After POPS, we drove from Dana Point to Sacramento for Ocean Day – March 24. There we met our group leader Sarah Sikich from Heal the Bay, who helped us lobby for SB 270 (California statewide bag ban), SB 1132 (moratorium on fracking), and AB 1699 (ban on polyethylene micro-beads in personal hygiene products). We camped out at KOA Campgrounds by night, and lobbied in the state capital by day. We were fortunate to meet other members of the Clean Seas Coalition like Kirsten James (Heal The Bay), Nancy Hastings (Surfrider Foundation), Nathan Weaver (Environment California), and Leslie Tamminen (7th Generation Advisors).
We met with eight very diverse assembly members, from the most liberal Democrats to the most conservative Republicans. We learned a great deal about government as well as policy-making, including the 2 to 1 ratio of assembly members (80) to senators (40), the process a bill goes through to get passed, and the priorities of many Republicans (that they generally value economics over human and environmental health). Although we mostly met with staffers, we met with Assemblywoman Sheryl Brown, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, and previous mayor of Santa Monica, Assemblyman Richard Bloom. We expressed our gratitude to Bloom for authoring SB 1699 and for his bill that bans orcas in captivity. When a handful of representatives expressed concerns about the ten cent fee for a paper bag and its impact on the lower class, we explained the programs that distribute reusable bags to less the fortunate such as “ Give A Bag” and “Share A Bag“. We divided our overall message amongst team members so each person could contribute their own elevator pitch concerning economic benefits, environmental impacts and effects, and supporting evidence. Our evidence included our bag research results indicating that bag bans do work effectively. Ultimately, we learned that sound science and arguments centered on economics and human and environmental health are what resonate with politicians.
The beginning of a very intense eco-filled weekend began with Team Marine at an international youth summit this past Saturday and Sunday. We applied and were accepted into the Plastic Ocean Pollution Solutions International Youth Summit 2014 in Dana Point sponsored by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. We arrived at the Ocean Institute around 8:00am and participated in workshops that included learning about plastic pollution and spreading awareness. We met the famous Captain Charles Moore, the man who discovered the plastic soup in the North Pacific gyre and toured his custom-made research vessel, The Alguita. We learned from very well spoken scientists and eco-activists, such as Jordan Howard, Captain Charles Moore, Rocky Beach, Danni Washington, J. Nichols, and Kristal Ambrose, who spoke about the issue of plastic pollution. After this full day of eco-education, we stayed at the hotel a couple blocks from the ocean institute.
Sunday, we were back at The Ocean Institute for another fun schedule of speakers and activities early in the morning. After practicing, we presented a proposal of removing single-use plastic water bottles from Santa Monica. We were very honored to listen to Anna Cummins from the 5 Gyres Institute give an insightful presentation. In addition, we also did a lot of fun activities like tide pooling and learning different sea anemones and macroalgae. There was also a pool party and a special guest performer, Jack Johnson, with whom we discussed plastic pollution before the show. We were very impressed with Kim and Jack Johnson’s environmental organization called The Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation ,which provides the youth with sustainability focused education in Hawaii.
This youth summit was an amazing experience and we are very happy to have attended and met other youth like ourselves from all over the world. Thank you to the other environmentally committed students who attended this event with us and work hard for a better plastic free world. Thank you Katie Allen for coordinating this event and making it possible. Another thanks to the Algalita staff for selecting us out of many competitive international students interested in this summit.
Today we rescued some boxes from the trash bins to reuse them and create Expo marker collections boxes. We decorated them and plan to distribute them to other schools in our district to expand our collection of expo markers. These markers, which are toxic and single use, are thrown away each year by teachers and are not recycled. We, as Team Marine, collect expo markers for a project that will raise awareness and educate people about the abundance of markers winding up in landfills. These boxes will contribute to our large collection and will encourage districts to implement Auspens. Auspens are refillable canisters that have aluminum and non toxic markers made from recyclable materials. These dry erase markers can be bought in bulk for schools and will lead to a zero plastic pollution waste from classrooms. This action of rethinking our plastic consumption even in our districts will draw attention to a greater need of a sustainable policy and will highlight how serious this problem really is.
Check out the Auspens site for more info: http://www.auspen.us/
This Thursday, March 20, our 2013-2014 Team Marine T-Shirts arrived in the mail from Custom Ink! Our T-shirts are also organic cotton and display our sponsor’s logos. Team Marine will now be sporting our new shirts to every event, including the POPS Youth Summit (see below) and our upcoming trip to Sacramento!
Thank you to our sponsors Wells Fargo, Jason Andrew, the Alliance for Climate Education, Kristina von Hoffmann, Plug in America, Paul Scott, the Poon Fear Family, Mimi Fear, Russell Fear, Left Coast Electric, Trexa, QuikSCience, and the City of Santa Monica. Also, thank you to Custom Ink for providing and helping out with the shirts!
With one of Team Marine’s main focus being reducing plastic pollution, it is truly amazing that by recycling cans and bottles we can keep them off our beaches and also use them to buy life straws. Thanks to our mentor, Mr. Kay, not only did Team Marine participate in this recycling sorting event but also his marine biology, biology, and college students! It was great of them to come help and it made the whole process a lot quicker when it became a group effort. One of my favorite parts out of the whole thing however was when our glass bottle group decided that they would make some eco-art of their own and truthfully displayed “The United States of America” out of glass bottles. It was a humorous moment and although that looks like a lot of bottles it was barely a fraction of what we collected that day. Compared to our past sorting events this one definitely takes the cake. I am proud to say that altogether we collected 8,550 #1 plastics, 385 #2 plastics, 1731 aluminum cans, and 923 glass bottles for a grand total of 11,589 cans and bottles! We raised more than $579.45 for Water Solutions for Life which means about 105 lifestraws which is way more than we have ever gotten this entire year! Needless to say, today was an amazing day for life straws. So far we have funded for around 262 lifestraws which really makes a huge difference in the life of someone who may not have access to clean drinking water. In fact it probably saves their life, and that is why this is one of our most important long term projects that we strongly believe in. To learn more about Water Solutions for Life please visit watersolutionsforlife.org.
On February 28, 2014 the third flush of the 2013-2014 school year occurred. Although the rain was much needed because of the drought, the horrendous amount of Styrofoam and plastic was not as welcomed. The vast amount of water that these rain storms created pushed out any remaining plastics that were stuck in the drains from the last storm as well as approximately a months worth of build up. There was an abundance of Styrofoam objects, as well as plastic water bottles and clear plastic bags. Thanks to the Santa Monica and Los Angeles bag ban though, the usual grocery store plastic bag was not as common as in previous flushes. However, we found one of the new “reusable” black plastic bags that claimed to be keeping “So. Cal. Beautiful” laying right on the shore (see below). It was not a “beautiful” sight to see. We were on the beach for several hours picking up as many plastics and trash possible. Seeing all the trash on the edges of the Pico-Kenter storm drain supported the frightening realization that it was only a fraction of what entered into the ocean. Fortunately, Team Marine prevented a total of three large bags of plastics and trash from polluting our beautiful coast.
On Saturday, February 8th, we were invited to Laguna Beach to panel and present to the community and local schools. We displayed our bottle cap and single-use-plastic eco-artwork. We also drove our recently converted all-electric vehicle “Volts Wattson”. While presenting with Generation Waking Up, the team was able to convey the science, effects, and solutions to climate change. Generation Waking Up also had a very interesting presentation that included the severity of water pollution and the scarcity clean of water. This event was critical in expanding eco-activism and outreach to other neighboring communities. The kids and people of the Laguna community were intrigued with our presentation explaining the science of climate change. This provided a better understanding of the wide scope and connections between plastic pollution, burning fossil fuels, carbon increase in the atmosphere, and ocean acidification. Thank you Ana, the event coordinator, for giving us this opportunity to eco-educate and eco-activate the people.
On Monday, the 3rd of February, over 80 eco-minded persons protested against the construction of the XL keystone pipeline in a rally organized by the NRDC. We, Team Marine, made and brought signs to this protest, which was held at the intersection of Ocean Blvd and Santa Monica Blvd, so that passing pedestrians, bikers and drivers would notice it. This event’s aim was to raise awareness about the harmful effects of the pipeline. That project would make the USA dependant upon an extremely carbon-intensive energy; the more carbon, the more CO2 in the atmosphere and therefore more global warming. Furthermore, it would run through the multiple natural habitat and would therefore disturb both wild plants and animals. Lastly, there always is the high chance of a spill that would threaten of poisoning not only wildlife but also crops and water supplies. All in all, the rally went quite well and we hope that this noxious program will not be implemented. Thanks to Roy Persinko for taking pictures of us at the rally!
On Friday January 24th, Team Marine members called key California State Senators to advocate for a state wide plastic bag ban. We encouraged senators to vote yes on a plastic bag ban bill SB 405 using our previous research on the Santa Monica plastic bag ban, the effects of plastic pollution on marine life, and the economic benefits of a plastic bag ban. It is important for the senators to realize that the youth of California are in favor of this ban. Ninety cities and counties in California have previously banned plastic bags, but this statewide ban is an amazing step in the prevention of plastic pollution entering our oceans. The ban, which has previously failed to pass, is a bipartisan bill that will ban single use plastic bags in the state of California. Team Marine advocated not only for this ban, but for bans in Santa Monica and Los Angeles County as well. This plastic bag ban is a step in the right direction towards a more sustainable future.
Many cities across California are now banning the use of “single use carryout plastic bags” due to various environmental, economic, and health concerns. Plastic bag manufacturers are now pursuing various loopholes and green washing techniques in the bag ban laws as means to continue the use of their environment destroying chemically derived plastic bags. One example of this is in the Los Angeles County Bag Ban. Specific wording in the law defines “reusable” bags as being over 2.25 millimeters thick and capable of enduring at least 125 uses including withholding 22 pounds over a distance of 175 feet each use. While it is yet unclear whether these “reusable” plastic bags can withstand those conditions, most stores in the city of Los Angeles have satisfied the “single use plastic carryout bag ban” by providing their customers with these so called “reusable” bags. These range from anywhere between free to 15 cents. We realized that they most commonly sold for 10 cents each, putting them on par with the paper bags that were supposed to replace them, however, due to the wording in the law, which was intended to assist people in making them more environmentally minded, allows stores to provide customers with reusable bags for free. This was added in as a measure to try and assist, but it is now backfiring as the plastics industry and stores are now taking advantage of this loophole. Now instead of removing plastic bags, we have adapted to thicker plastic bags, which might be able to endure more uses but have even greater environmental consequences than the notorious thin, flimsy single use plastic bags. These bags are not “eco-friendly” as the plastic companies are making them out to be. These bags are just as harmful if not even worse on our environment and marine life. We are trying to advocate grocery store shoppers to always bring cloth, canvas, or other durable reusable bags and refuse the “eco-friendly” thicker plastic and also urge the city to close this loophole.