Here is an informative blog from Captain Planet Foundation about young eco-activists. Hopefully you'll be inspired. Why don't you join us?
From petitioning schools to cut single-use plastics, to speaking out for the environment all over the globe, these young heroes are combining their powers to take pollution down to zero!
1. Hannah Testa
Hannah Testa is the founder of Hannah4Change, an organization dedicated to fighting issues that impact the planet. An environmental activist and speaker, she partners with businesses and government to influence them to develop more sustainable practices. Hannah has received numerous honors and awards, including the Teen Earth Day Hero by CNN, the Young Superhero for Earth Award by Captain Planet Foundation, the Action for Nature International Young Eco-Hero Award, the Gloria Barron Prize. Learn More about Hannah
2. Erin Schrode
Erin Schrode started Teens Turning Green at thirteen years old with her mother, Judi Shils. Through Teens Turning Green (now Turning Green), Schrode is leading the efforts to raise awareness about global sustainability while influencing young adults to make the transition to utilize eco-friendly brands in their everyday lives. Turning Green gets teens involved through a series of campaigns and projects, such as Project Green Dorm and the #ConsciousCollege Tour campaign. They also promote advocacy of environmental health through campaigning and lobbying for change that will protect the Earth. In Currently, Schrode is helping the people of Puerto Rico with the #ChefsForPuertoRico campaign. Working with Chef José Andrés, Schrode is the COO of #ChefsForPuertoRico, World Central Kitchen’s disaster relief initiative in response to Hurricane Maria. Since being there, Schrode and her team have been able to prepare and distribute 3.3 million balanced meals across the island of Puerto Rico. Learn More about Erin
3. Steff McDermot
Estefania (Steff) McDermot has stepped forward as a fierce defender of the blue seas surrounding her home of the Cayman Islands. For generations, her family has dived, fished, and built boats to live on the waters teeming with life, but today it’s more common for her to see plastic floating across the harbor, dead coral, algae blooms, and mountains of trash on the beaches. Steff attended the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp to build international support to back her work to pressure the island nation to take meaningful action to address the problem. In partnership with Plastic Free Cayman, Steff created the 345 Pledge that provides businesses and individuals a stepwise plan to reducing their plastic consumption by committing to make 3 immediate changes, 4 changes within 6 months, and 5 changes within the next year towards achieving a plastic-free Cayman Island. Learn More about Steff
4. Carter and Olivia Ries
In 2009, Carter and Olivia Ries created One More Generation, an organization seeking to keep endangered species protected for one more generation and beyond. Through OMG, they seek to advocate for wildlife and environmental issues, as well as empower youth around the world to stand up and help create solutions for the pressing issues of today. They have made their voices heard on several platforms across the globe, including a presentation at TEDxYouth and an address to the United Nations on World Wildlife Day. Learn More about Carter and Olivia
5. Chloe Mei Espinosa
Chloe Mei Espinosa’s passion for scuba diving among tropical reefs inspired her work to protect the oceans by reducing plastic straw pollution. In April 2018, the then 11-year-old researched and created her own logo and website, skiptheplasticstraw.com, as part of a 6th grade project to educate people about the harmful effects of single-use plastic straws. On her website, she created a Skip the Plastic Straw pledge counter for people to commit to not using singleuse plastic straws. To date, more than 800 people have signed the pledge! After attending the 2018 Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, Chloe Mei lobbied her school district to go “straw-free”; in July they agreed, and it was announced all 32 schools of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District would stop using plastic straws and instead offer paper straws on request. Not satisfied with getting just her own school district to go straw-free, in August Chloe Mei managed to convince Saddleback Valley Unified School District to stop using single-use plastic straws in all 34 schools in that district!. Learn More about Chloe Mei
6. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, (his first name pronounced ‘Shoe-Tez-Caht’) is a young indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist, and on the front lines of a global youth-led environmental movement. At the early age of six, Xiuhtezcatl began speaking to crowds at conferences and demonstrations from the Rio+20 United Nations Summit in Rio de Janeiro to addressing the General Assembly at the United Nations New York. He is the Youth Director of Earth Guardians an organization of young activists, artists and musicians from across the globe stepping up as leaders and working together to create positive concrete action in their communities to address climate change. He also uses original eco hiphop music to educate and inspire his generation into action. He is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Obama administration for their failure to protect the atmosphere and their future. He has worked locally to get pesticides out of parks, coal ash contained and moratoriums on fracking in his state.
Xiuhtezcatl has traveled across the nation and to many parts of the world educating his generation about the state of the planet they are inheriting and inspiring them into action to protect the Earth. His movement has grown to over 1,500 youth lead Earth Guardian crews globally working on the frontline to combat climate change. His work has been featured on PBS, Showtime, National Geographic, Rolling Stones, Upworthy, The Guardian, Vogue, CNN, MSNBC, HBO and many more. In 2013, Xiuhtezcatl received the 2013 United States Community Service Award from President Obama, and was the youngest of 24 national change-makers chosen to serve on the President’s youth council. Learn More about Xiuhtezcatl
7. Dyson Chee
An avid water advocate, Dyson Chee has a deep passion for the ocean surrounding his home on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Dyson believes that the world is his classroom where he has the opportunity to explore his interests of ocean conservation, scientific research, and politics. While interning at a world-renowned coral research lab and at the Hawaii State Capitol, Dyson started Project O.C.E.A.N after attending Ocean Heroes Bootcamp in 2018, with the goal of rallying youth support for environmental issues that affect the health of the ocean and local community. His greatest hope is to inspire youth to be engaged citizens and to make a positive difference in their community. Dyson currently serves as an ambassador to Philippe Cousteau Jr.’s EarthEcho International and for Student Voice. In June 2018, he was awarded The National Billy Michal Student Leadership Award by the National WWII Museum for his strong record of volunteerism, school and community activism, and helping to implement creative solutions to recognized problems. Learn More about Dyson
8. Ta’Kaiya Blaney
Ta’Kaiya Blaney is an actor, singer-songwriter and Native Children’s Survival (NCS) Youth Ambassador from Tla A’min Nation, Turtle Island. From the Idle No More Movement to the United Nations Ta’Kaiya has performed and spoken at grass-roots Indigenous gatherings and rallies and at International conferences and forums across the globe. Ta’Kaiya’s engagements have included, the TUNZA United Nations Children and Youth Conference on the Environment, the United Nations Rio+20 Conference, and the United Nations Permanent Forum On Indigenous Issues. In 2014, Ta’Kaiya was the youngest keynote speaker for Powershift (an annual global youth summit focusing on climate change policy) at Pittsburg, P.A. and Victoria, B.C. and the youngest Indigenous youth to present an intervention at the United Nations Headquarters Permanent Forum On Indigenous where she introduced the NCS “Indigenous Children’s Fund”. Learn More about Ta’Kaiya
9. Robbie Bond
Robbie Bond is truly a young champion for our nation’s beautiful National Parks & Monuments. At just 9 years old, Robbie founded Kids Speak For Parks, an organization created to stand up and speak for national parks and monument, largely in response to the Trump administration’s executive order that stands to threaten 27 national monuments. His goal is to build a chorus of young voices for those national treasures. Robbie attended the 2018 Ocean Heroes Bootcamp and soon formed a partnership with Klean Kanteen and Litterati to extend his campaign to eliminate single-use plastics in national parks and marine protected areas. “Our government needs to hear from us, the youngest amongst us, that our national parks are not for sale,” Robbie said about his work. “You can’t get the parks back once they are taken away.” Robbie recently received the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes and the Action for Nature International Eco Hero Award. Learn More about Robbie
10. Melati and Isabel Wijsen
Sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen started campaigning against plastic bags in Bali when they were 10 and 12 years old. They founded an organization called Bye Bye Plastic Bags and started a petition to get plastic bags banned from their island. Permission was obtained to collect signatures behind customs and immigration at Bali’s airport and, eventually, they got over 100,000 signatures.
For over a year, Bali’s Governor failed to meet Melati and Isabel’s request for a hearing. In frustration, the sisters threatened a hunger strike. Twenty-four hours later, they were escorted to meet with the governor. During that meeting, the governor signed a memorandum to help the people of Bali say no to plastic bags by January 2018. Additionally, the Indonesian government has pledged to invest $1 billion towards reducing marine waste by 70% by 2025, as part of the UN’s Clean Seas program. Bye Bye Plastic Bags has grown into an internationally recognized organization, and has teams all over the world working to git rid of plastic bags. Learn More about Melati and Isabel
11. Coda Christopherson
A surfer and advocate, Coda Christopherson is an active defender of the planet’s oceans. After attending the 2018 Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, she left determined to convince her school to stop offering plastic straws to her peers. Coda started advocating in her community and at her school. Her presentation of “Plastic Pollution SUCKS but you don’t have to” resonated and the Manhattan Beach Unified School District agreed to go strawless! To guide and help others that are trying to do the same thing, Coda established Strawless School, an initiative to stop the use and disposal of plastic straws at schools by educating students about their impact on the ocean and providing eco-friendly alternatives. Her first eco-event was held at the Manhattan Beach Pier where she enlisted 800 community members to take the Strawless School Pledge and stop using single-use plastic straws and flatware. In return, she gifted 800 sets of reusable metal forks, spoons, and straws. Together with the Strawless School Squad, an organic supporter group that sprang from her campaign, she plans on educating and inspiring other schools to go strawless. Coda’s compassionate nature and belief that the ocean has rights remains the heartbeat of her work. She is grateful to live in a world in which she can use her voice as a force for good. Learn More about Coda
12. Charles Orgbon III
Charles Orgbon III’s journey as an environmentalist began in 2008 — he was only 12-years-old. Charles noticed his school’s littered campus, and wanted to organize an effort to resolve the problem. He later developed Greening Forward, which would become a leading organization in the United States devoted to training and funding environmental leaders, ages 5-25. Greening Forward has distributed over tens of thousands of dollars in funding to youth environmental projects that plant trees, build compost bins, install rain barrels, monitor streams, recycle tons of waste, and advocate for a number of other environmental issues.
In addition, Charles completed an Arctic Science Expedition that has helped informed his role as an informal environmental educator, has integrated his award-winning blueprint for youth environmental leadership into Chilean and Colombian school systems, and consults numerous governmental and international agencies on their youth engagement strategy around environmental issues. Now, Charles is leveraging his environmental organizing and non-profit leadership to effect change in corporations. Charles supports Deloitte’s Sustainability Advisory and Environmental Liability practices, helping his Fortune 500 and public sector clients understand and ultimately reduce their environmental impact.
Taking care of Mother Earth isn't just about education, it also includes action! Here is a case study from two middle schools in Minnesota that changed out plastic utensils and bowls. They had some valuable lessons learned, but also I should note they saved money!
The full case study can be found here:
This blog was first posted on the Plastic Pollution Coalition website: https://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/pft/2019/3/21/hawaiis-plastic-beach
By Hannah Testa, age 16, founder of Hannah4Change
The first time I saw the beach, I was enchanted. I was resting on a beach in Florida and ran my hands through the sand, saying “beach” for the first time. I splashed in the waves with my dad and said hello to the tiny fish jumping out of the water. It was right at that moment that I fell in love with the ocean and all of the life that it supports. However, that beautiful beach I visited as a toddler might not exist by the time I'm a mother.
Recently, I was visiting Hawaii at Kahuku Beach in Oahu and was shocked at how much plastic washed up along the shoreline there.
Joining my dear friend, Robbie Bond, age 11 and founder of Kids Speak for Parks, and also the hardworking organization called Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, we cleaned up about a half-mile stretch of beach in about 2 hours. Us kids used handmade screens to filter out the sand and retain plastic particles while other volunteers picked up the larger pieces with their hands. We collected about 500 pounds of plastic in a short period of time!
What is most sad is that this beach is cleaned often by volunteers, and yet we know the plastic is expected to return. On one hand, cleaning up the beach seemed frustrating because we know unless we tackle the source of the problem and turn off the tap, plastic will wash ashore again. But on the other hand, we can’t just leave the plastic there either!
What did we find? The most common items we saw today were bottle caps, pieces of fishing nets, and toothbrushes. There were also a lot of unrecognizable plastics. One of the interesting things I picked up was the bottom of a plastic bottle that had dozens of little bite marks taken from it. It was apparent that fish were eating from this plastic bottle! I’m glad I am vegan and no longer eat fish!
In fact, we saw four large sea turtles resting on the beach. One of them was resting on a big piece of plastic trash. It illustrated for me that plastics are a common threat to animal species in our oceans.
What didn’t we see? We didn’t see anything that wasn’t made of plastic because any biodegradeable products had already broken down. The problem with plastic is that it isn't biodegradable, meaning it can't be broken down into organic compounds. Instead, it breaks up into small, toxic microplastics that are eaten by fish.
Our dependence on plastic products needs to end if we want to protect our oceans and our beautiful beaches. We all need to see what we can do as citizens and consumers to reduce our plastic consumption, to recycle properly, and to voice our concerns loudly to politicians and business leaders about this growing environmental crisis.
No matter where we live, the health of the ocean affects all of us. By taking the steps to curb our plastic consumption and “turn off the tap,” we can help ensure that future toddlers will have an ocean to fall in love with.
Hannah Testa is a sustainability advocate, international speaker, and founder of Hannah4Change, an organization dedicated to fighting issues that impact the planet. Hannah4Change is a project of Plastic Pollution Coalition.
February 12th was the premiere of a Public Service Announcement/Video titled "Anything Could Happen". I was so honored that MusEffect invited me to participate in their PSA. We worked on this video several months ago and frankly, I almost forgot about it, but so glad to let everyone see the final production! Thanks to the beautiful young dancers, artists, and creative people that inspired me! #anythingcouldhappen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHQjGbt7zOU
It’s pretty rare when a respected company asks for your input, but it is especially rare to be asked to be part of a small team to help co-create new products. Yet that is exactly what happened to me about a year ago. At that time, the cereal company Kashi asked me and 4 other youth from across the nation to help them create healthy new breakfast cereals aimed at kids.
Kashi is a 30-year-old food pioneer that produces nutritious plant-based foods including cereals, entrees and snacks with healthy ingredients. They are headquartered near San Diego, CA.
Instead of trying to guess what kids want in a cereal, Kashi went straight to the source and collaborated with a group of kids who are passionate about food and the planet, the Kashi Crew, to create foods that both kids and parents would love. The result is a collection of flavorful Kashi by Kids organic cereals – each featuring cool shapes and great tastes - but also superfood ingredients like chickpeas and red lentils.
The new cereals launched in August, and are available in three flavors:
• Kashi by Kids Berry Crumble – Crispy purple corn puffs are combined with tasty apple & strawberry flavor-filled pillows made with chickpeas to create a berry-licious and healthy bowl of goodness.
• Kashi by Kids Honey Cinnamon – Honey, cinnamon, red lentils and sweet apple come together in a nourishing combination of crispy swirled puffs and tasty filled pillows for a spoonful of fun and yum.
• Kashi by Kids Cocoa Crisp – Crispy cocoa bites made with chickpeas and filled pillows made with Fair Trade certified cocoa create a delightful start to the day.
Each cereal is Non-GMO Project Verified, sustainably-sourced, features a simple, organic ingredient list, and delivers diverse plant-based nutrition. There are at least 18g of whole grains, 3g fiber and 8g of sugar or less per serving, making them kid and parent approved. And 2 of the 3 cereals are vegan!
I created life-long friends working with Kashi and the Kashi Crew. Kashi did a great job carefully assembled a team of Gen Z leaders from ages 12-17. Each member brought a fresh perspective with their specialized skills in food, nutrition, the arts and sustainability. Their knowledge and insight went into everything from the ingredients to the flavor combinations to the packaging and the names of the new Kashi by Kids cereals. I really enjoyed learning from each of these inspiring young leaders and getting to know about their journey and passion in life.
I am so impressed by both the incredible team at Kashi as well as my peers on the Kashi Crew. Kashi fully involved us in every step of the process, and I am so proud of the end results. What made this project unique and exciting was that a big company truly set out to involve youth in important decisions, and I hope this starts a trend with other businesses of involving the next generation.
So please give these cereals a try, and more importantly, use the product as a way to help your children understand where their food comes from and how healthy food choices can positively impact themselves, their communities, and the planet. I hope our collective passion for food and planet inspires you to make a positive impact in the world.
Kashi by Kids cereals are now available at grocers nationwide.
This is an article I wrote in the Golden Retriever Rescue of Atlanta newsletter for July 2018...
It was a beautiful crisp and clear Sunday afternoon, and my parents told my brother and I that we were going to visit one of my Dad’s colleagues. Little did I know that we were actually going to meet Butterball for the very first time ---- a 6 month old beautiful purebred Golden Retriever who was ready for adoption by GRRA.
As we drove into the driveway, I could see in the distance the wagging tails of two Golden Retrievers. I was so excited to play with them because I love animals ---- particularly dogs and especially Goldens.
Butterball greeted my brother and I with a ball in his mouth and I could feel that he genuinely wanted to meet us. I asked if we could play with him. After 10 minutes of playing ball with him, my dad said “Do you want to take him home?” and after the question sunk in, I burst out in tears as I was overcome by a flood of emotions. I realized the visit was really to see if we were going to take home a dog.
Immediately after our visit, we shopped for a dog bed, toys (especially tennis balls!), and food. My mind raced about where he’d sleep, what we’d do with him, and how much fun we’d have with him. I hadn’t had a pet since I was about 4 years old. About 10 years ago, our beloved Golden Retriever Tucker passed away. That was a dark and sad period in my young life.
Just two days after our visit, Butterball walked into our home, and I felt that our family was considered complete.
As I reflect on this, I am so grateful that GRRA gave us this amazing opportunity to rescue a beautiful animal. What I’ve learned from Butterball (and Tucker, too) is that dogs give us unconditional love. And because of them, it makes the world a better place.
I hope that more people would consider rescuing dogs as all dogs (and all animals) deserve a peaceful and loving home. Frankly, isn’t that what we all want ---- to love and be loved?
I may only be 15 years old, but what I want is more love, compassion, and peace in the world. For that reason, a few years ago I founded Hannah4Change, which is a platform for change. I focus on animal issues as well as issues that affect our planet. Rescuing Butterball aligns with my beliefs that it is much better to adopt and rescue an animal than to buy from pet stores, breeders, and “puppy mills”.
Again, thank you to GRRA for changing Butterball’s life as well as ours.
I had the honor of attending the March for the Ocean in DC in June, and met some inspiring people using their talents and skills to help save our oceans. One such inspiring person was Mr. Jim Toomey, who produced some great short films about our environment. Here is a 2-3 minute video that illustrates the plastic pollution problem and ocean health in general. I highly recommend watching it.
Many parents have a difficult time encouraging their children to eat healthy food. While many kids will eat fruit such as apples, oranges, and berries, even these very healthy foods can be too high in sugar for a healthy diet. Vegetables are almost universally dreaded by children who fear bland side dishes such as broccoli, peas, and carrots. There are several ways, however, to encourage healthy eating that bring flavor and nutrients to the table.
Get Kids Invested in Their Dining Decision
A good tip is to try the opposite of typical parenting by decree. Rather than making kids eat vegetables, start a dialogue in your home about the importance of healthy eating. If dad is 20 pounds overweight and hoping to incorporate more plant-based ingredients in his diet, children may see vegetables in a completely different light. Getting children involved in menu planning is another good tip. Ask them what vegetables they would like to see in their meals, for example, and let them play a role in selecting them. The idea is not to let them have their way but to give them a voice. They may have a valid reason for not liking a certain vegetable, but they might enjoy one that is just as healthy and can be added to your weekly menu.
Make Vegetables an Opportunity for Discovery
Most communities have farmers markets. If you haven’t gone before, make a family tradition out of stopping at your local farmers market and look for exciting new choices. This activity incorporates healthier food choices while providing a lesson on where our food comes from. Farmers markets are also fun communal areas, often with adjacent craft and prepared food vendors.
Another option is to explore local Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSA). These provide local produce in a subscription box format that changes each week based on season and availability. It can be an exciting process to plan meals based on what surprises may be in the box during any given week. Many of these programs also provide community education about farming, including community gardens.
The opportunity for learning extends to the supermarket as well. Most markets have vast produce aisles with rotating stock of vegetables from all over the world. Make a game out of picking the brightest colored pepper or most unusual vegetables. You never know -- your whole family may learn to love something new and unique.
Try Different Preparation Methods
Vegetables present a cooking conundrum. If they are prepared through simple steaming, the results can be bland. Kids might be averse to vegetables that taste like nothing or douse their side dishes in an unhealthy amount of butter, salt, or sauce. Many vegetables benefit from grilling, pan sauteing, and oven roasting. Mix things up and try something different. If your kids love french fries, try roasting carrots on high heat. The texture is similar to a potato, and many kids like the sweetness of roasted carrots. You can even get weird and try unusual methods. Grill some avocados. Stir-fry beets and corn with green onions. Pan fry chickpeas for a crispy snack. You can also steam vegetables and add some fresh herbs.
As a Last Resort, Sneak in the Veggies
If your kids refuse new vegetable ideas, try sneaking some vitamins on their plate. Cauliflower can be chopped into small pieces and cooked like rice. All it needs is a few minutes in a saute pan, and you can serve cauliflower fried rice or risotto to your family. If your kids love mashed potatoes, try mashed cauliflower. If that’s too much, try a 50/50 mix of potato and cauliflower.
Vegetables are an important part of our diet. Children can benefit from the nutrition that vegetables provide. By getting them involved in meal planning, making vegetable buying exciting, and trying new dishes, kids are more likely to eat healthier.
Kris Louis is mom to two rambunctious boys. Her oldest is 10 and her youngest is 7. A former advertising copywriter, she recently created parentingwithkris.com, where she puts her skills to work writing about the trials and tribulations of parenting. Kris, her husband, and two boys live in Durham, NC.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
David Evans - founder of prch - writes an insightful piece for Hannah4Change's blog...
When you think of the ocean, you probably immediately conjure an image of a sandy beaches, warm salt water, sunshine, coral reefs, or diverse marine life. But our oceans’ health is declining at an alarming rate and the beautiful, mysterious, and magnificent bodies of water we regularly take advantage of are beginning to show more and more pronounced symptoms of destabilization.
And while there are many things that need to be done to correct this issue, the first step to finding an effective solution is to address the problems at hand. Therefore, organizations such as the Ocean Health Index, marine researchers, and scientists have begun identifying some of the major challenges to the current state of the oceans.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it is estimated that over 70% of the world’s fish species are either fully depleted or over exploited. The fish industry has grown significantly and is an established livelihood for many around the world. However, this rise in popularity is not only threatening the species of fish being caught and sold, but entire ecosystems that those fish are a part of. In taking away a source of food, or a predator for other species of fish or aquatic life, entire ecosystems are being threatened.
By 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. And it is currently estimated that every square mile of ocean contains around 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. This is not even including the environmental impacts from oil spills, industrial agriculture and pesticide runoff, and man-made sewage. The destruction of marine ecosystems is only being enhanced by land-based pollution, contributing to several problems including contamination, algae blooms, and massive islands of trash, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
3. Habitat Destruction
Pollution is only one adversary in the destruction of marine habitats. Others include bottom-trawling (or deep-sea trawling), overfishing, mangrove deforestation, coral mining, fish farming, and shipping. Many of these problems could be mitigated through adequate management and protection.
4. Climate Change
Oceans have an increased temperature of 0.7ºC since pre-industrial times. While this may not seem concerning, it has already contributed to problems such as coral bleaching, rising sea levels, increased tropical storms, and impacted marine life. As ocean climates continue to increase in temperature, these problems will intensify, affecting more and more marine and coastal ecosystems.
Ocean acidification occurs when oceans absorb too much atmospheric carbon dioxide. This limits the amount of oxygen in oceans, making it harder for some marine animals to breathe and decreasing others’ ability to build calcium carbonate shells. Ocean acidification is also the leading cause in coral reef destruction.
There are many things that can be done to mitigate these challenges both on the ground and in the sea. Some of the major changes necessary to prevent further destruction include sustainable fishing practices, emissions reduction, promotion of alternative energy, organic agriculture, and adequate Marine Protected Areas.
While all of these need to be acted upon on a global scale, there are also things you can do personally, such as sourcing the food you eat, reducing consumption of single-use plastics, and choosing more sustainable products that decrease your impact on the environment.
About The Author
David Evans is the founder of prch, a resource for eco-minded consumers. He is a minimalist, environmentalist, and conscious consumer with a background in environmental studies, conservation, and tech. Learn to improve your environmental and social impact @theprch.
I have been educated thousands of people about the harmful effects of plastic pollution since I was 11. I am particularly focused on single-use disposable plastics such as plastic bags, bottles, and straws because these items we use for convenience are destroying the planet and its precious animals.
“These products are made to last for hundreds of years, using our precious fossil fuels, but are only used for a few minutes - and they last on our earth virtually forever”.
Last year, I decided she needed to do more to get my message out to fellow citizens, so I created Plastic Pollution Awareness Day with my state senator and the rest of the Georgia state senate. That day was such a success that I was able to duplicate the event this year and proclaim this February 15 as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day.
In honor of Plastic Pollution Awareness Day this February 15, I explain 5 common ways you may be destroying the planet - along with practical solutions that can be easily implemented.
You might think “what is the big deal with straws?”, but consider this: Americans use an estimated 500 million plastic straws per day. That’s enough straws to circle the Earth’s circumference 2.5 times! Considering that plastic straws are not recyclable, this is a large volume of plastic that ends up in landfills and beyond. Because of their size and shape, many escape from their trash containers and end up in the environment. And you probably have seen some of the devastating impacts that plastic straws have on animals - the video of the sea turtle with the plastic straw up its nose is very sad - if not horrific - to watch as its rescuers try to remove the straw.
There are many alternatives to plastic straws, including not using straws at all. If you feel you must have a straw, there are great, long-lasting bio-degradable paper straw alternatives. There are also glass and stainless steel straws that are made by leading companies. So the next time you go to a restaurant, tell your waiter, “no straw, please” (and inform the manager for added impact). And please don’t use the excuse that you don’t like your lips touching the glass - unless you use a straw when you drink beer or wine! Restaurants and other business should get in the act too - if you implement a “straws upon request” policy, you’ll drastically reduce the quantity of plastic straws that are used - which is savings to the bottom line.
Have you ever seen pictures of landfill trash? What you’ll see more than anything else is plastic bags. The average American uses around 500 disposable plastic bags per year (some estimates are even higher when you consider all types of plastic bags). Given how lightweight they are, they are a product that can easily escape from a landfill and end up choking our planet. They are also difficult to recycle in most jurisdictions. Given that China recently announced they were refusing to take recyclables from the US and other nations, this will put a burden on municipalities to efficiently dispose of plastic bags and other items.
Once you get in the habit, taking reusable bags to the store is easy and is more practical than plastic bags. You can fill them up and not worry about breaks or tears. What’s more, many stores provide a financial incentive if you bring your own bags to the store. Another alternative is to request paper bags from the store. Many grocery stores have paper bags but they won’t use them unless customers request them. Finally, another option is to not use a bag at all. How often have you purchased one item and had the cashier put it in a plastic bag? Crazy! And when you go to places like Costco and Aldi, you won’t see a plastic bag in sight. Do you complain that your purchased goods end back up in the cart?
You may not have heard of polystyrene, but you probably use it. This material shows up in coffee cup lids, plastic utensils, restaurant take-away or to-go products, and cups. And one type of polystyrene is styrofoam. Yes, styrofoam is plastic! In addition to the large quantity of polystyrene that is used and ends up in the landfill or in the environment (the EPA estimates Americans use 25 billion polystyrene coffee cups annually), one of the chemicals in this material - styrene - is a known animal carcinogen. These plastics are almost impossible to recycle.
I carry a stainless steel water bottle with me everywhere I go. You can also bring a stainless steel cup - there are some nice insulated ones too - with you. Offices can furnish coffee mugs to their employees rather than stocking their shelves with styrofoam cups. Regarding utensils, instead of taking plastic utensils, I carry (or put in the car) bamboo or stainless steel utensils. Use these products instead of polystyrene!
Americans use approximately 3 million water bottles per hour! And if you include the plastic cap, that’s 6 million plastic products that are getting trashed every hour of every day!
The alternative to plastic bottles? Keep a reusable cup in your bag, or carry around a stainless steel bottle. And just think about how much money you are saving by drinking tap water instead of costly bottled water. And since our federal government seems to love Norway so much these days, let’s follow Norway’s lead by instituting a full take back program for plastic bottles. As a result of this comprehensive program, Norway is recycling 97% of its bottles.
Did you know that cigarette butts are made of a type of plastic? Cigarette butts are one of the most common forms of plastic pollution. When I do street cleanups, I find more cigarette butts than any other type of trash. These butts are not biodegradable and are a material the earth cannot digest. What’s possibly worse, they leach toxic chemicals into the earth. Hopefully this gives you yet another reason to stop smoking!
I believe that knowledge is power, and now that you know better, you’ll do better! That’s the essence of Plastic Pollution Awareness Day; through education and awareness, we will all make better choices. So go forth and try some of my practical alternatives and you’ll see that it is rather easy to save the planet!
Hannah Testa, Young Eco-Warrior, and Environmental/ Animal Activist