A group of Los Angeles-based students noticed a problem near their school. With its close proximity to the ocean, Santa Monica High School’s students began taking note of the effects of plastic bags were having on the sea and marine life. Determined to help resolve the situation, they banded together, declaring themselves: Team Marine.
The teens struck out into the Los Angeles-based community raising awareness by participating in beach cleanups, hosting marches against plastic bag use and speaking at city council meetings.
Team Marine efforts caught the attention of Lynne Cherry, filmmaker and founder of Young Voices for the Planet, who made their mission the subject of one of her organization’s films.
“We have a civic engagement in democracy curriculum and focus on how people understand how their town or their state makes decisions that affect their lives,” she says of learning about Team Marine meeting with city officials. “We encourage kids to go to their city council meetings to make a difference.”
Facts Team Marine laid out for their city council included:
- The petroleum used to make 14 plastic bags can drive a car one mile. These convenience items are used once and for only a few minutes, but last a lifetime.
- The production of plastic bags uses petroleum and fossil-fuel-based energy, which impacts global warming.
- Six billion plastic bags are made in Los Angeles County and less than 5% are recycled.
- These plastic bags end up in oceans and kill 100,000 marine animals and close to a billion seabirds each year.
Team Marine tracked plastic bits coming from storm drains and drifting into the ocean. What they learned — sea creatures and birds mistook the plastic for food. Ingesting the plastic kills them.
“It’s more, I feel, an ethical problem than an environmental problem,” Evelina Weary says in the film of people using plastics. “Because we all have the power to reduce our carbon footprint
In 2014, Team Marine helped pass a statewide ban on plastic bags in California, making Santa Monica the first city in the US to do so.
Team Marine’s message to the world: we can have a collective impact on pollution. Just remember: Reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse and rethink.
Of Team Marine, Cherry says, “Their actions demonstrate that kids can be instrumental in helping achieve the institutional systemic change that’s necessary to do something about climate change.”
*See the entire Words Have Power film at Young Voices for the Planet.