Registered: December 2016
City/Town/Province: North Vancouver
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This is a story of how a family backpacking trip in August 2016 to Cape Scott Provincial Park inspired me to be an Apprentice Ecologist and motivate youth to step up, make a difference and become more sustainable.
Cape Scott Provincial Park is located at the north-western tip of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. It is 500 km from my home in North Vancouver, part of Metro Vancouver. It is known for it its remoteness, magnificent white sand beaches and coastal scenery.
After two days of hiking on the 18 km trail, I was looking forward to exploring the intertidal life along the beach. To my surprise, I found more plastic garbage brought in by the tide than periwinkles, sand dollars and bull kelp. I even found a ring buoy from Singapore, where my dad is from!
I had heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vortex of trash the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean. From tiny particles of plastic to plastic bags and plastic bottles, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch affects marine life as well as local coastlines throughout North America and even Asia. I knew it was important as millions of marine animals and birds die each year after ingesting plastics. After seeing all the plastic on the beach, now its evidence was in front of me and I could not ignore it.
As a global citizen, I felt I had the responsibility to take action in my community. After I returned home, I participated in Metro Vancouverís Youth 4 Action Sustainability Toolbox Ė a youth leadership program where I met a fellow student activist from Richmond, another municipality in Metro Vancouver. Both of us were concerned about the amount of plastics in the environment. Together we created a Facebook page called Plastic Connection BC, a youth-led project that aims to educate sustainable plastic usage and disposal among British Columbians.
While posting on Plastic Connection BC, I kept thinking about all the plastic littering the beaches of Cape Scott and wanted personally to make a difference where I live. As co-president of my school's Green Team, I took the initiative and asked the rest of the Green Team to help me. We are an environmental group and who do our best to help make our school and community more sustainable with a positive attitude. Windsor's Green Team was concerned about the amount of single-use plastic drink bottles consumed at my school and the connection to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
We wanted to show the student body how much plastic waste was being generated just from single-use water bottles sold in the cafeteria and vending machines. We created an educational campaign, with posters linked to Plastic Connection BC to show the impact of plastic waste on the environment.
With a month's worth of plastic bottles from the schoolís recycling, we created a giant W for Windsor as a visual representation of Windsor's waste. The sculpture was displayed in the schoolís cafeteria and we ran a contest to guess the number of plastic bottles (660) with the prize being a stainless steel water bottle.
The Green Team's campaign inspired the schoolís Student Council to encourage use of reusable water bottles. The school already has refilling stations for water bottles. Windsor's Student Council is in the process of designing a reusable water bottle with the schoolís logo for their online store. The Green Team's New Year's resolution is to track and graph the number of water bottles collected each month for the rest of the year. With this initiative, we are optimistic that our student can change our practices and reduce the amount of plastics entering the environment.
As an Apprentice Ecologist, I feel empowered in my ability to be a leader and to be an environmental steward. I have learned that one single person can take initiative and inspire many others to take action. My journey will continue into 2017 and beyond. I will be sharing Windsorís success story on Plastic Connection BC and inviting other youth groups showcase their plastic reduction projects. Together, our generation can make a difference and create a more sustainable planet. I am hopeful for a world where my future children can someday make the trip to Cape Scott and find a pristine and healthy ecosystem devoid of plastics.