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Beach clean-up part of Business course

It may not look like studying, but these four students walking up the beach are looking for trash as part of a Consumer Marketing class. They are Claudia Radke, Brittany McDaniel, Aaron Paul and Business alumnus Dana Sotero.

It was early. The clean, flat expanse of beautiful sand stretched for miles in front of the group of students who walked barefoot in the light breeze. An orange sun rose over the breaking surf.

Pretty nice way to study. Which is exactly what a Marketing class was doing at New Smyrna Beach in September — studying consumer behavior from the bottom up.

The students didn’t have surfboards and towels. Instead, they were armed with gloves and bags to pick up trash as they discussed its journey from manufacture to store to consumer to the sand.

“I was surprised at how pristine the beach looked,” said senior Camille Bodden, “yet towards the back of the beach we found more than 50 cigarette butts and many plastic wrappers on that stretch.”

“It’s upsetting to me that beachgoers have such little regard for our beaches and environment to just throw their trash onto the shoreline and into the water,” said senior Aaron Paul.

“I didn’t realize how much gets left on a beach,” said senior Claudia Radke. “We had a fairly heavy bag at the end and the entire group picked up about 100 pounds. I found mostly broken up pieces of children’s toys and lollipop sticks.”

The beach cleanup was part of Ocean Conservancy’s international coastal protection program and integrated as a public service project into Dr. Michelle DeMoss’ Consumer Dynamics course. The course is designed by DeMoss, the Business School’s Marketing Department chair, to help students understand basic concepts and theories of consumer behavior and apply them to marketing strategy. One focus is “green” consumer behavior regarding product consumption and disposal.

The beach gave up more than lollipop sticks.

Some 1,330 items were collected by the class and their companions. A toothbrush, a syringe, scads of food-related items, hundreds of tobacco-related items (mostly cigarette and tobacco butts), hundreds of containers, fireworks debris, fishing line, building materials, light bulbs, rope, metal pop tops, 30 balloons, eight condoms, 17 pieces of clothing and 138 small pieces of plastic ended up in students’ trash bags.

All that. Put there by consumers.

Consumers would be more aware if producers of beach-related products, and promoters of the beach, would incorporate messages in advertising about conscientious disposal of trash, said Bodden of Grand Cayman, a Marketing minor.

“It takes a whole community to keep our beaches clean,” she said. “I think it’s not only my responsibility to change my consumption/disposal patterns, but also the responsibility of companies to work towards sustainability.”

“Biodegradable products will increase as green marketing grows in popularity, said Radke, a Marketing major from Lake City.

“The responsibility is in all our hands because in the end, the shoreline’s cleanliness affects us all,” said Paul, a Marketing and Finance major from Philadelphia, Pa. “We need to respect these beautiful public areas and keep them clean so our children and grandchildren can enjoy them as we have.”

Field trips to Volusia County’s landfill and to a large recycling operation are part of the course, said DeMoss. Students explore consumer reasoning about using green products by conducting detailed interviews using concepts learned in class to better understand dynamics that shape marketing strategies.

Green marketing of environmentally safe products is a “powerful trend in the global marketplace,” said DeMoss. The beach project helps demonstrate the importance of weighing the impact of marketing decisions on customers, clients, partners, and society, and it supports Stetson University’s core value of personal and social responsibility.

Participating in the international coastal cleanup, she said, reinforces the message of a global effort, and that the issue is of increasing concern.

by Ronald Williamson