Each year Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup draws volunteers of all ages together to remove trash from the lakes, rivers and coastlines they love. As we approach the thirtieth Anniversary of this global trash-free-seas effort, and take a retrospective look at all the Cleanup has accomplished, we know that children and students continue to play a major role in its success.
In the past two years alone, over 151,000 youth across the globe have participated in an International Coastal Cleanup event. For all volunteers, especially kids, a cleanup experience is also an educational one. Engaging the next generation on the impacts of ocean trash and, most importantly, how we all can prevent it is vital if we are to stop further flow of debris into the ocean.
The students from Park School, MA who got Dunkin’ Donuts to come to the table and reconsider their use of expanded polystyrene (EPS) cups are just one example of youth making change happen. After learning about the long-lasting affects that EPS has on the environment, they got to work immediately. Their change.org campaign received more than 280,000 signatures and the attention of Dunkin’ Donuts, who have now agreed to switch to environmentally friendly alternatives to serve their tasty beverages.
To inspire even more kids and students, Ocean Conservancy partnered with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program in 2014 to create Talking Trash & Taking Action, a comprehensive educational program dedicated to the issue of ocean trash.
Since its launch, the Talking Trash program has found its way to educators throughout the country. Whether it’s a simple activity incorporated into a lesson on watersheds, or a whole day dedicated to figuring out what those “gyres of trash” are all about, Talking Trash is not only answering these questions but also making the deeper connection for youth that ocean trash is a problem that affects us all. In turn, we hope that youth are inspired to react to this issue, as the students at Park School did, and become future leaders in the fight for trash free seas.