Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Published 4.9.19, Jaedin Guldenstern
As I type at my favorite, go-to coffee shop right now, I am comforted by the smell of cinnamon as I observe how much intrusive plastic is surrounding me. Every single person in here has their disposable cup and pink straw because that’s what they were given- that’s the norm. It’s not necessarily their fault either. As soon as I asked for my medium hot coffee, I noticed that the barista’s instinct was to pick up the plastic cup. I realized that they’re simply doing what their boss tells them to do, they think it’s “easier” for the customer, and there are less dishes for them to clean. Asking for a mug threw her a little off guard, but I swear coffee just tastes better this way.
We all use plastic on the daily, myself included. Plastic is everywhere- from our toothbrush we use in the morning to the granola bar we have for a snack. It's normalized and needed in our current culture. Our society often times corners us into using that to-go coffee cup, single use straw, and plastic that seals our food, making it unavoidable. This repetitive pattern has quickly become normalized with the justification of convenience in our hectic lives. But, once I began to educate myself and become aware of my changeable, everyday habits, my lense on my home and community started to change. I can now see all these areas for improvement, all the things that need to change. Even though this can be a bit frustrating and aggravating, I think that awareness is half the battle. The fact that everyday people are beginning to admit that we are doing something wrong today is how we are going to spark change tomorrow.
However, since this issue of plastic is much to broad and overwhelming, we need to focus on little parts that we can personally make a difference in to make it feel more manageable. If we do this right, our “little wins” will soon add up and make a bigger impact than we could have imagined. Within our environmental club at Newburyport High School, we decided to start with banning plastic water bottles. Kids in our school consistently buy them, completely ignoring the water fountains because “the water is warm” or “it tastes like chlorine.” Although these things are semi-true, we have made huge strides with getting the school’s permission to install a water bottle filler in the general area of the cafeteria to help with filtering, and we also sat at lunches giving out ice to help make water cold. To do more outreach, we have finished our informative yet artistic and interactive e-club board within the school, along with simply talking to more people about our mission. By exchanging our knowledge with community members such as how plastic water bottles have a direct impact on human health based on the high concentration of plastic in the contained water, people’s eyes begin to open. We do not force our opinions or lifestyles on others, but simply act as a group of hope and new ideas as to how we can begin the culture shift that needs to happen.
The e-club is a pretty ambitious group of passionate kids. With kids of all grades in the high school, we successfully had meetings with Chartwells, the principal of NHS, and the superintendent explaining why plastic water bottles are unhealthy and unnecessary. Although the machines have not been removed and kids can still buy plastic water bottles, our group has effectively started the conversation and are starting to change NHS culture and norms by portraying our concern and desire to improve our community and environment.
It's the little wins, the turtle-slow progress. That is how our student community is showing up, and it is hopeful and powerful to be part of.