Back in January, when 2013 was still a brand new year, all shiny and fresh, I was driving to Pawling Central School, to give my first post-Midway talk about plastic. Readers of this blog will recall that in my last post, I wrote briefly about Skyping with a couple of 7th grade science classes from that very school, on the topic of the highly endangered Laysan Duck. Well, the teacher I had been working on that project with, along with my tech-loving aunt, thought it would be totally awesome if I gave a talk in person; surprise the kids, talk trash and have some cool giveaways. It was a perfect idea and so, with my brother as my trusty co-pilot and media man (thanks, Pat!) we were off with 15 pounds of Midway plastic in tow.
The target audience for this talk was middle school students, specifically 7th and 8th graders. For comparison, the last talk I gave before heading to Midway was in front of Seventh Generation staff members and their Board of Directors. So, as you can imagine, I had to tweak the presentation to fit the audience, which it turns out is actually a ton of fun; figuring out how to get the same message across but in a different way – so interesting!
I took the students through my SEA experience, senior capstone completion at UMaine and ended with the Midway craziness. All of the plastic I brought back with me was laid out for them to see and touch. Watching their faces when I held up various odds and ends (jars of bottle caps, plastic inhalers) was a grounding moment: the idea of plastic pollution becomes real when someone’s waving a jar of plastic at you found in the middle of nowhere…
We ended the morning with a raffle of various awesome plastic-free products: Glass Dharma straws (woot woot!), Lunchskins sandwich bags, stainless steel water bottles, To-Go Ware utensil kits and even some defunct Laysan Duck bird bands! It was so fun and the kids really got into it, which made me happy. They seemed to understand that they can make a difference by doing little things and that by having a bamboo fork and glass straws, they can very easily offset their plastic footprint. I was totally inspired by their enthusiasm and it gave me renewed excitement to do this again and again and again…well, you get the idea.
I want people to know about this issue and know that it’s not all doom and gloom. I want people to understand why it’s important to care about albatross dying in the Pacific from our plastic trash and to bring that connection full circle. I realize that we live in a time of global economies and a constant demand for stuff, stuff and more stuff…but if we can start to figure out how to rework that model so we’re not trashing the planet, we’d all be better off.
The purpose of this post was not only to recount my fantastic experience in southern NY, but to start a conversation. For anyone reading this blog who thinks they know of an audience that would gravitate towards this issue, I say, it’s time to talk trash. Let’s figure out a way to make this subject more approachable to all audiences and stop the madness. Finding trash in animals and knowing it’s ending up in our food supply is getting kind of old, quite frankly, and I’m ready to move past waste. Who’s with me?