Ocean Heroes features stories of people from all around the world who deeply care about our nature, our health, and our planet's future. Down-to-earth people who decided to change the way they do laundry not because it's easier but because filtering microplastics is the right thing to do.
Lila is a 16 year old high school student in Farmington, Connecticut, USA. She has always been interested in environmental conservation and finding ways to be more eco-conscious. In Spring 2021, when in search of a way to take what she was passionate about and start a project that she could work on long-term, Lila came across the Plastic Tides Global Youth Mentor Program, in which she applied. Since August 2021 Lila and her mentor have been working on their project, titled ¨Microfiber Mission¨.
The project is centered around educating members of her community and beyond, about the effects of microfibers and where they come from. Another large part is providing people with the resources to create lasting change (like the PlanetCare filter). The project ends in early June 2022 but she plans to continue to work to educate herself and others on the environmental impact of our actions. For their ECO day at school she chose to promote the microfibre pollution awareness and our solution.
PlanetCare: How did you first come across the problem of microfibres? We call it invisible pollution and as such it is so easy to 'oversee'.
Lila: I first came across the problem of microfibers when I noticed how much of the clothing that I see is made of synthetic materials like polyester and nylon. The Plastic Tides Global Youth Mentor (GYM) program had a project outline that was centralized around the issue of microfiber pollution. At the time I had not heard much about this issue and, after some research, decided that it was an issue that needed to be brought to light in my community.
PlanetCare: How do you see the level of awareness among your peers? Is it changing? For the better?
Lila: After ¨ECO Day¨, where I provided my peers with access to educational resources I put together, as well as solutions to this issue (such as the PlanetCare filters), I could see that their level of awareness was increased.
My hope is that they are more aware of the impact their clothing has on our oceans and plastic pollution in general. Students were given information flyers (designed by me) to bring home.
With awareness comes the need for action.Lila
PlanetCare: Why do you find it important to act? How did the issue 'touch' you?
Lila: With awareness comes the need for action. As my research surrounding microfibers became more extensive, I began to see that this was not something that was talked about nearly as much as it should have been. We are all consumers in a market lacking in plastic-free alternatives and as a result, must educate ourselves on how our actions affect the state of the environment.
This issue touches me because it is difficult to process the fact that such a small particle, such as a microfiber, could affect entire ecosystems and, eventually, come full circle back to affect us, as seen with microfibers found in foods. Because of this, education and action is the most critical path to take.
PlanetCare: Does it affect your lifestyle, knowing how much microplastics there are around us? If so – how?
Lila: Yes, it has made me more conscientious of what materials my clothing, blankets, carpets etc. are made of. It has also made me realise the enormous amount of reliance we, as a society, have on plastic products. Even on a microscopic level, we are surrounded by these microplastics, in our oceans and in the very shirts on our backs.
This project has influenced what materials I choose when selecting products, for example: I try to look for clothing made sustainably, or with all natural or recycled materials.
PlanetCare: Is anybody else from your community active in protecting the planet?
Lila: I am a part of the ECO Club at my high school, which is the platform I used to orcustrate ECO Day. Other than that, my community organizes many community clean ups across our town.
PlanetCare: How would you engage more people in your mission?
Lila: I am hosting a social media takeover for the Plastic Tides instagram (@plastictides) sometime in the next few weeks which will hopefully engage more people in my mission and successfully educate them on the issue of microfiber pollution, as well as how they can help.
PlanetCare: What are your plans for the future?
Lila: After the conclusion of this project I hope to continue to seek platforms to inform people on this issue as well as continue to research and update myself and others on possible solutions for a variety of environmental issues.
You can read more about Lila and her plans also in The Voice.
Photo credit: Lila's personal archive