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!
This is such a great article that I thought to post it here. You may have heard of the Bag Monster or have seen it at environmental conferences or presentations (let me know if you want to see a sighting). This article, by Andy Keller, CEO of Chico Bag, was originally posted in Sept 2011. Here Mr. Keller explains what a Bag Monster is:
Plastic Bags are not all bad, but when used excessively and in large numbers they can turn into Bag Monsters. They start as innocent balls of bags, however they can grow into a menacing creatures that cause all kinds of trouble. A Bag Monster is your annual consumption of single-use disposable bags – estimated to conservatively be 500 bags. You may never realize the size of your Bag Monster unless you keep all of our single-use bags for an entire year. If you don’t – you may only see small Bag Monsters, the one under your sink, the one in the pantry, the one in your trash or recycle bin or the lone bag monsters that travel our highways, swim in our streams or wave proudly from our trees. Despite your best intentions, Bag Monsters are born to roam wild and can escape trash cans, recycle bins, a picnic and even the landfill. It is really important to tame your Bag Monster by tying each bag in a knot to lessen it’s ability to become windblown litter.
The Bag Monster is not just comprised of polyethylene retail carry-out grocery bags, which according to the United States International Trade Commission, in 2008 is 102 BILLION annually. If tied in a chain, this chain would circle the earth 776 times!* If divided equally among all Americans, would equal 332 bags per man, woman and child. That is a scary Bag Monster in its own right. Can you image your body covered in 332 bags on a hot Summer day?
BUT WAIT, with BAG MONSTER – THERE’S MORE | In addition to grocery bags, the Bag Monster is comprised of all types of excessive plastic bags, from produce bags for single items, to newspaper bags on a sunny day, to all those poly bags in which our electronics come packaged. The Bag Monster thrives on our excessive consumption of plastic bags. The more you feed it, the bigger Bag Monster gets!!
Bag Monster is very secretive and tricky and does not want us humans to realize the size of his empire, or his secret plans to take over the world and cover it in plastic. Some suspect that he has been influencing how the government reports bag consumption and recycling rates. We hear that grocery stores give out more produce bags than retail carry-out bags, however Bag Monster keeps that a big secret. However, not deterred, we were able to do some digging and found that our estimate of 500 bags per year is VERY conservative. It takes some work, but if you like numbers, read on and see what we found.
According to EPA Report: MUNICIPAL SOLID WASTE IN THE UNITED STATES: 2009 FACTS AND FIGURES Table 7: Estimates in 2009, Bags, Sacks and Wraps equal 3.8 Million tons. Assuming a ton is 2,000 pounds, this equals 7.7 billion pounds. According to THE UNITED STATES INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION hearing on March 16, 2010, DIERDRE MALONEY, Senior International Trade Advisor for White & Case LLP testified (on page 163 of the transcript), that due to the limitations of publicly available information, she necessarily converted the “product 3” (Large “t-shirt sack” style bag with (a) dimensions 15-18”) public price data from pounds into 1,000 bags, using a conversion rate of 12.5. She said, while this estimate is not exact, it nonetheless provides a reasonable method to estimate the portion of total domestic shipments of bags of “product 3”. According to testimony, “product 3” accounts for almost 70 percent of the total U.S. shipments of PRCBs (Polyethylene Retail Carrier Bags) over the period of interest 2007 and 2008.
The EPA data cited above is clearly not comprised exclusively of product 3, but rather a wide variety of bags and sacks from sandwich baggies to large bags. Product 3 can serve as a fair conversion ratio for bags in general since some bags will be smaller and some bags will be larger. It is important to note that while Bag Monsters love trash bags, trash bags are reported separately in the EPA data and are not included in this calculation. Just think about all the plastic bags that line hotel trash cans that are sent to the landfill each day. Now think about all the office buildings. Bag Monsters love when you line ALL your trash cans with plastic bags. However, we are going to ignore this aspect of Bag Monster’s plan for now.
The EPA data cited above also includes wraps and film. To estimate the percentage of bags and sacks, we looked at the most recently published data available in the MUNICIPAL SOLID WASTE IN THE UNITED STATES: 2005 FACTS AND FIGURES report. The 2005 report was the last year the EPA provided data for bags and sacks separated from wraps. (We think Bag Monster had some influence here) Since this is the most recent data, we can use the ratio between bags & sacks and film as a fair estimate. In thousands of tons, wraps were reported to be 2,810 and bags and sacks were reported to be 4,450. Based on these numbers, we find the percentage of bags and sacks to be 37%.
Therefore, 7.7 Billion pounds of bags sacks and wraps * 37% = 2.85 Million pounds of bags and sacks divided by 12.5 the estimated average weight of 1000 bags * 1,000 bags = 227 Billion Bags divided by 307 Million people in the US (2009 Census Data) = 739 bags per person. This is a very large Bag Monster. We use the estimate of 500 because it is conservative and won’t anger the Bag Monster. If we say the Bag Monster is larger than he wants to be seen as, he may get really nasty!!
*Calculation is based on the following: 2008 bag consumption, according to U.S. International Trade Commission = 102,105,637,000. Earth’s Circumference = 131,480,184 feet, Average bag length = 1ft.
Hannah Testa, Young Eco-Warrior, and Environmental/ Animal Activist