Keeping Louisiana Beautiful | Inspiration

That moment when you feel completely and utterly inspired to DO something, and you listen to a speech that connects two of your recent blog post topics, which makes you feel like

Keep Louisiana Beautiful held their annual conference this week in Lafayette, and I was able to attend the second morning thanks to the705. The first speaker of the morning was Marcus Eriksen, research director and cofounder of 5Gyres. What does the organization focus on? Plastic pollution in our oceans.

Last week, I wrote about the documentary Bag It!, and mentioned the segment on the remote Midway Atoll and the staggering numbers of dead animals found with plastic and trash in their stomachs. Marcus has traveled to the Midway Atoll and studied the contents of what these animals swallowed. He does extensive work on the effect of microbeads polluting our water and fish, a topic I wrote about earlier this week.

Neither of which I wrote knowing that I would be getting to hear Marcus speak in person a few days later! It was incredibly inspiring to listen to an expert on plastic pollution, and his presentation galvanizes me in a way to put my own effort into doing something. Beyond simply writing about the issues, I want to do more to influence others to reduce their dependence on plastics. Leading by example as I always try to do, it's extremely important to change the culture of disposable and single-use. (Part of the reason I'm a huge supporter of Klean Kanteen's #BringYourOwn campaign.)

A few statistics and facts dropped today:
  • We are seeing over 300 million metric tons of new plastic being produced.
  • Plastic microparticles can penetrate membranes in mussels and oysters, which means we can be eating them.
  • 663 marine species have been impacted by debris.
  • Trash from the Mississippi River enters the Gulf of Mexico and follows the current (gyre) to the North Atlantic.
  • There's 269,000 tons of trash in our oceans, equaling 5.25 TRILLION particles.
  • That's the equivalent of wrapping straws, end-to-end, around the planet 425 times.

One of my favorite statements Marcus made was when discussed how finding whole pieces of plastic in the ocean is very rare, thanks to photo-degradation, and you can't tell which company to blame, 

"except all of us."


The next big topic of discussion was litter enforcement in the state of Louisiana. Captain James Gomillion with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries talked about how he enforces litter laws in Rapides and Avoyelles parishes (what up CENLA!)

Just so everyone has a friendly reminder, there IS a Louisiana litter hotline where you can report littering activity, and offenders will get cited and fined.

Add that number to ya phone.

And did you know LDWF has a tips app where you can report violations, whether it's littering or other kinds? I didn't! Download that.

Tom Ethans, of Take Pride Winnipeg, shared many of the organization's successful projects in cleanliness, beautification and education. I might have spent part of the time laughing inside about Tim Horton's jokes from How I Met Your Mother, but I promise I paid attention to the presentation. The city has been extremely successful over the past 20 years in cultivating a sense of pride among its residents and students.

As Tom made us recite, it's about:

"reduce, reuse, recycle, respect."

Can we turn the 3 Rs into 4 now? Respect for our home is the motivator that fuels us wanting to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Another of my favorite moments from the morning was one of the KLB directors talking about the need to go waste-free at the next conference. It was ironically hilarious to me that a conference full of civic-minded treehuggers had a collection of soft drink cans, water bottles and plastic plates.

As I sat next to Gretchen with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Office of Sustainability and Lisa with Lafayette Consolidated Government recycling, I laughed at how we all brought our own coffee mugs and water bottles. Next year, we will totally make sure there's no single-use plastic around!

Many thanks to Keep Louisiana Beautiful for putting on a great conference, even if I didn't attend both days, and to the705 for allowing me to represent!

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