By Trimmel Gomes, Florida News Connection
Olympic swimmer turned environmental activist Merle Liivand has seen a rise in plastic waste while navigating the Intracoastal canals of South Florida over the years and has decided to take action.
Liivand actively participates in cleanup efforts alongside environmental groups and has grown frustrated by the amount of plastic waste discarded by people. She is encouraging people to do better and said it could be as simple as avoiding the use of materials containing microbeads which are banned by federal law as additives in toothpaste and facial cleansers — yet allowed in other personal care products — even in makeup.
“I created my own skin care and instead of that, I use actually Icelandic volcanic ash,” Liivand explained. “When something frustrates me, I also don’t want to go and complain about it. I try to find solutions.”
Liivand noted she is tired of seeing trash where she enjoys catching a swim and hopes others will also become creative and fight against the plastic invasion threatening our ecosystems.
Activists agreed you do not have to stray far from your passions to be part of the solution.
Linda Cheung, founder and creative director of the nonprofit Before It’s Too Late, focuses on teaching environmental topics to children through art.
“A lot of times it’s just giving kids the exposure to some of these ideas,” Cheung emphasized. “And also making them feel empowerment and agency like they actually have a voice or they have some power. “
Others use science and art to demonstrate the interconnectedness of everything.
Ombretta Agro’ Andruff, founder and executive director of ARTSail, organizes events catering to underserved communities, sometimes drawing crowds of more than 400 people.
“We bring artists together with climate activists, with scientists, with marine experts, with responsible businesses to help them understand how climate change and pollution are impacting our waterways,” Andruff outlined. “We assist them in creating artwork with advocacy value.”
While there is no data to measure the impact of the programs, the goal is to forge connections between segments of the community, engage with people who are frequently marginalized, and inspire the next generation to care for and protect the environment.