Plastic Pollution
February 09 2011


by Ximena Waissbluth, Program Director

I have not been keeping up with my blog posts so I will be summing up
most of the work that I have been doing here. I apologize for the
length of this post!

Up to this time I have completed 7 presentations and I have an eighth
scheduled for the 17th of February. Previously, I posted about my
presentation at 23andMe (1of 7).

Since my last post I have given a presentation in Alabama to my
family. This included one of my sisters, my grandparents and one
aunt. It was a very small presentation but it was very impactful.

My younger sister was very moved by the presentation. Afterwards we
went for a walk along a river she likes to hike (which is a very
popular stomping ground for the young folks in the area). Horribly,
the scene was one similar to the slides in the presentation and really
made an impression. We saw the riverbed had become a dumping area like
many uninhabited places in the world. People use these areas to dump
their trash to avoid the cost associated with taking it to the dump.
The scene really helped me drive the point home. I encouraged my
sister to give a similar presentation to her friends and family and
she adamantly accepted the responsibility. We became aware that her
community was in desperate need of a leader focused on environmental
issues. There are no non-profits, school clubs, or avenues to discuss
any environmental topics within the town she lives. She volunteers
with her church’s youth group and she decided that she wanted to
organize a river clean up with them. We picked up as much garbage that
day that would fit in the trunk of her car. The real kicker was, when
we were leaving a possum ran out of fear of us and got caught in a
cylinder of plastic! The possum was able to wrangle itself out before
I could help him and we grabbed the plastic ring. That incident was a
perfect image of what we show in our presentations—only it was not on
a slide in powerpoint.

A few months later I presented to my family in Florida. In attendance
was my other sisters, my mom and my aunt. I had found some key rings
similar to the ones we received in training and bought all the store
had to hand them out after presentations. I gave some to my family
members as well. This presentation was my surprise attack. While we
were all hanging out in the living room, I slyly said, “Hey, check out
this picture.” The picture was one from the slide show and I was able
to deliver it to the group. Most of whom already consider themselves
environmentalist, though haven’t stopped using plastic. I actually
caught one of my sisters buying a plastic bottle of water (after the
presentation) when we had 3 reusable canteens and a five gallon jug of
water in the back set (we were going camping). She said her water
tasted funny… Really!!! You know how funky bottle water is. (I have
successfully stopped drinking bottle water. It has been 7 months.) She
did put the water bottle back, but it really made me think. I have
know my sister all of my life (she is older) and I know she is a big
advocate for protecting the environment and living sustainably. If
SHE DOESN’T stop buying plastic water bottles, then who will? This is
a point I make in my presentations now! It reminds me of X’s story
about her brother… Sorry Sis! Hopefully, she has stopped investing in
plastic one time use bottles. My aunt seemed to really take the
message home. She has also stopped buy plastic water bottles, though
for economic reasons. That works for me! She was reminiscent about her
past and how much more wasteful our nation is now. The presentation
was overall very successful!

I have given the presentation at Foothill College twice and my
presentation on the 17th will be there as well. I have given the
presentation to my Environmental Biotechnology class and the
Environmental Biology class. I know the professor from the
environmental Biology class from Bug Club, a program I used to
volunteer for.

The presentation for the Environmental Biology class was my first big
presentation. There were ~65 students in the class. I made copies of
the worksheet we were tested on for the training and handed them out.
Gillian used this as a testing tool herself. Questions from the
worksheet were used on their midterm. It was interesting to read the
evaluations, especially the reviews that stated they didn’t care about
the plastic problem. Those reviews were shocking for me, though a
reality I know exists. Bastards!

Despite those comments, I could tell that there were students that
were struck by the information. 50% of the class didn’t even know
about the plastic in the pacific gyres! That too was a big shock for
me, as I have known about it for years. I was given two hours for the
presentation. At the beginning I seemed nervous (physiologically) but
wasn’t so nervous (mentally). The adrenaline released took sometime to
get through my system and chemically, that is what made me seem
nervous. I have always had a nerve issue, which you can see in my
hands. They shake at all times and it gets worse when I’m hungry and/
or in front of a big crowd. For my first two big presentations I
didn’t have time to eat before! Something that I gotta prioritize.

The environmental biotechnology presentation was a last minute offer.
The class was focused on bioremediation and the professor gave a
lecture on pollution. For a slide he spoke about plastic pollution.
Fortunately, I had my presentation on a flash drive with me. During
the break I offered to show him the pictures from the presentation. We
was very impressed by the slides and asked me to present to the class
the following Monday. I accepted the offer. The class was of 30
students. The presentation did not fall on deaf ears and in the end it
sparked a very heated discussion. Later in the quarter I gave a second
presentation to the class on hydraulic fracturing. The professor was
impressed by both power points and asked to use them in future
classes. It’s great to spread this knowledge to as many people as
possible. I’m glad he’s joining the group of MDO-Reachers.

For both of these classes it was challenging to get all individuals to
sign the sign-in sheet and fill out the evaluation sheet, especially
for the biotech class. In my biotech class it was hard to get their
email addresses. A lot of them wrote down n/a.

I also have given the presentation at Crystal Springs Upland School in
San Mateo. This is a small private school with about 350 students. An
intern (Annie) at my work was there for my first presentation. She
asked me to give it to her environmental club. I asked for an hour.
The presentation was given to the high school as an open assembly that
anyone could come to. Unfortunately, I got lost by the directions that
the internet gave me and I showed up at the time the presentation was
supposed to begin. It’s horrible being late, but everyone seemed fine
by my tardiness and the show went on. There were about 35 students and
faculty at this presentation. The students and faculty didn’t know
the seriousness of the situation. I spoke to Annie recently and she
said that everyone is still talking about the presentation and that it
made a big impact.

Dan from the Marina group put me in contact with an avenue to present.
The Sons of Retirement invited me to speak to their men’s club. This
was an interesting avenue and the first time I needed to pick up the
projector for the project. We had lunch and then songs sang. They had
written a song for me. It was a great song about marine plastic
pollution. I wish that I had known they were going to sing! I would
have recorded it. They also presented me with a framed certificate. It
was one of the most interesting groups that I have presented to.
Unfortunately, I tend to talk very quickly. My grandmother is always
asking me to slow down. Most of the men were 60+ years of age and also
comment on my rapid tone.

I have had many individuals ask me for my business card-- which I
don’t have! I need to make some. This has been great practice
presenting to groups. I am excited about my presentation coming up
next week. I will keep you all posted.

I am scheduling my second beach clean-up on March 5, 2011. Before the
beach clean up I would like to give the flip chart presentation. I
will be making flyers and passing them around. I hope to see some of
you there. I will update you later with details.

I worked with Western Canoe Club and did a trash pick up in San Jose.
We picked up trash at the William Street Park. The Coyote Creek runs
through this park. This is the same creek that I sent photos of a few
months ago. Pictures of local areas have been great to show to people
who don’t believe the situation is so bad. I meet a great group of
people and passed my information out. Hopefully I will be getting a
call soon for another presentation!

I have also picked up a second job doing water quality monitoring with
the Stevens Creek Watershed. I work with SPCWC and De Anza College in
conjunction with Cupertino, San Jose, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale. I
work managing volunteers and testing water samples. I have been busy,