A couple weeks back, I took an evening off of Krav Maga to check out my local Sierra Club’s open house. Ever since I moved back to Maryland, I’ve been trying to learn more about the environmental groups in my own backyard. And this was the perfect place to get started! As I walked around admiring the different tables, I noticed a whole table about one of my favorite subjects: eliminating plastic!!
Well of course I had to see what that was all about! The table had a whole slew of tips on how to reduce plastic. In fact, their campaign is titled “Solutions for Plastic Pollution: Become part of the solution”. While I was checking it out, I started chatting with Pat Hersey who was tabling at the event. She informed me that the “Solutions for Plastic Pollution” campaign was created through a collaboration between Indivisible Howard County and Our Revolution Howard County. We had a lot in common when it came to our environmental interests so I knew I just had to interview her for this blog!
She and Alisa Niefeld-Batiz , who refer to themselves as the “Resister Sisters”, were kind enough to answer my questions about Indivisible and Our Revolution! The Resister Sisters are the original members of the Environmental Action Team for Indivisible Howard County and co-leads for the Our Revolution Environmental Team. They spearheaded the “Solutions for Plastic Pollution” campaign. I hope all of you enjoy this first interview in my new section!
Note: If you are a Howard County resident, check out local events at the bottom of this article!
Q: For starters, what are Indivisible and Our Revolution and what are they working towards?
Pat & Alisa: Indivisible started after the 2016 election. The mission of the Environmental Action Team within Indivisible is to serve community organizers to resist policy that harms the environment. We organize town halls, inform those citizens about marches and legislations, and coordinate other local events. Our Revolution is an American progressive and social democratic political action organization spun out of Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign. Sierra Club is also supporting our cause. The Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club focuses on protecting the state’s natural and wildlife resources, monitoring legislation, sponsoring outings, and educating the public.
Q: How did you get involved with Indivisible and Our Revolution?
Pat & Alisa: Knowing the history of government denial of climate change and wanting to fight for the environment drove us to attend the first Indivisible meeting. We became the founding members of the Our Environmental Action Team. This team allows anyone to birth to an idea and gives support to watch it grow into change.
The Bernie Sanders book, “Our Revolution” is a staple for us. Respecting and caring for others and the environment is the cornerstone of the people’s platform. Our Howard County group was created to promote that platform. We have “Lefty Lunches.” The inaugural lunch was a presentation on Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project called “Climate Change and a Reason for Hope.” We also had a lunch on education and have an upcoming lunch on immigration.
Q: Which environmental issues of today are you working to improve and why are you prioritizing them?
Pat & Alisa: Our campaign, “Solutions for Plastic Pollution”, is focused on reducing and refusing single-use plastic. We are committed to providing education on the health and environmental dangers of single-use plastic and changing the hearts and minds of citizens and lawmakers. This is a priority because we are drowning in plastic. In a very short time, plastic has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. And we are using non-renewable resources to make plastic bags that are used for an average of 12 minutes. Is it us, or is that crazy?
But there is good news. Many cities, states and entire countries have a fee or ban on plastic bags. The results: There are significantly fewer plastic bags on the sea floor ever since a number of European countries introduced fees, according to a study from U.K. Government’s Center for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science(CEFAS). We know a fee works, but to complete the circle, we need to change behavior. We truly believe grassroots efforts is what creates the change we want and need. We believe most people do not want to drink, eat or breath plastic. We believe most people do not want to see plastic bottles suffocating the drains or plastic bags tangled in our trees or plastic garbage patches in our oceans. The choice is our. We can choose to refuse single-use plastic.
Q: What tools do you find most effective for getting your message across to the public?
Pat & Alisa: Studies show education and a fee on plastic bags is the best way to change behavior and reduce single-use plastic bags. To that end, we are doing everything we can to push education and working to assure we elect County Council candidates that support a fee on plastic bags. We have tabled at The Earth Forum and Sierra Club’s Environmental Open House. We will be tabling at the Greenfest and The Earth Day festival at Brookside Garden (details below). At each event, we are encouraging people to sign our petition that will support a fee on plastic bags. We are also providing education on the dangers of single-use plastic and easy, common sense solutions.
Q: What are your top suggestions for people working on living a more sustainable lifestyle?
Pat & Alisa: It takes 30 days to create a new habit. Yes, it takes time to remember to bring your reusable bags and bring your water bottle and coffee mug, but like brushing your teeth, it becomes a habit. Here are some ways you can help reduce single use plastic:
- Start you own campaign to reduce single-use plastic in your county
- Refuse bottled water
- Buy boxes instead of bottles.
- Use foil or beeswax instead of plastic bags.
- Register to vote and vote for candidates that will fight for the environment (see below for information about local candidates).
- Say “No straw please” when you are eating out. Leave a “No Straw Please” card with the manager.
- Get involved (see below)!
- If you can’t Refuse, Reuse, Reduce, Repurpose, then make sure you recycle correctly: Look for #1 (PETE)or #2 (HDPE)which are the most commonly recycled plastic.
- Attend our tabling events to learn more!
Q: What upcoming events does Our Revolution have that people could get involved in?
Pat & Alisa: Our “Solutions for Plastic Pollution” campaign continues to promote education and to get signatures for our petition to put a fee on plastic bags in Howard County. At each event, we will have the petition. We would love people to join us for these upcoming tabling events:
In the Works:
- Presentation for the Sustainability Board to promote more education in the county
- With Sierra Club Zero Waste Campaign, we are planning a Plastic Crisis Film festival in September. Stay tuned.
- Education, education, education!
I hope you all enjoyed learning about Indivisible and Our Revolution as much as I did! Even if you’re reading my blog from outside of the Howard County area, I hope you get inspired to check out the environmental groups in your own backyard! Did you like this interview? Want to see more interviews in the future? Let me know by leaving a comment below! Thanks for reading!
If you are a Howard County local:
You can sign Indivisible and Our Revolution’s petition to put a fee on Plastic Bags in Howard County at one of their tabling events.
Indivisible HoCo has also worked with the Columbia Association to promote the importance of the “We Are Still In” Pledge. Not only did the Columbia Association sign the pledge, but they are also creating a Climate Change/Sustainability Committee. They are accepting applications until 4/30/18.
Pat and Alisa have kindly provided the following recommendations for county council candidates:
So far, county council candidates Hiruy Hadgu and Greg Jennings (both in District 3) have committed to supporting a fee on plastic bags in Howard County. Opal Jones (District 2) has also committed to a fee. Ben Jealous is the greenest candidate for Governor. He has been endorsed by 350.org‘s Bill McKinnon and Friends of the Earth. Maryland primary election occurs on 6/26/18. The final election occurs on 11/6/18.