A single plastic straw can take more than 200 years to decompose. In the meantime, those straws often become pollution or even worse, sea turtle or whale “food.” Research estimates that there are 8.3 billion plastic straws befouling beaches worldwide. Plastic has become a dirty word, especially single-use plastics. Ecology Project International’s (EPI) Mexico's Californios Verdes Eco Club took an active role in helping ban the most common single-use plastics in Baja California Sur, including plastic straws.
So what did the Californios Verdes do, exactly? How can other youth activists use the Eco Club’s work as a template for banning single-use plastics in their own communities?
First, the Californios Verdes grew their alliances. A team of 35 businesses, nonprofit organizations, and municipal government arms, from bagel shops to the Los Cabos Association of Hotels and Tourism, named themselves the “Desplastifícate Alianza,” or Deplastification Alliance. The Alliance created a plan of attack to educate the public and launch the concept of the ban and then divided up duties.
The Alliance created a website where other concerned citizens could learn about their campaign and donate toward their efforts. The Californios Verdes led the “Plastic Attack,” a massive educational campaign in the supermarkets of different cities.
In the “Plastic Attack,” the Californios Verdes’ goal was to make all the plastic consumed at supermarkets visible to customers and to provide people with ideas for alternatives and solutions. Alejandra, a member of the Californios Verdes, described what this looked like: “We’d approach a customer, and look through their cart with them, saying, ‘This is the amount of plastic you’re using,’ pointing out examples like beans that were already in plastic bottles.’”
Key Deplastification Actions by the Californios Verdes:
- In the “Plastic Attack” campaign, 89 Eco Club members, teachers, partners, and community members worked to educate consumers on their plastic use
- Members of the Eco Club spoke at the regional pentathlon about single-use plastics
- Fifteen Eco Club members surveyed supermarket patrons on their single-use plastic bag use and offered free cloth bags to them
- Eco club members conducted 472 supermarket patron surveys and explained the proposed polystyrene, plastic straw, and plastic bag prohibition
Ultimately, the efforts of EPI Mexico’s Eco Club Californios Verdes helped create widespread support for the ban of three of the most common single-use plastic items in Baja—plastic bags, plastic straws, and polystyrene. A law, announced by Governor Carlos Mendoza Davis, against their use became official on August 16, 2019, across the entire state of Baja California Sur.
EPI’s Program Operations Supervisor David Schimelpfeinig spoke of his experience in Baja stores just a week after the ban:
“I had a surreal experience at the Walmart in La Paz, shopping for a few hard to find items in Baja. At the checkout stand, I noticed something different. There were no plastic bags. The attendant was packing in reusable bags, boxes, or just handing items to shoppers to carry out. It's only been a week since the law took effect—and I'm sure that in time there will be millions fewer plastic bags heading for the landfill, beaches, and oceans of Baja. In a world full of worrisome changes, it's great to see positive change in action!”
Want to deplastificate yourself? Head on over to Ecology Project International’s store and get a beautiful, re-useable cloth shopping bag with whale shark art from the Deplastificate campaign. Your purchase will support EPI and the conservation leadership of dynamic EPI alumni like the Californios Verdes!
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