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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans

August 14, 2017

Wellesley Student’s SEA Internship Focuses on Plastics Pollution

Madeline Hughes, SEA Single-Use Plastics Reduction (SUPR) Intern

SEA Semester

Ocean plastics exhibit at Woods Hole Science Stroll, Saturday, Aug. 12.

Eight weeks ago I was driving cross-country to claim my title as Single-Use Plastics Reduction (SUPR) Intern for the Sea Education Association (SEA) NOAA Marine Debris collaboration. Upon arrival, one of my first tasks was renaming our project. While SUPR (pronounced super) Intern was catchy and drew coveted connections between Wonder Woman and myself, it wasn’t exactly informative of my job or earthly abilities. SUPR soon became Trash Shouldn’t Splash, a campaign that officially launches on August 12th 2017 at the Woods Hole Science Stroll.

Trash Shouldn’t Splash is a collaborative project by SEA, Falmouth Water Stewards’ Skip the Straw, and the NOAA Marine Debris Program. It aims to reduce the amount of plastic trash in the ocean by decreasing the use of one-time plastic items such as straws, coffee cups, and take out containers. Launching off President Obama’s Executive Order 13707: Using Behavioral Science Insights to Better Serve the American People, I’ve been building an annotated bibliography to survey social norm research. This ongoing project will be a valuable tool when the grant work has been completed.

In order to invoke behavioral change within our community, I relied upon social norm research to make effective appeals and presentations to consumers and business owners. I designed a survey and visited Woods Hole restaurants to learn how plastics were being used. Afterward, I offered to do a cost-benefit analysis demonstrating the economic and environmental benefits that could be gained by reducing plastics.

Collaborating with Skip the Straw, a group of Falmouth students, and SEA professors allowed me to ensure the continuity of the project for the future. This summer, Skip the Straw and I have been attending local government meetings to educate about single-use plastics (SUP). This fall SEA students will engage with curriculum that primes them to begin thinking about ocean plastics as well as complete SUP specific assignments.

Overall, this project has personal significance as I begin my senior year at Wellesley College and consider jobs in the field of public health. Environmental health and physical health are directly related. I view the Trash Shouldn’t Splash project within the realm of public health through the lens of oceanography.  Through educational campaigns like Trash Shouldn’t Splash simple behavioral changes can have a great impact on world health, and I am grateful to have had this opportunity.

Categories: News, • Topics: featured  plastics • (0) Comments
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