Beach Sisters is a collaborative program between Northeastern’s Marine Science Center & Girls Inc of Lynn. You can learn more about the program from this link: https://cos.northeastern.edu/marinescience/outreach/beach-sisters-program/
The Beach Sister Peer Leaders had a busy year sharing their passion for our marine environment. In addition to teaching weekly marine science lessons to elementary and middle school girls at Girls Inc., they were actively involved in improving their community. The most noticeable concern the Peer Leaders saw in their community’s environment was the amount of litter they saw on a regular basis, with the most common item being single use plastic bags. This motivated them to push for a plastic bag ban in their community of Lynn.
In January, they participated in a Day of Service in honor of Martin Luther King Junior and began collecting signatures for their petition to ban plastic bags. To help community members better recognize the problem of single-use plastic bags, they recruited a friend to wear a ‘plastic bag monster’ costume made out of 500 plastic bags, the number of plastic bags an average American uses annually. After gaining positive support from community members, they began researching neighboring towns’ plastic bag ban legislations and assessing which parts would work well in Lynn. The Beach Sisters also were aware of community members’ concerns of not being able to afford reusable bags and commuting to get groceries making it difficult to rely on paper bags, especially in inclement weather. To overcome this, the Beach Sisters organized a donation drive for reusable bags and collected T-shirts they cut and tied into reusable bags. Additionally, they created customized reusable bags thanks to the financial support of MIT & WHOI SeaGrant organizations. The Beach Sisters distributed a combined total of 750 bags to Girls Inc. families and food pantries in Lynn.
In June, the Beach Sisters met with the Lynn City Council Committee on Environmental Affairs and Mayor McGee. They shared a presentation they created highlighting their work in the community and their motivation for a plastic bag ban including that plastic bags have an average use of only ten minutes before ending up in a landfill and the dangers plastic bags present to both terrestrial and marine life. Their presentation resulted in approval for Lynn’s Department of Public Health to draft legislation for a plastic bag ban!
The Beach Sisters also worked closely with State Representative Lori Ehrlich’s office in support of her bill for a statewide plastic bag ban. This gave them multiple opportunities for their voices to be heard by numerous state leaders. The Beach Sisters shared their presentation with Senator Brendan Crighton at Girls Inc. in Lynn and were invited to the Massachusetts State House to present to Governor Baker’s Deputy Legislative Director, and aides to Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and Chairman of House and Ways Committee Jeffrey Sanchez. All of the state leaders praised the Beach Sisters for their effort and commitment to the issue, but more attention was needed from other organizations and individuals from across the state for Representative Ehrlich’s bill to be passed.
If you support the Beach Sisters work, there are two ways you can help a statewide plastic bag ban be passed in the next legislative session beginning in 2019. First, if your town doesn’t have its own plastic bag ban, start contacting your local representatives to draft legislation. The more towns successfully implementing a plastic bag ban, the more likely the bill will be moved to pass statewide! Second, please pay attention in the beginning of 2019 for Representative Ehrlich’s new bill for a statewide plastic bag ban and call your representatives to ask them to support this bill and move it forward for a vote to be passed early in the new legislative session. Thank you!
— Amanda Dwyer