PEI

New P.E.I. group working to reduce single-use plastic

A new group called Happy Ocean P.E.I. is rallying Prince Edward Islanders to join the zero-waste movement and reduce their use of plastic.

'We're bound together by the common goal of keeping our oceans and planet healthy'

Board member Christine Naidu says the name, Happy Ocean P.E.I., was a group effort, after a lot of brainstorming. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

A new group called Happy Ocean P.E.I. is rallying Prince Edward Islanders to join the zero-waste movement and reduce their use of plastic.

"It actually started with some conversations of individuals that were very interested in stewardship of the oceans," said board member Christine Naidu.

"There is such a huge appetite today, where people are more conscious and mindful than ever about their consumer choices and what we're leaving behind on the planet."

One of the early meetings of Happy Ocean P.E.I., where the group learned about compostable cups. (Happy Ocean P.E.I.)

Naidu said some of the members met through courses offered by the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society, but there are also members from outside the centre, who started meeting as a group in March.

There are about a dozen members in the group.

"What we did was a lot of brainstorming and we kept it very blue sky thinking about what can we do on an individual basis," Naidu said.

"How can this impact the community, how can we touch the youth in our community." 

Jodi LeBlanc does social media for Happy Ocean P.E.I. and helped to create the monthly plastic-free challenge. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Plastic-free challenge

One of the first initiatives of the group was a personal 30 day plastic-free challenge, which they then launched to the public in May.

"The first one we did as board members because all of us that joined Happy Ocean were there to also change ... original habits," said board member Jodi LeBlanc.  

One of the first initiatives for the group was a personal 30 day plastic-free challenge, which they then launched to the public in May. (Happy Ocean P.E.I.)

"We collected some great ideas and things that worked well, things that we'd like to try differently and then we created a calendar that others could use as well."

For example, some of the challenges include: bring a reusable water bottle, switch to a shampoo/conditioner bar, pack a litter-free lunch.

"All of them were challenging, to change your mindset ," LeBlanc said.

Happy Ocean P.E.I. was part of a stream and waterway cleanup for World Oceans Day. (Happy Ocean P.E.I.)

"Some days you might forget to bring in your reusable bag, but then you take that time and you go to your trunk and you get them and you make healthy habits every single day."

LeBlanc said these kinds of choices make the difference.

Happy Ocean P.E.I. hopes to offer more sessions on how to make homemade wax wrap in the fall. (Happy Ocean PEI)

"Not to shame people into saying, 'Why are you using plastic bags,' just to say, 'Look what I'm using,'" LeBlanc said. 

"These bags will last for a lifetime whereas those plastic bags are 12 minutes worth of life span, from your grocery store to your home, but they're in our oceans for 500-plus years."

'Ripple effect'

LeBlanc uses the starfish story as an analogy for what Happy Ocean P.E.I. is trying to do.

In the story, a little boy was walking on the beach, throwing the starfish that were drying up, back in the ocean.

"The man said, you can't possibly make a difference for those millions of starfish on the beach," LeBlanc said.

"The boy picked it up, threw it in the water and he said, 'I made a difference for that one.'"

Members of Happy Ocean P.E.I. were part of a stream and waterway cleanup for World Oceans Day. (Happy Ocean P.E.I.)

Members of Happy Ocean P.E.I. were part of a stream and waterway cleanup for World Oceans Day and, most recently, have been putting on workshops on do-it-yourself wax wrap.

"We're trying to make those natural connections and you know we're one drop in the wave," Naidu said.

"We're joining the wave and we're hoping it turns into a tsunami."

The group gets ready for one of the DIY wax wrap sessions. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Naidu said the group is now talking about what to do next. 

"At the end of the day, it's not even about me, it's about my children's great-grandchildren,"  Naidu said.

"What kind of a legacy are we going to be leaving them in the future."

The DIY wax wrap workshops have been a big hit. (Happy Ocean P.E.I.)

Naidu said she tries not to get overwhelmed by the enormity of the issue of plastics in the environment.

"We may not be able to change every single thing on the planet but certainly, as individuals, we can be making particular choices about how we consume and what we leave behind," Naidu said. 

"It goes back to this idea of an immovable mountain and over time, water can even wear down a mountain, those small actions definitely all do add up." 

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About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca

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