It’s #iwillWeek and we’re celebrating the power of youth

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 18 November 2019

This week we’re championing the role that young people play in ensuring our oceans are clean and healthy.

#IWill
© #IWillWeek

We‘re supporting #iwillWeek, part of the #iwill campaign. The campaign, which is supported by over 1,000 organisations across the UK, aims to make social action among the under 20s the norm. It wants volunteering, fundraising, campaigning and mentoring to become second nature to the social media generation.

At MCS we’re very lucky because young people are really keen to offer up their time to help our cause – from beach cleaning, encouraging their schools and communities to go plastic free and fundraising to help us continue our work towards clean seas and beaches.

All this week we’ll bring you the real life, uplifting stories of young people who are working tirelessly for our oceans on behalf of MCS.

Today we’re talking to Amy and Ella Meek, aged 16 and 14 from Nottingham

Amy and Ella run their own charity and youth action social project, Kids Against Plastic. They founded it almost four years ago to help tackle the global environmental crisis of plastic pollution, through encouraging a more ‘Plastic Clever’ mindset and empowering young people to take action against the issues that affect them.

Amy and Ella Meek

Hi Amy and Ella, why did you decide to get involved?

We were, at the time, being home-schooled by our parents and studying the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development. It was through these that we discovered plastic pollution, and the devastating impact our plastic habits are having on the environment. At the time, Blue Planet II had not been released, and we were shocked by what little coverage and widespread public knowledge there was regarding plastic pollution. We decided we needed to do our bit to make a difference on the issue – so we did, and founded Kids Against Plastic!

How did being involved make a difference to the ocean and/or your life?

Running a charity as a family is hard work, but it is so rewarding. We’ve had the opportunity to speak in incredible places, like the UK Parliament and cities around Europe, and have even had the chance to do our own TEDx talk. We get to work with lots of inspiring young people and organisations, and there’s such a feeling of fulfilment that you get from doing something you’re passionate about. We hope that our work to encourage businesses, schools and other public sectors is helping to reduce plastic usage and consequently its impact on the ocean. But, we’re just trying to do our bit to make a difference, and we believe that if we all work together we can help to solve this problem.

Would you recommend other young people to get involved in similar campaigns or projects and if so why?

We think that young people should definitely get involved in environmental campaigns, or any projects that they are passionate about. Standing up for what you believe in is so important, particularly as these are issues that we are going to inherit, as the future generation. If you want to see a change be made, you can’t sit back and let others do the work. We, as the youth, have a powerful voice, and we need to use it.

What advice would you give to others about looking after the ocean?

Start small, but do something. Even if it’s something as simple as refusing a plastic straw when you go out for a drink; every small change adds up to make a huge difference. Don’t be put off by a need to take a huge step, like becoming plastic free. Start by doing something manageable to help the ocean, and then grow from there.

Why is the ocean important to you?

The ocean is important to us for the same reason it should be to everyone – it’s thanks to the oceans we’re alive. Every second breath we take is supplied by our oceans and seas, and they have such an influential role in helping to maintain a stable climate. For something that’s so diverse and beautiful, and something that we rely on so heavily, we don’t respect it or conserve it the way we should.

One word you’d use to describe our ocean?

Vital

Amy Bray, aged 16 from Cumbria

From a very young age, Amy has been fascinated by the natural environment and has adored all living things. Her passion is the ocean and whereas many ten-year-olds’ favourite animal may be a cat or a horse, hers was the photosynthesising sea slug. Early in 2018, an accumulation of ideas led to the creation of her marine conservation campaign, Devotion to Ocean.

Amy Bray

Hi Amy! Why did you decide to start the campaign?

My aim was to give people the motivation to change their lives to make a difference. To unite people in contributing to the solution, not the destruction of our earth. After influencing my family to go plastic-free and to live more sustainably I wanted to share our discoveries and the motivation to do this with the wider public. It started with a conversation on a sofa and has now directly educated over 3000 people about marine pollution and sustainability together with an Instagram following of over 2300.

How did being involved make a difference to the ocean and/or your life?

Devotion to Ocean is now a campaign under my charity, Another Way, which focuses on sustainability as a whole and inspiring the public to make a change before waiting for anyone else. Another Way, has delivered awareness sessions, talks and activities to over 3000 people, focusing on the need for individual change and providing people with advice for changing their habits, all endorsed by leading scientists. We have established a zero-waste shop- Another Weigh in Penrith- with profits going to the charity, helping people to reduce the amount of waste they produce and are planting 1700 trees in our area with the help of local school children.

Would you recommend other young people get involved in similar campaigns or projects and if so why?

Yes - our work is making a difference. We have collected hundreds of personal pledges of behavioural change. Schools and businesses have dramatically reduced their waste and individuals have changed their lives, often very significantly to become healthier, for themselves and our planet. If one person was to spread a message to ten people in one day and the next day those ten people each told ten more and so on, it would only take ten days for the whole world to have been inspired.

What is your message for other people who want to help our oceans?

Don’t wait for anyone. Don’t wait for anything. Start right now. Live your life in a way that benefits your planet, your home and those around you. Be creative, be fun, be open-minded. Learn from your mistakes, strive for the better and be an inspiration to those around you. And, perhaps most essentially of all, remember why you love our beautiful, blue planet and what an awful lot there is to fight for. The ocean is life itself.

Click here to find out more about Another Way’s projects and news.

Jordan Havell, aged 18 from Lincolnshire

When Jordan was 12, a harbour porpoise stranded on the coast near his hometown, this lead him to start a public awareness campaign for stranded mammals.

Jordan Havell with Ashley Banjo and Suzi Cox

Hi Jordan! Why did you decide to start the campaign?

When the harbour porpoise stranded nobody knew what to do or who to contact. As we live on the coast I felt this wasn’t good enough and decided to do something about it. I started the public awareness campaign for stranded mammals at the age of 12 and have a Facebook page called ‘Jordan’s Stranded Mammals Campaign’.

How did being involved make a difference to the ocean and/or your life?

Well, I now know that more mammals lives might have been saved as a result, which makes me feel great. My efforts have been recognised as I won Animal Hero Young Animal Enthusiast of the Year in 2015 presented by Chris Packham.

On top of this I was invited to 10 Downing Street to meet the Special Environmental Advisor to the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, Sir John Randall. I was also awarded the Marsh Trust Young Marine Conservation Volunteer of the Year award and was presented with a British Citizen Youth Award at the House of Lords. I was also a finalist in Radio Lincolnshire’s Making a Difference awards last year.

Would you recommend other young people get involved in similar campaigns or projects and if so why?

I feel it’s very important for young people to get involved. It can help save lives, keep the coast in a better condition and help our environment. I am an Information Officer for Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust where I volunteer too. There is so much you can do and I have proved that hopefully.

What is your message for other people who want to help our oceans?

My message to others is to do everything you can to look after the oceans - it’s our future after all. I helped co-found Sutton-on-Sea Beachcare over two years ago to help keep litter and plastics off our beaches, and again not only does it help our environment, it saves the lives of mammals and seabirds.

Sarah Ross, aged 7 from West Sussex.

Sarah took part in a beach clean when she was 5 and found lots of plastic straws. She went to Waitrose afterwards and saw more plastic straws in the café. Sarah then wrote them a letter to ask them to stop using plastic straws and spoons in their cafes.

Sarah Ross 2

Hi Sarah! Why did you decide to write to Waitrose?

Because the sea creatures will get hurt if they end up in the ocean. My mummy sent the letter to Waitrose and they wrote back saying that they had decided to stop selling plastic straws in all their shops from September 2018, they also sent me some socks with sea creatures on!

How did being involved make a difference to the ocean and/or your life?

I am pleased I wrote the letter otherwise all those straws could have ended up in the ocean and it is dirty enough.

Would you recommend other young people get involved in similar campaigns or projects and if so why?

I enjoy taking part in beach cleans and events with the MCS helping my mummy. She is a Sea Champion and that is what I want to be when I am old enough. I like taking part because it helps the sea animals stay safe and lets other people know how important it is to look after the environment. I think other children should take part because it would then be easier to look after the environment together.

Sarah Ross

Why is the ocean important to you?

The ocean is important to me because I enjoy swimming in it and I want to be a marine conservationist when I am older. I want to do that job because I like looking after sea creatures especially Manta Rays and I want to work and swim with them when I am older.

Thanks for reading our #iwillWeek stories, we hope they’ve inspired you to take action for our oceans!

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