Leading the Way: Milton Academy’s Sustainability Club

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Emmie Atwood and Yuta Inumaru

Emmie Atwood and Yuta Inumaru

W2O Board member Lynne Taylor recently met with a group of inspiring teens working to improve awareness of reducing waste and plastics on the Milton Academy campus.

When the younger generation get involved things really begin to happen. Take the group of students who make up the Sustainability Club at Milton Academy, a K-12 day/ boarding school located in Milton Mass. These students, led by co-chairs, Emmie Atwood and Yuta Inumaru have made big things happen on campus. Atwood will tell you that most of their work is done behind the scenes but the results have been commendable. The club is fully charged to get their initiatives done.  Currently they are working with administration and Facilities Department to get the school on a compost system that will reduce waste and help the environment.  Atwood explains, “Although the school has been receptive, it still takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. Our team had to work out logistical details and financials before moving ahead with our proposal to the CFO of Milton Academy.”

Last spring the club not only managed to convince the administration to purchase more efficient toilet flushers in the dorms on campus, they also arranged dorm competitions to get students to reduce electricity consumption. “Once we present our strategies for sustainability, we get impressive support from the student body. But it still takes a strong voice and clear vision to get the work done,” comments   Atwood.

A recent highlight for Atwood and Inumaru’s team occurred just recently when the group convinced the school to reduce plastic consumption on campus.  Over 600 non-plastic water bottles were ordered to distribute to students-free of charge, an investment that most schools can’t make but one that shows a big return for our environment. The idea behind the big purchase is to set an example and have students, faculty and administrators use their personal water bottles instead of buying plastic water bottles. The change inspires conversation at the school and in and around the community. The school has already installed a water station so students can fill up without buying bottles from a machine.

W2O challenges and encourages Atwood and Inumaru to write to legislators about the in Bill to reduce plastic currently in committee at the State House. If anyone can start a student writing campaign, they can! (You do not have to be 18 or a registered voter to write.) These fabulous, motivated students are our next generations of stewards of our planet.

Looking to the future, The Sustainability Club has a long list of ideas to get and keep the Milton Academy community more involved in pertinent sustainability initiatives. “With help from a very motivated group of people, we know the work will get done”, explains Inumaru. “It is crucial for our Milton community and for our planet at large.”

Whale of a Day

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The Right Whale

The Right Whale

I love that members and friends are sharing the wonders of the ocean.  Just seems like I have had a day of whale information sent to me.

From our friend and Board Member, Linda Cabot, information from her fab newsletter “From the Bow Seat” highlights the work of 16 year old Noelle Anderson. Check out her fourteen minute film about the Right Whale: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=m6ppjveVxE0.

National Public Radio’s weekly “Living on Earth” series features whales of the New England coast and examines their hunting techniques:http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=13-P13-00017&segmentID=7



W2O Helps the Ban on Plastic Bags Move Forward

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Legislature Marks Earth Day by Advancing Ban on Plastic Bags
BOSTON – On Monday, April 22, the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee, held a special hearing on proposals to ban plastic carryout bags. They immediately voted to advance the bill, taking this critical first step. The bill will now move forward and could face a final vote within the next few weeks.
Plastic bags have been singled out as a one of the most visible and dangerous types of litter. The bags take up to 1000 years to degrade, and when they do, they break up into smaller and smaller bits, never going away. They are deadly to wildlife, which mistake them for food or become entangled in them. Turtles, whales, seals, birds, and fish are the most susceptible to ingesting them, suffering a painful death as the plastic wraps around their intestines or they choke to death. Some animal species, already threatened due to issues such as overfishing or habitat loss, could face extinction.
Plastic bags also don’t biodegrade; they simply break into ever smaller plastic bits, never disappearing from our environment. These small bits, known as micro-plastics, attract toxins and carcinogens, which eventually enter the food chain, and displace food supplies in the world’s oceans.
“Like urban tumbleweeds, plastic bags end up airborne in trees, clogging storm drains and polluting our oceans. Every time we utilize a plastic bag we are contributing to leaving our planet worse for the generations that will follow us,” said State Representative Lori A. Ehrlich, (D-Marblehead), the lead sponsor of H696 “This legislation will put Massachusetts on the map as a beacon for responsible consumer behavior and environmental stewardship.”
“Over 380 billion plastic bags are used every year by Americans, and only about 5 percent are recycled. The widespread use of plastic bags has serious consequences for the environment: littering our coastlines, using up the equivalent of billions of gallons of petroleum and killing millions of animals every year. It’s time to ban this dangerous product and encourage the use of more sustainable alternatives,” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton).
“This is a major step in the right direction for Massachusetts. With this ban, we would become one of the leaders among governments acting to protect the world we live in. We don’t have to accept plastic bags choking our oceans, rivers, birds, and animals. We can start being part of the solution,” stated Representative Denise Provost (D-Somerville).
Reps. Ehrlich, Provost, and Sen. Jamie Eldridge each sponsored similar bills to ban plastic bags.
Numerous cities and countries around the world have enacted plastic bag bans. In fact, Nantucket, Massachussetts was one of the first in the world, enacted over 20 years ago. In the last year, Brookline and Manchester-by-the-Sea joined with their own plastic bag bans. Every county in Hawaii has passed a ban, but passage of this bill would make Massachusetts the first state to pass a statewide ban.
This bill would ban single use plastic bags from chains and large stores and would require paper bags to be comprised of recycled material. Many grocery stores have already implemented these policies, so this would not have a significant impact.
The Massachusetts Sierra Club and other public interest organizations have been attempting to pass statewide legislation to ban plastic bags. “Public support for banning bags is overwhelming,” said Phil Sego of the Sierra Club. “Readily available sustainable substitutes make banning plastic bags a common-sense policy to protect the environment.”
“Nothing we use for five minutes should harm our oceans for generations to come,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment Massachusetts.  “It’s time to say goodbye to the plastic bag.”
Also testifying in favor of a ban were Women Working for Oceans (W2O), Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Brookline Town Meeting Member Clint Richmond.
Article submitted for publication to the Boston Globe by The Sierra Club

Mourning Richie Havens-Steward of the Oceans

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If you are of certain age, you remember Richie Havens and his soulful voice as a Woodstock icon and alumni but some of his most important work was his overall contribution to children’s love of the natural world through his interests in ecology and the ocean. I met Mr Havens through work in the late 1980s when he visited my then office in NYC. Tall and unassuming in a long coat, he took up a lot of space and quite frankly, I was star struck and a bit shy of him. He asked me what I liked to do outside of work, putting me at ease.  I had just finished a long sailing trip (and missed a day of work, much to the chagrin of my boss,) so we fell into a conversation about the power the ocean and how it can effect your mood and influence your work. He said that the spiritual feeling that he felt around the ocean inspired his music and writing.

I didn’t know until today that he had founded the North-wind Undersea Institute and had also created the Natural Guard, an environmental organization to educate children about our natural world. Today I am mourning a musical steward of the ocean. RIP Richie HavensRichie Havens images

NO to Plastic Bags-Protect What We Love on Earth Day

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Meg Steiner, Barbara Burgess, Mary Alice Karol and Ellen Curren at the State House

Meg Steiner, Barbara Burgess, Mary Alice Karol and Ellen Curren at the State House

W2O Co Founder, Barbara Burgess and three other W2O Board members headed to the Boston State House today to testify to our State Legislature’s Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture in support of the Plastic Bag Reduction Bill #696.  What better to way to honor Earth Day than to stand up for what we believe in to protect our oceans by stating our views on the pollution and harmful effects to human health by those aerodynamic plastic bags choking our waterways, strangling our marine life and ending up in all of us. W2O joined The Sierra Club, Environmental America and other groups in support of the bill put forth by Democrat Massachusetts Representative of the 8th Essex District, Lori Ehrlich.

Some reminders of the issues at hand and a link to how you can help!

  • PLASTIC IS FOREVER (still ringing in my ears from our “Plastics in the Oceans, Plastics in You event and eloquently put by Dianna Cohen from Plastic Pollution Coalition-plastic breaks down into tiny bits that are ingested by our fish and wildlife and then in turn is ingested by us and IT NEVER GOES AWAY
  • Plastic clogs our waterways, costs municipalities in clean up efforts, and end up in our oceans, collecting in huge gyres that can never be cleaned up
  • “Biodegradable” doesn’t exist when speaking of plastic (bags or any kind) and companies that tell you that their bag is going to “break down” are not telling you the science. In order for a bag to decompose, it needs the perfect conditions of sun, heat and lack of moisture.  Most bags are in our trees, landfills and waterways and are not basking in the sun for hundreds of days waiting to break down. Just refuse plastic bags!

Act now! Use this link to the Sierra Clubs easy guide and Write your legislator and Protect What YOU Love!

The Ocean as “Mortal”

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Photo: Brian Skerry


A W2O member pointed me towards an interesting conversation yesterday from NPR’s “On Point” with Tom Ashbrook and his guest, W. Jeffrey Bolster, author of a new book “The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail.”   Understanding the economics, politics, and social perceptions currently and in our history helps frame why it is so vital that we protect what we love.  In his book, Mr. Bolster quotes one of our great writers and lovers of the natural world, Rachel Carson. Again, we are reminded that it is easy to see how our land resources and their natural beauty have been effected by our choices, but we struggle to grasp the image of an ocean in trouble.

In 1951, Rachel Carson wrote this in “The Sea Around Us

“He (mankind) cannot control or change the ocean as, in his brief tenancy of the earth, he has subdued and plundered the continents”

Of course we know she was mistaken, but clearly, this smart, educated, well respected woman was caught up in the public perception that the ocean, as Bolster says, was seen as abundant, lush and untouchable for many. This just reconfirms and makes me want to shout out our mission statement for W2O, so I will repeat it here!


Promoting healthy and sustainable oceans through education that inspires advocacy and action 

PIPA “Lists” of Particular Importance

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Scientist Randi Rotjan's supplies for her PIPA expedition

Scientist Randi Rotjan’s supplies for her PIPA expedition


Keith Ellenbogen's map and dive plan for the PIPA Expedition

Keith Ellenbogen’s map and dive plan for the PIPA Expedition


I am inspired by a current Rhode Island School of Design art exhibit that is called simply, “Lists.”  The show presents lists from artists that were written in great detail before and during a project or artistic journey.  When I attended the W2O event, “Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints” today I was struck by how much effort it must have taken Scientist Randi Rotjan and underwater photographer Keith Ellenbogen to mount the PIPA expeditions for the New England Aquarium.  This is a “List” worthy, massive artistic and scientific undertaking. Along with other scientists and photographers, Randi and Kieth kept lists and double checked to make sure that only the most necessary equipment took the trip on the relatively small vessel that travels 5 days at sea from Fiji to reach the remote Phoenix Islands and the Island Nation of Kanton. And these last details only after years of planning, fund raising, researching and coordinating with other conservation organization.  The time, effort and expense are well worth the results and revelation that come from exploring the islands, learning about the small community living on them and studying this laboratory of intact coral reef system and ocean marine life. The area is now free of commercial fishing and damaging habitat destruction and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the deepest and largest World Heritage site on Earth.

Today’s event, “Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints” was magical in image, informative in content and inspiring to all of us. Our take away “Action” today: Please put ocean protection on your “philanthropic dance card” and  support the PIPA project.

Census of Kanton Island Residents curtesy of Keith Ellenbogen

Census of Kanton Island Residents curtesy of Keith Ellenbogen