 5 trillion plastic bags per year. This translates to roughly 160,000 bags per second. This rapidly increasing consumption of plastics has led to the harming of natural ecosystems and the endangerment of many species. At the College of DuPage, our Honors English Composition class decided to address this issue and propose a solution at the local level. As a class, we broke up into several research groups, each tackling a different section of research related to plastic bags: its history, nationwide legislation, counterarguments, and connection to Illinois’ plastic bag legislation. The groups gathered news articles and legislative documents, as well as conducted interviews and surveys to understand plastic bag consumption and its impacts on the environment. We also participated in what we called the “Plastic Bag Challenge”, where we refrained from using plastic bags for one month. Each student recorded video diaries to recount their experiences, as well as conflicts and obstacles that surfaced. Once the research component of our project was complete, we brainstormed ways to present our findings to the public. Our goal was to persuade the State of Illinois to enact legislation banning the use of plastic bags. During our course, we studied the history of rhetoric, its persuasive appeals and the effectiveness of the classical argument. We knew our argument would use rhetoric and follow the structure of the “classical argument” to persuade our audience. However, the presentation of this structural argument was something we had to discuss as a class; we wanted something that would be able to reach a large audience. We decided to create a video and a website that would present our research and advocate for the ban of plastic bags in Illinois. We formed two main groups to finish this part of the project -- one to make the video and the other to make the website. Once we were finished, we critiqued the projects before releasing them to the public. However, our work was not done when we published the video and website. We analyzed the public feedback (or lack thereof), and the results were somewhat disappointing. Our video received about 100 views, with 14 likes and 1 dislike. The video analytics also showed that we lost most viewers one minute into the video. While the results themselves were not very promising, we gained a favorable learning experience. The results led to a class discussion on why our project was not as successful as we wanted and ways we could have improved it. Now, we hope to inform our audience at the HCIR Student Symposium about our experience with trying to develop a rhetorical argument in modern-day society.
George, Amy; Jacoby, Mikayla; O'Brien, Danielle; Oseguera, Belem; and Troncoso, Lucas, "One Month, One Class, No Bags" (2020). 2020 Honors Council of the Illinois Region. 3.