In October, 8-1/2 year old Briana heard about the movie Bag It after her mother Susan watched it on PBS. While driving to a hiking spot along the C&O canal near her hometown of Potomac, Maryland, Susan described the parts of the film that dealt with ocean and marine life devastation.
“The images of large marine mammals, fish, and turtles with pounds and even tons of ultra thin plastics in their bodies sickened me. A story about albatrosses feeding it to their babies on a remote island in the Pacific was heart breaking. Learning about the waste in what has become known as a ‘garbage bowl’ current of the Pacific, devastation of coral reefs by the overgrowth of vegetation in response to disruptions in the food chain, and senseless destruction of our beautiful Earth by an item considered ‘one use only’ (but here for several lifetimes) was mind numbing. I was left with a lump in my throat, empathetic for the wildlife who are forced to feed Styrofoam and bits of plastic to feed their young,” Susan said.
She was surprised by little Briana’s fierce reaction to her description of the film.
“While climbing on rocks overlooking the Potomac, Briana found what turned out to be an enormous amount of Styrofoam. She decided we needed to collect as much of it as possible, as well as other types of non-biodegradable trash we came across on other areas of the trail (plastic bottles, cans, fast food cups, etc.). By the time we reached the entrance to the trail, we each had an armful of trash – that barely fit in a trash bag provided at the Visitor Station.”
Briana is now spearheading a community effort called “Green Planet” because, as she says, that afternoon walk with her mother Susan changed the way she saw the planet.
“As we hiked and climbed that day, there were so many beautiful things to see and explore. While my mom stopped for a rest, I climbed down to get a better view of the Potomac River. I couldn’t believe what I found! At first I thought it was pretty white rocks, but then I realized it was lots and lots of trash!” said Briana.
As part of the Green Planet Campaign, Briana started a “petition” in Potomac, asking people at grocery stores sign a paper saying they won’t use plastic bags. She’s also been regularly spending one or two recess periods a week cleaning the school playground.
“If you see me on the playground picking up trash, you can join…or not,” Briana says. “You don’t have to pay any money to join. Just pick up trash on the playground, at the park or zoo, in the shopping center parking lot, along the roadside, in your yard, or anywhere you see trash – and either recycle it or throw it away. Where ever it is, it will likely end up in the water that flows into the ocean.”
She also got her her Brownie troop and a bunch of other middle and high school students to clean up a local park for Halloween last Fall.
In January 2012, she was excited to see that Montgomery County Legislature passed a bill requiring stores to charge 5 cents per bag.
But she knows the work does not end there. Some final tips from our youngest Educational Advocate:
“If you put out your recycle on a windy day, make sure to cover it up so it won’t blow away. Also, stop using the type of plastic and Styrofoam that is making our planet’s animals so sick.”
Let us know if someone in your community is making an impact to protect our environment from “disposable” plastic. And well done, Briana!