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News: 04/01/2013

Kenwood School kids need your help to reduce plastic pollution

By Grace McCaull and the Fifth Grade Ocean Guardians, Kenwood School



Do you use a reusable lunch box, sandwich wrap, or water bottle instead of plastic bags or bottles? If you do, great! Keep going. But if you don’t, I want to tell you why you should.

Every day countless numbers of seabirds, fish, and marine mammals, such as sea turtles, whales, and seals, die because of plastic pollution in our oceans. They may get entangled in abandoned fishing lines or nets, plastic tarps, or other plastic debris and then drown, starve, or become easy targets for predators. Or they may ingest small plastic items or pieces, which may lead to choking, starvation, or poisoning. For example, to a sea turtle a plastic bag may look like a jellyfish, and small pieces of plastic may look like fish eggs to a seagull.

In recent years, people have become alarmed by large “garbage patches” containing plastic and other types of debris that have been discovered in our oceans. Estimates of the sizes of these patches and exactly how much plastic debris they contain vary, but regardless of their size and volume, we know that these plastics pose an ongoing threat to marine life and do not belong in our oceans.

How does plastic debris find its way into our oceans? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “All types of marine debris can be traced to one source – people. People’s mishandling of waste materials and a host of other items while on land constitutes the bulk of the marine debris problem. Debris is also blown into the water or carried by creeks, rivers, storm drains and sewers into the ocean.” Here in the Sonoma Valley Watershed, our debris can be washed into Sonoma Creek by feeder creeks or storm drains and then carried to San Pablo Bay, and then to San Francisco Bay, and then out the Golden Gate to the open ocean.

What can we do to help solve this problem? Much of the plastic garbage in our oceans comes from “single-use plastics.” These are plastic items that we use only once and then throw away. They include plastic bags, bottles, cups, and packaging. One solution to reducing the amount of plastic pollution in our oceans is to reduce our use of these kinds of plastics. And we can do that simply by replacing them with easily available items such as reusable lunch boxes, sandwich wraps, water bottles, and food containers.

This year, the fifth grade class at Kenwood School is participating in the Ocean Guardian program, which is funded and supported by the federal government agencies responsible for protecting the health of our oceans, NOAA and the National Marine Sanctuaries.

As Ocean Guardians, our goal this year is to get our school and community to start using reusable items instead of single-use plastics. As part of this effort, we are hosting an Ocean Night on Friday, April 5, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the school’s multi-purpose room. We will be making a brief presentation about the Ocean Guardian program and then showing two short, entertaining, and enlightening videos regarding the marine debris problem. Refreshments will be served. Following the videos, attendees will be offered the opportunity to purchase a wide selection of reusable items at 50 percent off the retail price.

Also, all attendees will be entered into a raffle in which winners will be able to obtain reusable items for free. If you can’t attend the event, you can still take advantage of this offer by contacting the Kenwood School fifth grade class through Mr. Terwilliger at 833-2500. But hurry! All orders must be in by April 19.

Please come to our event and learn about the serious problem of marine debris and what you can do to help solve it. As you can see, we’re trying to save the ocean one reusable item at a time. With your help, we can make that happen sooner.



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