Nicodemus Wilderness Project
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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - White Plains, NY 10606

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White Plains, NY 10606

grayfish0825



Registered: January 2024
City/Town/Province: White Plains
Posts: 1
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My Mom took us on a road trip to the Mystic Aquarium CT. At 9 years old, I was amazed by all the usual aquarium goodness; waiting in an endless line to experience sea lions performing tricks for fish treats, the exhilarating pet on the backs of stingrays, incessant begging for Mom to purchase a grossly overpriced and flat fountain soda, our breaths catching as we watch the scuba diver swim with live sharks. Pure elation! As a high school Junior, I now see beyond the glitter of the family-friendly aquarium outing. I refuse to support an institution that cages and mistreats animals that belong in the wild. That is a story for another essay. Today, I must admit to you, despite my strong convictions, that trip to the Mystic Aquarium helped to shape who I am. As I skipped to enter the aquarium, prepared for a day of seafood-smelling, slimy scales and octopus tentacles, a fun adventure that only a kid can love, my 9-year-old eyes were met with a 12 foot tall, magnificently colored and artfully fabricated, giant sea lion. Towering over me, my spectacular new sea lion friend smiled back down on me. His beautiful white body was constructed of plastic laundry detergent bottles, fast food take-out containers, broken flips flops, deflated automobile tires, empty water bottles, and so much more. He was wrapped in a green torn fishing net and sitting atop mounds of unidentified plastic shards. He was most assuredly pleading for my help! He took my breath away! Mystic Aquarium CT was hosting an exhibit "Art to Save the Planet" to inspire the public to care for our planet through conservation, education and research. The exhibit I stumbled upon that day was entitled "Washed Ashore" featuring ocean creatures sculpted from collected beach refuse. I had no idea how much trash ends up on the beach! Here I saw a life-sized humpback whale with a rib cage made of plastic bottles and faux coral reefs made of pacifiers, buoys, toothbrushes and rope. The exhibit was the beautiful brainchild of Angela Haseltine Pozzi. She reportedly did not discriminate amongst the debris they collected, but used 95% of everything gathered. Her idea was to shock people with the weird and random items that end up on our world's beachfront to encourage the act of plastic recycling. Consider me appalled! My parents are both dentists. For reasons like medical safety, infection control, and convenience, they have tons of plastic waste going through their hands into the trash on a daily basis. Single-use plastics are very common in the field of dentistry: plastic barrier covers, cups, floss, paste, toothbrushes, suction tips, and much more. The impact of the health care industry's plastic waste on the environment is a high priority for my family. Only a small fraction of this plastic is actually recycled. Most are disposed of in our massive and limited landfills. The outbreak of COVID-19 and the necessity to maintain a sterile environment only increased the need for single-use plastics in medical / dental practice. As much as plastics revolutionized the medical field, they also became a detriment to our ecosystems. Fossil fuels formed in plastic production contaminate our water and air. Incinerated plastic wastes release toxic gasses into the air we breathe. We must make a world-wide commitment to these issues. At 10 years old, I could not shake the mind-boggling Mystic Aquarium exhibit. I decided to partner with Terracycle and Colgate to run a community toothbrush recycling campaign. Terracycle is an innovative waste management company and global leader in "recycling the unrecyclable." The company was created in 2001 to combat our world's overconsumption and throwaway culture. By offering multiple free recycling programs to the public, they have initiated a global effort to keep trash out of landfills and incinerators. Our local community's curbside recycling system only recycles products that will turn a profit. Terracycle is able to recycle the trash left behind by partnering with retailers and brands who fund it. A few of the 141 participating companies are listed here: Black & Decker, Carters, Colgate, Dunkin Donuts, Febreeze, Herbal Essence, etc. After signing up, one collects and mails in their recycled materials free of charge. The waste is received at an appropriate Material Recovery Facility found in over 20 countries throughout the world. It is weighed and recorded to allow for Terracycle points to be awarded to the participating individual that may be redeemed in the form of a donation to the charity of choice. Next comes the coolest part! After sorting, cleaning and processing, that "unrecyclable" trash, now in raw material pellet form, is sold to manufacturers that produce an end product. Your empty make-up containers, coffee grounds bags, and fruit pouches can now become outdoor furniture, playground covers, watering cans, storage bins, and so much more! It is a beautiful recycling journey. On a fall weekend in 2018, my parents and I gathered multiple old boxes, big and small. We decorated them with pictures and labels the likes of "Drop Waste Here!," "Do it for the Kids - Recycle!," and "Got Pollution? Be the Solution." Door to door, we delivered them to our friends and family throughout the community along with educational information about our carbon footprints and the length of time 1 simple toothbrush will spend in a landfill. Who could say no to that adorable, ambitious 10-year-old kiddo on their doorstep?! We made large drop box collection bins to be placed in my parent's dental offices. Soon, the flattened toothpaste tubes, loose caps, smooshed outer packaging and cartons, and frayed-bristle toothbrushes started rolling in! I was so proud. I felt like taking on a superhero name: The Reuse Rebel!, The Upcycler!, The Waste Warrior!. The doorbell would ring and a bag of squished and mangled oral hygiene products were sitting on my front porch. Nothing could fill me with more joy. My parent's patients jumped on board. They started donating their old toothbrush waste routinely at their consecutive 6 month recall appointments. Mom would lug home shoeboxes full of used waste from other people's mouths every month. It was so disgusting and so wonderful at the same time! Our first waste delivery to Colgate happened 11/19/2019. Multiple others followed suit. I am proud to have accumulated many Terracycle points to be redeemed in honor of my charity. As I have grown older, my project has also matured. Instead of being limited to small private waste collection, I petitioned to start an official public drop-off point. I wanted to see my larger community recycle more. As the administrator, I manage this greater scale drop-off: chose the location, select which free recycle programs to participate in, advertise locally, and commit to sending collected waste to Terracycle. This program helped shape me into a young adult who cares deeply about caring for our planet. Now, as a teen, I am very involved with matters of our earth. I spend my private free time in our backyard vegetable and flower gardens, sprouting seeds of all sorts in my bedroom, cleaning up our local hiking trails and parks. I have committed to an environmental summer internship position at Westmoreland Sanctuary where I hope to work in environmental conservation and education . I long to pursue a career in the environmental sciences. When presented with the challenge of choosing a Senior Exploration Project to complete my high school career, I have proposed building a giant terrarium to leave as my legacy at my school. I hope to teach our faculty and students alike about our carbon footprint and how tipping the balance of the carbon cycle will have dramatic negative consequences. I hope to inspire everyone in the building to think about their daily habits and encourage changes for the better. Please allow me to indulge a moment on the terrarium of my dreams. My glass garden will be a closed, self-sufficient system full of vibrant leafy greens and mosses, capable of self-watering. It will be a beautifully sealed ecosystem, with it's own rain nutrient cycle, that demonstrates the nuanced balancing act of nature. I dream of it's drainage layer, the substrate layer, the hardscape, and the miniature landscape of my perfect tropical plant species. And don't forget the personal touches to make it mine. No standard cheap plastic dinosaurs here! My terrarium will be decorated with a rainbow flag, my wire-sculpted tree art and, of course, a heaping pile of discarded toothbrushes to demonstrate how vile and repulsive they look in this beautiful system! In short summary of what I have learned, our individual carbon footprint matters. Those of industries and oil companies matter more. Climate change is a real and pressing phenomenon causing extreme weather events and fast changing climate conditions. As we go about our daily lives, we all emit greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. The choices we make every day in our homes, the food we eat, our travels, what we buy and throw away can help ensure a stable climate for future generations.
Date: January 21, 2024 Views: 162 File size: : 1292 x 1719
Hours Volunteered: 50
Volunteers: 2
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 16 & 47
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