Professor aims to curb plastic use, share instruction skills online

(THE PICKET) – Shannon McCarthy is a visiting graphic design teacher at Shepherd University for her third semester. Not content with merely fulfilling her bare-bones obligations as an instructor, McCarthy has dedicated time toward projects she said will  make a difference in her design education, and in the world. These projects include Fresh Meat, aimed at providing design instructors with an online space to share their experiences, and No Away, a campaign dedicated toward reducing plastic consumption to protect the environment.

McCarthy’s Fresh Meat project is designed to allow a collaboration of people in the design education field to exchange experiences online. Her vision is for it to become a network dedicated to the design education field that will allow professionals at every level to share their experience and knowledge with other teachers.

One example, she noted, would be beginning instructors, such as she considers herself, and graduate students looking to become graphic design teachers. They could learn skills from older more experienced teachers such as how to run a classroom smoothly, pace projects, and work with students, skills that would otherwise take years to develop unassisted. In return, younger teachers could provide their own ideas and solutions that older people in the field may not have considered.

She hopes that by leveling the experience gap, Fresh Meat will raise the bar for design education across the country, and the quality of education will benefit.

Her second project, No Away, is designed to raise awareness of waste and pollution, and encourage people to reduce their impact on earth. McCarthy’s love of the environment goes back to when she was in third grade, when she’d use her recess to pick up trash by the river at her school. Through research she learned about waste and consumption, but was inspired to take action by the work of activist photographer Chris Jordan. His depiction of the quantity of plastic trash that can be found in the bodies of dead albatrosses, even thousands of miles away from where any humans lived, struck a chord.

“When I saw a bird like that, in the middle of nowhere, dying of plastic, it really made me want to change,” she said.

One of No Away's promotional posters, highlighting the shared responsibility each of us has for litter and pollution, and the damage its caused to life on this planet.
BRIANNA GODDARD/ The Picket
One of No Away’s promotional posters, highlighting the shared responsibility each of us has for litter and pollution, and the damage its caused to life on this planet.

McCarty researched ways she could help communities reduce waste. While studying at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, she collaborated with a local organization named Waite House and worked with students between 11 to 16, because she felt that they were young enough to still be developing their views of the world, but  old enough to understand and appreciate her goals. They helped her develop ways to market her project and produce the promotional material for her efforts, including pins, reusable bottles and posters.

McCarthy’s “ultimate dream” is for the kids who helped her develop her campaign to change their behavior by avoiding plastics. For example, they could choose to use bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic one, she said.

McCarthy is working on updating the website so donations can be made to support her campaign’s expansion, improve community impact, and find new voices to spread the message and distribute No Away’s material. No Away’s materials includes locally-sourced reusable water bottles, buttons, and posters. Once complete, No Away.com will help link users to resources aimed at promoting reduced plastic consumption. She also runs a blog recording the amount of plastic she uses every day to hold herself accountable and show the improvements she’s made to her lifestyle.

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