As Earth Day approaches, I always reflect on all of the things that I do in my life and what impact it has the environment. It seems that every single thing we do as humans has some sort of consequence for the planet. Humans are really the only species on Earth that are responsible for this predicament.
As I was pondering what I could do to make a difference, I got a call from a local elementary school science club asking me to make presentation about marine debris. Surfrider Foundation assisted me by sharing a PowerPoint that revealed images of wildlife injured by or entangled in marine debris, the work of net patrol volunteers removing nets from the shorelines, and staggering statistics about the amount and kind of trash that is ending up in the ocean and on our shores. For example, according to a study published in Science, 800 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean annually! That’s a lot of plastic.
Kids in Hawaii are all familiar with marine debris. They all know that plastic is bad for the environment, but what they didn’t know is that some of this trash is now being used in industry to make new products and to spread awareness about marine debris. The kids also learned about advocacy and what they could do to help. One thing that really seemed to hit home with them, is that Americans use some 500 million straws everyday! Most of the children thought that refusing straws would be a good way to cut down on plastic trash.
Our presentation culminated in an art project using marine debris that had washed up right here on our shores in Hawaii. This trash had been removed from our shoreline by Surfrider volunteers. I just had to drive to the base yard, rummage through it, clean it up, and haul it back to the kids. We designed a project that included marine life and a rainbow of colored plastics that were found amongst the debris. Using gloves, the kids rummaged through the debris, sorting colors, and determining, what the plastics once were and where they may have come from. The kids were amazed to see common household items like shoes, hairbrushes, rice paddles, toothbrushes, bottle caps, plastic bottles, plastic buoys and nets.
After a few dozen kids worked on the project for a couple hours, this is what they came up with.
I for one have given up straws. We have stainless steel straws at home. What could you do to make a difference for Earth Day? In many of books (Hawaii’s Green Sea Turtles, Coral Reefs, The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book, and others), I advocate for ocean conservation and offer lists of things that help protect the ocean, that are doable at home.