By Caroline Kornegay
During my time interning with Turtle Island Restoration Network, I learned an incredible amount on the impact each individual has on the environment. The choices we make in our everyday lives build up and can overall have a huge effect on our ecosystems. If one person uses 3 single-use plastic water bottles a day, that adds up to 1,095 water bottles that have been thrown out in one year. Whereas if a person uses one reusable water bottle for that whole year, none are thrown out. While we need to continue the push for legislation to be passed to mitigate pollution from the top down, working to do the same from the bottom up is equally as important.
Additionally, I learned about the types of litter that are deemed acceptable in society, two of the most prevalent ones being cigarette butts and balloons. Smokers often flick their cigarette butts whenever they’re done smoking. These butts contain plastic filters that can be recycled through TerraCycle*. With my time at TIRN, we worked to expand the “Hold on to Your Butt” program, where cans were placed throughout Galveston in order for cigarette butts to be collected and recycled. Balloons are another type of litter that I have seen become socially acceptable, as people often hold balloon releases to commemorate events. What people often don’t think about is the fact that balloons are made up of plastics, and when they are released they simply float away, fall to the ground, and become litter. TIRN worked to collect numbers on this issue, present this data to local government, and pass legislation banning intentional balloon releases in Galveston.
Working on large projects such as these, along with leading dozens of beach clean-ups has helped me to realize the importance of each individual. It has also expanded my knowledge on the impacts we have. I’ve taken this knowledge and used it in my everyday life, both in how I make decisions and how I teach others on how they can make their impact on our planet a positive one.
*TerraCycle is an innovative recycling company that recycles hard-to-recycle materials