Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) Members come from a wide range of sectors and are aligned in their mission to build a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on communities and ecosystems around the world. The Coalition Spotlight is our monthly blog to uplift and showcase their work, giving our readers an inside look at some of these influential change-makers. For August, we are featuring PPC Business and Organization Members with programs or products designed to prepare students, parents, guardians, and teachers to go back to school plastic-free for a healthier year ahead.
With kids in many parts of the world going back to school this month, parents and teachers are doing their best to set them up for success. When it comes to school meals, students can bring their food from home, and buy or receive from school. Unfortunately these meal options are often associated with lots of chemical-laden single-use plastic—from one-serving plastic food packaging to throwaway plastic trays.
Children’s meals shouldn’t be filled with hazardous plastics. Ahimsa is a woman-founded and-owned company that makes sturdy, toxic-free, completely plastic-free, stainless steel foodware products for children. Not only are their dishes and meal sets safe, but they are intentionally designed to make it easy for parents to portion out healthy serving sizes, while engaging kids in a sensory mealtime experience since the dishes are made with bright colors. From sectioned “balanced bites” plates to their cafeteria line, Ahimsa products are third-party tested to ensure the highest standard of safety and effectiveness, and Ahima recently became the first MADE SAFE certified children’s foodware company.
Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, Ahimsa’s founder, is a board-certified pediatrician, a mom of three young kids, and a passionate advocate for children’s health and environmental sustainability. She is on a mission to empower parents, guardians, and teachers with evidence-based information and to help create a safer, kinder, and healthier future for all kids. She will be moderating Plastic Pollution Coalition’s upcoming August webinar, “Going Back to School Plastic-Free”, and is currently petitioning the USDA to pressure officials from the National School Lunch Program to move away from plastic to protect the long-term health of millions of children.
Beyond Plastics is a U.S.-focused organization pairing the wisdom and experience of environmental policy experts with the energy and creativity of grassroots advocates to build an effective movement to end plastic pollution. Based at Bennington College, Vermont, Beyond Plastics works toward institutional, economic, legislative, and societal systemic change to prevent plastic pollution and its many harmful impacts. The organization was founded and is led by former Regional EPA Administrator under President Obama, Judith Enck, who brings a wealth of knowledge and policy experience.
Beyond Plastics acknowledges that ending plastic pollution requires change from everyone, from individual behavior changes to corporations taking responsibility to governments implementing effective policies. Beyond Plastics is also committed to environmental justice, supporting solutions that support communities impacted by injustice. To support change and engage communities and individuals, Beyond Plastics holds virtual grassroots organizing trainings, provides free, public resources about issues related to plastic pollution, and rallies for passage and implementation of more effective legislation.
The organization has now grown to encompass grassroots subchapters all across the country as part of their Beyond Plastics Local Groups and Affiliates program, launched in February 2022. This July, rePurpose of Washington state became the 100th group to join the Beyond Plastics grassroots network, and groups like theirs hosted events for Plastic-Free July that called attention to the hazards of plastic and the systemic reasons for the plastic pollution crisis. In addition to their July events, the national group has recently delivered a 27,600 signature petition to the EPA, calling for a ban on toxic vinyl chloride (a chemical which fueled this year’s toxic train disaster in East Palestine, Ohio).
Find out ways you can take action in your local community and engage with Beyond Plastics, or sign up to learn about plastic pollution in Judith’s fall class—which is open to the public through September and October 2023. If you are a parent or guardian doing back-to-school shopping this month, you may also want to check out Beyond Plastics’ Plastic-Free Back To School Guide!
During the back-to-school season we want to uplift the work that youth groups are doing to address the urgent and interconnected crises of plastic pollution and climate change. Earth Guardians are a global, youth-led organization that inspires, galvanizes and trains diverse youth to be effective leaders who advocate for environmental and climate justice. They do this by using art, music, storytelling, civic engagement, legal and direct action to advance solutions to the most challenging issues we face as a global community. Earth Guardians’ core staff is 80% Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) youth, and includes Emmy Scott, Earth Guardians’ newest and youngest executive director.
Operating from a bottom-up, decentralized model of distributed leadership, Earth Guardians empowers youth-led intergenerational groups, or Crews, from around the world. These localized chapters drive initiatives in their own communities, while contributing to the global Earth Guardians movement as a whole. By offering financial and educational support, leadership trainings, and a speakers bureau, the international team supports Crews’ grassroots efforts to put power and resources directly into the hands of frontline youth activists—especially those who come from historically underserved communities worst harmed by pollution, climate change, and injustice.
One of Earth Guardians’ major projects is the Choose Action Now (CAN) Campaign, meant to encourage youth leaders around the world to host events that call attention to the urgent need for climate action, in the wake of inaction from world leaders during COP. This global day of action inspired 70 events that took place during COP 27 in November of 2022 as part of a global day of action. You can find a long list of educational resources and one-pagers from Earth Guardians with project ideas that you can launch and lead in your local community here.
Wisdom Supply Co.
Back-to-school shopping can be daunting with so many school supplies typically made of or wrapped in single-use plastic. PPC Business Member Wisdom Supply Co. is a woman founded and run, certified B-Corp that is on a mission to change purchasing habits around school and office supplies, offering plastic-free, reusable, refillable, and nontoxic alternatives made from regenerative and truly recyclable materials.
From zero-waste planners to unlacquered colored pencils, Wisdom Supply is replacing toxic products made from and wrapped in plastic. In doing so, founders Heather Itzla and Nicole Kozlowski aim to disrupt what they call the “shelf-to-shore pipeline,” referring to the amount of pollution and subsequent environmental destruction created by plastic school and office supplies. These activists-turned-businesswomen are dedicated to scaling systems that prevent plastic school supplies, like vinyl binders and plastic pens, from entering the global waste stream. They also aim to change narratives behind status quo back-to-school shopping that are wasteful, health-threatening, and unnecessary for learning.
Heather will be discussing the importance of going back to school plastic-free, including the health implications of toxic school supplies in Plastic Pollution Coalition’s upcoming August webinar. In 2024, Wisdom Supply will be transitioning from a B-Corporation to a nonprofit organization to more effectively serve schools.