Recently members of our Youth Ocean Advocates program traveled to Olympia to advocate in support of new laws to help protect our environment. The teen volunteers met with legislators to discuss various policy and to learn about the legislative process. Below is a recap from Olivia Schroeder who took a moment to share her experience participating in Seattle Aquarium’s advocacy day. Thank you Olivia!
On January 21, I traveled with the Seattle Aquarium to Olympia to advocate in support of the Reusable Bag Bill (HB 1205/SB 5323). We spent the day meeting with senators and representatives, urging them to vote in favor of the bill. I was extremely excited to talk about this bill and spread my knowledge about the effects of single-use plastic on marine life. Youth voices hold more power than we think, and I think that I learned that on the trip. We are inheriting the planet next, and the action that takes place now is affecting the course of climate change and the survival of our planet. I saw that the lawmakers and decision makers in our legislature are starting to recognize that.
I’m extremely passionate about plastic pollution because I love the ocean. I spend lots of time volunteering on behalf of marine conservation, and I put a lot of my time and energy into helping people connect to and care about our oceans. We depend on our oceans for everything: our economies, employment, food, ecotourism, and down to the air we breathe. Protecting the ocean and the marine life inside it means that we are protecting ourselves and our planet.
Plastic pollution in our oceans is one of the main issues affecting our oceans. We need to reduce plastic in our oceans, by choosing to live and purchase sustainably, and by simply caring about our oceans and the vast life inside them. The Reusable Bag Bill matters because, while it is a small step towards a larger goal of plastic reduction, plastic bags are a huge cause of death in our oceans, causing deaths and injury due to strangulation, mutilation, and starvation to countless marine mammals and organisms.
On my trip to Olympia, I worked with other Aquarium volunteers and staff to speak to the legislators and senators, informing them about plastic pollution and the benefits of the bill and asking them to vote in the bill’s favor. I also testified in front of the House of Representatives Energy and Environment Committee. Testifying was a great experience for me, because I felt like I had a direct connection to the creation of change. I spoke on behalf of my peers and my generation, stating that we do not want a world or oceans full of plastic. I was able to talk directly to the people who will decide the fate of the bill, and hope that I made an impact. I hope that I can continue similar advocacy opportunities!
By Olivia Schroeder, Seattle Aquarium Youth Ocean Advocate
About the Reusable Bag Bill
The Reusable Bag Bill (HB 1205/SB 5323), which was announced in November at a press conference at the Seattle Aquarium, prohibits the use of thin single-use plastic carryout bags at retailers across the state of Washington. Retailers will be able to provide 40% post-consumer content recycled paper bags and thicker, durable plastic film bags at checkout at a cost of at least 10 cents to customers who don’t bring their own reusable bags. The charge covers the cost to stores of providing the more expensive paper bags and thick plastic bags and will also incentivize customers to bring their own reusable bags. Food banks and participants in food assistance programs are exempt from the charge and the bag requirements. Produce bags, newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags, and small bags for things like prescription drugs are also exempt. The bill also requires that any compostable bags be tinted green or brown to reduce confusion and make sure they—and not plastic bags—ultimately wind up in bins headed for commercial composting facilities.
You can add your voice to those of the youth advocates to keep up the momentum behind the Reusable Bag Bill! Email your legislator or call the toll free legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and ask them to support Senate Bill 5323 and House Bill 1205 to help reduce plastic pollution.