Meet The 12 Years Old Ocean Hero Who Convinced 120+ Schools To Go Strawless
An interview with Ocean Hero and young environmental activist- Chloe Mei…
We all saw the heart breaking video of a sea turtle, withering in pain and struggling hard to get rid of the straw blocking his nose, making it painful to even breathe. While a majority of us got back to our daily lives, the particular video motivated a sixth grader to do something about it. And she did! She managed to convince 120+ different schools to go strawless.
An epitome of ‘if there’s will, there’s a way‘, the young Ocean Hero and environmental activist- twelve years old Chloe Mei is fighting plastic pollution crisis in her own unique way. I got a chance to interview her and here are the excerpts from it.
Chloe Mei, you are inspiring a lot of people with your amazing work. But I need to know from where did you get the inspiration to start a campaign against plastic pollution?
I started the “Skip the Plastic Straw” campaign as a 6th grade project. I was inspired to start my campaign after watching the video of a straw stuck in a turtle’s nose. It really broke my heart to see an innocent animal suffering from trash in the ocean. I also thought about the kids in the future, and if they went into the ocean what they would see – If nothing changes, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. I want the future generations to see a clean, healthy, trash-free ocean so they get to experience and see the beautiful marine life we have now. The thing I love most about the ocean is the marine life! I love animals, especially the ones in the ocean because they are so fun to look at while I am scuba diving, and it makes me feel happy to see them free from plastic waste. After attending Ocean Heroes Bootcamp last summer, I learned how to best make a change in my community and raise awareness of the dangerous of plastic pollution, specifically single-use plastic straws.
I am sure the journey to being an Ocean Hero must not have been that easy. What challenges did you face in the beginning and how did you overcome them?
A challenge that I face (still today) is when the organizations or school districts that I reach out to do not get back to me. I overcome this challenge by following up with them regularly, to make sure that they received my email and offer any help or suggestion that I have. I also had difficulty convincing some friends to change their habits and to join me to “Skip the Plastic Straw.” I overcame this challenge by sharing with them the alternatives to plastic straws, and now they’re more on board with my campaign!
Can you elaborate a bit more on the campaign from your point of view?
My campaign is to raise awareness about the harmful effects of single-use plastic straws as well as reducing the use of single-use plastic straws. I made my website, skiptheplasticstraw.com, to raise awareness to people around the world about how plastic straws harm our ocean environment and what they can do to help. By targeting school districts and businesses in my community, I’m able to make noticeable differences around me.
How did you manage to convince 120+ different schools in the Newport Beach, California area to “go strawless”?
In July 2018, I managed to convince my school district, Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD), to Skip the Plastic Straw with me and take plastic straws out of all cutlery packets in 32 schools. They are now offering paper straws on request to all elementary schools. In August 2018, I convinced Saddleback Valley Unified School District to Skip the Plastic Straw with me and remove plastic straws from their 34 schools. Recently I also convinced Capistrano Unified School District to Skip the Plastic Straw with me at all 62 schools. Capistrano is the largest school district in Orange County. The total to date is three school districts in Orange County totaling 128 schools. Before I reach out to the schools, I would first research who is the person in charge of the food services in that school district. Then I would send them a personalized email talking about the issue of plastic straws, how it relates to them, possible alternatives, and my campaign. I will then follow up with them and work with those who respond to me. I am truly grateful to Pali Institute, the first organization to Skip the Plastic Straw with me. It gave me the strength to push through and target school districts and other organizations. I am also very grateful to my own school district, NMUSD, for being the first school district to Skip the Plastic Straw with me, believing in and supporting my campaign.
What is 2019 Ocean Heroes Bootcamp and how will this help you in your mission?
The inaugural Ocean Heroes Bootcamp is a camp for youth activists ages 11-18 to come together and learn about single-use plastic bottles. Last year, the Boot-camp focused on plastic straws. At OHBC, there are mentors who will teach the kids facts about plastic and more about how to build a campaign against single-use plastics (whether it’s bottles or straws or something entirely different). 2019 Ocean Heroes Bootcamp will help me and my mission because I will learn new things about taking my campaign to the next level, and I hope to meet new people who might inspire me and collaborate with me in the future!
How did you manage the activism with studies? How did your parents support you in this drive?
I make sure to manage my time and finish as much homework as I can at school and during the weekdays, so I can work on environmental stuff when I have time on the weekends. I try to divide my time evenly, but sometimes that can be challenging. Luckily, my parents are very supportive of my campaign and help me if I have a problem, as well as offer constant support and advice.
What are your aims for future? I mean both personally and professionally?
In the future, I hope to get into Stanford University and play for their water polo team. For Skip the Plastic Straw, I hope to spread the message all around the world and try to convince larger organizations to Skip the Plastic Straw, as well. Eventually, I’d love to see all of California free from single-use plastics.
Any message you would want to convey to your peers?
My peers think, “It’s just one straw, it won’t do anything to harm the ocean.” I want to spread the message that it isn’t just one straw: Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day and they are not recyclable, often ending up in the ocean. Marine animals digest the plastic straws, causing them to suffer and even die. I want my peers to also care for the ocean and to Skip the Plastic Straw. Mostly, I want people to realize that it’s more than just the plastic straw – it’s a simple starting point that can make a huge difference for our oceans.
Ocean Hero Chloe Mei is indeed an inspiration for many. We at Raise Vegan wish her success in all her environment friendly initiatives.
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