Kids Show How to Fight (and Win!) Against Ocean Trash

November 1 was a cold, dreary morning in Boston and when I arrived at Wollaston Beach to take part in a beach cleanup, the rain and wind grew more intense. I questioned whether we could even have a cleanup, but all doubt was swiftly wiped away when I met the staff and students from Park School.

I should have known that these fourth, fifth and now sixth graders, who successfully campaigned for Dunkin’ Donuts to stop using Styrofoam cups, weren’t going to let the weather get them down.  As part of their school’s Green Club, these kids are seriously passionate about the environment. When they learned that expanded polystyrene (EPS)—the material used in foam-style cups—virtually never breaks down in the environment and often winds up in our oceans, they decided to act.

Their petition on landed them a meeting at Dunkin’ Donuts’ Corporate Headquarters where they expressed their concerns about the 1.7 billion coffees served a year in disposable EPS cups, which could have major consequences for the ocean. As a result of this and the 280,000-plus signatures the campaign has garnered, Dunkin’ agreed to switch to more environmentally-friendly alternatives to serve their tasty beverages.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to meet these students who are true ocean heroes that are tackling trash at the source, one item at a time. Their enthusiasm and dedication motivated our group to hit the beach in the rain and collect all the trash we could find. We found the regular trash culprits including cigarette butts, plastic bottle caps, and plastic pieces. The experience came full circle though when we found Dunkin’s iconic pink and orange straws, foam pieces and Dunkin’ Donuts cups in their entirety!

Chatting with the students and their teacher and club advisor Mr. Ted Wells, I learned that their advocacy efforts for the ocean and environment in general are far from over. While Dunkin’ Donuts won’t be completely EPS free by the students’ goal of Earth Day 2015, the Park School Green Club promises to see the effort through. And they are sure to be involved in many more environmental projects and campaigns to come.

After making a difference on the beach, we retreated indoors for some well-deserved hot cocoa.  The students and volunteers were pleased to enjoy their drinks in reusable Ocean Conservancy mugs, which were a thank you for their hard work and for being active ocean advocates. Besides, trash free champions would never want to drink their cocoa from disposable cups!


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