Earth Resource Foundation and Orange Coast College Recycling Center hosted the first annual No Plastic Left Behind conference on Saturday, Oct. 11 at OCC. The conference began in the early morning with a 30 minute yoga and meditation session and ran until five in the evening. The event focused on activism against plastic pollution. Speakers included Brenda Platt, Sustainable Plastics Program Director of Institute for Local Self Reliance, who presented information on fossil-fuel-based plastics and their effects on human and environmental health.
There were two panels and two breakout sessions throughout the day. The first panel focused on businesses. Martin Dietrich of Kean Coffee in Newport Beach gave a presentation about zero waste business. Angela Howe of Surfrider Foundation spoke about the benefits of plastic reduction ordinances for businesses. Mike Carey, who has been OCC’s Sustainability (Recycling) Coordinator for 23 years, gave a presentation entitled “The Price of Recycling.” Carey also led a breakout session called “The Truth About Plastic Recycling.”
Lunch and a vendor fair, featuring companies like Oasis Child, were held at noon in the outdoor OCC horticulture center.
After lunch the conference reconvened with a guided Tibetan purification exercise and a raffle. The grand prize raffle winner received 3 months of yoga lessons, a yoga mat, block, and strap from Yoga Works. By this time the audience had dwindled to about 50 people, about half of the morning crowd. The second panel focused on personal activism and included 3 inspiring speakers.
Beth Terry, an environmentally conscious accountant from Oakland, shared the story behind her blog, fakeplasticfish.com. Terry began an internet campaign in April 2008 to urge the makers of Brita water purifiers to redesign their cartridges so that they may be reused rather than discarded or to provide a way to recycle them. Because of their perseverance, in the past six months Terry and her comrades have been circulating a petition via internet and collecting discarded filters from around the country. They have gone from receiving generic “Dear Sir or Madam” letters from Clorox Company (who owns Brita) to personal letters from Clorox CEO with hand-written notes at the bottom. Their Web site, takebackthefilter.org, is endorsed by Sierra Club, Ideal Bite, Organic Consumers Association, Co-op America, and more.
“You never know who’s going to see what you’re doing and what impact it’s going to have,” Terry said.
“This is something a lot of people have been thinking about, but just a few people scattered here and there wondering doesn’t do that much good,” “but when you all those voices together into one big voice that is how we can really make a difference,” “without internet there’s no way we could have done this,” Terry said.
Sonia Diaz, from Heal the Bay, also spoke during the second panel. She shared her success story of Day Without a Bag 2007 event, which was held in 22 cities in Los Angeles County last year around Christmas. The purpose of this event was to provide advocacy tools for community empowerment.
The final speaker was Michael Klubock of Malibu Foundation. He has worked in environmental education for 15 years. His activism began because he was a sailor with love for the ocean, and he witnessed a kid beach clean-up one day. Klubock now organizes groups of children as large as 3,000 to perform beach clean-ups. He goes to about 100 schools along the California coast every year to give presentations. He thinks his most effective teaching tool is a simple one, “you show someone something they love, show it being damaged, show how it’s being damaged, and give them something to do about it,” Klubock said.
Ellen Mackey, an ecologist, attended the conference with her 13 year old daughter. The Mackey’s home is part of the National Tour of Solar Homes because they have taken measures to make their home environmentally friendly and efficient. They use solar panels for energy, have insulated curtains and do their own composting and mulching to name a few.
“Our whole point is to empower and inspire people to make these changes in their lives because it’s not hard, it’s fairly simple,” “There are a lot of things people can do, but they have to see it put together because they don’t know where to start,” Mackey said.
Also in attendance was Kat, the Eco Club President from Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton.