The International Break Free From Plastic Youth Summit

April 12 , 8:00 am April 13 , 5:00 pm EDT

Dive deep into the heart of plastic pollution’s impact on our planet at the Break Free From Plastic Youth Summit. This 2-day event offers a unique platform for youth organizations and networks to come together, share knowledge, and forge alliances.

Discover the undeniable connections between plastic pollution and global environmental crises. Engage in rich discussions, exchange insights, and learn how these issues are intertwined with the Global Plastics Treaty process.

We invite youth-led and youth-focused organizations, alliances, and movements to join us. Together, let’s explore how we can amplify our efforts and make a lasting impact.

Last week, Plastic Pollution Coalition and our allies joined tens of thousands of others to take part in Climate Week NYC, “the biggest climate event on Earth.” Coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) annual meeting on pressing global issues, Climate Week kicked off with the March to End Fossil Fuels, and involved hundreds of events at which activists, artists, businesses, frontline and community groups, non-profit organizations, scientists, and world leaders collaborated to take action to stop climate collapse. The following is our recap.

This year, we and our movement members and allies represented and engaged in the March to End Fossil Fuels, frontline activists’ gatherings, The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Nia Global Solutions with Jane Fonda, AY Young’s Battery Tour performance in Times Square, Climate Nest, Global Citizen, and more.

Climate Week demonstrates that our movement is making a difference—addressing plastic pollution, fossil fuels, and the climate crisis together. Just and equitable, real solutions to these urgent challenges for people and the planet exist today, and we need everyone onboard to help actualize the changes we need.

— Dianna Cohen, CEO and Co-Founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition

Connecting Plastics & Climate at the March to End Fossil Fuels

Jackie Nuñez, Plastic Pollution Coalition Advocacy and Engagement Manager, and Founder of The Last Plastic Straw, with Judith Enck, Founder & President of Beyond Plastics with Eileen Ryan of @plasticfreemass. Photo by Leslie Evans

Climate Week NYC 2023 kicked off with the March to End Fossil Fuels, which was attended by an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 people. Many Plastic Pollution Coalition Members and partners participated, including Beyond Plastics; Break Free From Plastic; Greenpeace; Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador Xiye Bastida, founder of Re-Earth Initiative; Dr. Kristal Ambrose, 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner and Founder of Bahamas Plastic Movement; and more. As groups and individuals mobilized, they called on the U.S. and other governments, as well as corporations, investors, and other entities to stop prioritizing fossil fuel and plastic industry profits over people and the planet.

Dr. Kristal Ambrose at the March to End Fossil Fuels on September 17, 2023, in NYC. Photo by @goldmanprize

A major highlight of the march was that it was the first time we noticed an abundance of posters and calls emphasizing the connection between plastics, fossil fuels, and the climate crisis. It is critical for all of us to identify—and act on—the connections between plastic pollution and the climate crisis. Plastics are made of fossil fuels, driving injustice and creating toxic pollution and high emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases. Scientists, Indigenous knowledge holders, and other experts have emphasized that plastic pollution must be stopped at its source by regulating and requiring industries dealing in fossil fuels, petrochemicals, and plastics to turn off their taps.

To push forth serious action accelerating an equitable shift away from fossil fuels to a healthier and more regenerative future, Plastic Pollution Coalition has joined nearly a million signatories in endorsing the Fossil Fuel Non- Proliferation Treaty. The petition calls on world governments to join a group of Pacific nations led by Vanuatu and Tuvalu to support creation of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to complement the Paris Agreement. Plastic Pollution Coalition also distributed a one-page fact sheet emphasizing the connections between plastic pollution, fossil fuel, and climate change to Climate Week attendees.

Plastic Pollution Coalition Member Businesses Take Action on Plastics & Climate Change

Dr. Mantravadi speaks at Clinton Global Initiative

At the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)’s meeting in Midtown Manhattan, we heard from an inspiring array of speakers focused on this year’s theme to “Keep Going.” We heard from Plastic Pollution Coalition Business Member Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, founder of Ahimsa, nontoxic stainless steel kid-friendly tableware. Dr. Mantravadi announced that Ahimsa is a 2023 CGI Commitment Maker focused on decarbonizing school cafeterias by shifting from plastics to reusable stainless steel foodware and increasing students’ environmental health knowledge by sharing Ahimsa’s curriculum. 

On the CGI stage, Dr. Mantravadi discussed a pilot project to eliminate plastic foodware from New York City schools and called on event attendees to reach out if they know schools that are interested in participating, or if they want to sponsor a school. Chelsea Clinton was so motivated and moved by Manasa’s project she made a public announcement on stage that she wants her kids’ public school to be part of the pilot project.

Plastic Pollution Coalition Business Member Sea Briganti, Founder and CEO of Loliware, also attended CGI. Loliware’s nontoxic, biodegradable single-use straws made from seaweed were the “official straws” of CGI, and were made available to all attendees. Loliware’s iconic blue straws can be manufactured using conventional plastic-production equipment. 

PPC Notables & Board Members at Climate Week

Jane Fonda and Kristin Hull in conversation. Photo by Nia Impact Capital

Nia Impact Capital is a woman-led investment firm that carefully chooses companies with woman leadership across six solutions themes, based on their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) impact. Nia actively engages with companies in its portfolios, holding them accountable to the most inclusive, sustainable, and ethical business practices. Nia held an exciting event featuring Kristin Hull, Nia Impact Capital Founder, in conversation with PPC Notable Jane Fonda. 

We learned about Hull’s and Fonda’s efforts to help shift money and power toward leadership for a sustainable and inclusive future, and how we can support systems change by using our voices and money to push forth our environmental and social goals. Calling it “the most important thing I will do in my lifetime,” Fonda announced the Jane Fonda Climate PAC, which is focused on electing climate champions at all levels of government—not fossil fuel supporters.

During Climate Week we were delighted to hear from Plastic Pollution Coalition Notable Kyra Sedgwick, who joined tens of thousands of others at the March to End Fossil Fuels, on a special Climate Week segment on MSNBC. She emphasized that addressing the climate crisis also means addressing plastics and fossil fuels—and discussed how each of us can take real and swift action to make positive change.

Kyra Sedgwick shows her plastic-free bamboo cutlery. Photo by @kyrasedgwickofficial

We connected with Plastic Pollution Executive Advisory Board Member Dr. Michel K. Dorsey at Rising to the Challenge: How Storytelling Drives Climate Action, a panel hosted by Sun Valley Forum and Local Projects. Dr. Dorsey, an environmental scientist and globally recognized expert on clean energy, finance, and environmental health, has helped inform and push forth solutions to the climate crisis and climate injustice. Also at the event we attended an engaging and hopeful panel with Plaintiffs for Youth vs Montana.

Dr. Michael K. Dorsey with Jackie Nuñez of Plastic Pollution Coalition
Youth vs Montana panel

Youth and Creators Make an Impact

AY Young performs in Times Square

At Climate Week NYC, we heard from many young people and creators calling for systems shift on fossil fuels, climate change, and plastic pollution.

In Times Square, we enjoyed an energizing renewable-powered musical performance—the first of its kind—featuring PPC Youth Ambassador AY Young. AY Young is an artist who has combined his passions for creating music and making a difference in the world to launch the “Battery Tour” with portable solar batteries providing electricity for his performances—more than 900 and counting—that are also expanding communities’ access to energy, the internet, and education around the world.

At the performance, which was livestreamed, Plastic Pollution Coalition Co-Founder and CEO Dianna Cohen spoke on stage about the enormous impact of plastics on people and the planet, and the connection between fossil fuels, plastics, and the climate crisis. She introduced Plastic Pollution Coalition as an implementation partner to AY Young’s Project17—a related project that brings attention to meeting the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—and introduced AY Young for his performance of the song for UN SDG #14: Life Below Water. Other speakers on the stage included: Plastic Pollution Coalition Members Ali Weinstein and Allison Begalman, the founders of Hollywood Climate Summit; Xiye Bastida, Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador and founder the Re-Earth Initiative); and Plastic Pollution Coalition Notables Rocky Dawuni, a Ghanaian musician; and Paul Hawken, the founder of Drawdown. 

Project17 serves as an umbrella for an intricate partnership of 17 Organizations, 17 Sponsors and 17 partner musicians to develop 17 Impact projects destined to make our planet a healthier, kinder, and more sustainable world. Plastic pollution contributes to nine of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 3, 6, 9, 11–15, and 17. Ending plastic pollution is necessary to meet the UN SDGs. Meeting these SDGs can support building a healthier, more just, and more sustainable world for all people.

Partnerships to Power Our Planet panel: Alok Sharama (moderator) COP26 President and member of UK Parliament, Mary De Wysocki, Chief Sustainability Officer, Cisco, Patricia Zurita, Chief Strategy Officer Conservation International, Surbhi Martin, Senior Vice President Danone, and Xiye Bastida, Co-Founder ReEarth Initiative

Ahead of Global Citizen, a festival aimed at inspiring and empowering people to learn and take action to address climate change, poverty, and inequality, we attended several impactful Global Citizen NOW: Climate Sessions. At one of these sessions, Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador Xiye Bastida joined an esteemed panel titled: Partnerships To #PowerOurPlanet: Working Together to Address Climate Change Now. During the conversation, Xiye advocated the importance of using both Indigenous knowledge and scientific evidence in implementing solutions to the climate crisis. On the Global Citizen stage, Bastida joined engineer and science communicator Bill Nye to call for an end to fossil fuel expansion.

Take Action

Greenpeace at the March to End Fossil Fuels in NYC, September 17, 2023

The week had its fair share of corporate greenwashing, which has become the ironic norm at events, conferences, and major climate talks. Yet the overall turnout and public participation with meaningful dialogue focusing on real solutions introduced by both the public and private sectors showed that corporate polluters may have the profits, but people are pushing forth the positive change necessary to build a better world. 

Overall, this year’s Climate Week NYC was full of encouraging events and developments that show us there is positive change underway to address plastic pollution, fossil fuels, and the climate crisis. Despite being up against “Goliath,” individuals and communities are coming together to work toward a healthier and more just, equitable world. We celebrate, among other Climate Week achievements, that 15 Earthshot Prize finalists were recognized for their innovative solutions and that construction of five petrochemical plants have been stopped by frontline communities and supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies Beyond Petrochemicals.

But more work is needed to make the change we need, and we need your help. With the UN Plastics Treaty now being negotiated, we have the opportunity to address plastic pollution at the source, starting with its fossil fuel ingredients. The U.S. is the world’s biggest plastic and fossil fuel polluters, and this is a critical time to push them to do more to solve these interconnected crises. Please join us in calling on the U.S. Government (USG) to take a strong stance on the UN Plastics Treaty so it can accomplish all it must.

4

September 20, 2022 , 2:30 pm 5:00 pm EDT

During Climate Week, join Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador Xiye Bastida for a panel titled “The Climate Crisis We’re Already in: How We Can Accelerate Adaptation to a Changing Climate,” as part of the Clinton Global Initiative’s 2022 Meeting in New York City.

About: “Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) convenes global leaders to create and implement solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. To date, members of the CGI community have made more than 3,700 Commitments to Action that have made a difference in the lives of more than 435 million people in more than 180 countries. This September, for the first time since 2016, CGI will convene alongside the United Nations General Assembly. During this meeting, more than 1,000 attendees will come together to drive action on climate change, inclusive economic growth, health equity, the refugee crisis, and more.”

September 20, 2022 , 9:30 am 5:00 pm EDT

As part of Climate Week 2022, join Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador Xiye Bastida for the panel “Conversation for the Future at the Global Futures Conference with youth leaders Sophia Kianni, founder and executive director, Climate Cardinals; and Natalia da Silveira Arruda, YouthMappers Regional Ambassador, Everywhere She Maps for Brazil and Colombia and PhD student. Moderated by Justin Worland, senior correspondent, TIME.

About the Global Futures Conference: “Co-convened by the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory™ at Arizona State University and the Earth League, GF22 will bring together members of the public and private sectors, scientists, youth and activists from around the globe to formulate a bold and actionable agenda to push the boundaries of discourse on what can and must be done now. This will not be a passive forum. It is an opportunity to shape the agenda for governments, corporations and multilateral institutions. Conference leaders will publish and promote a roadmap that outlines the far-reaching, crucial solutions developed at this conference–solutions that are simultaneously ambitious and achievable.”

In person at the Javits Center in New York City. Registration is now closed.

Global youth climate activists have teamed up with 5-time Grammy award–winning Blues musician, Keb’ Mo’, and Plastic Pollution Coalition in a new music video to get “Louder” about their demands for urgent climate action.The video was launched just ahead of the Fridays for Future global climate strike on March 25.

The video features dozens of youth activists from around the world, including Xiye Bastida, Jerome Foster II, Lilly Platt, Lauren Ritchie, Hannah Testa, Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Villaseñor, Melati Wijsen, and more. Numerous organizations and partners endorsed the video, including Break Free From Plastic (BFFP), Fridays For Future, Re-Earth Initiative, Sunrise Movement, and more (see complete list below).


Coming Together for #LOUDERClimateAction

The youth leaders worked with Keb’ Mo’ and Plastic Pollution Coalition on the concept for the video. They created posters and signs, sang along to the lyrics, and shared images of their actions, including footage of demonstrations and public speaking events from local city councils to the U.S. Congress to the United Nations.

Youth from around the world are demanding that the well-being of people be prioritized over the profit of the fossil fuel industry, which is harming the planet. They are calling for divestment from fossil fuels and an end to all wars. Their calls to action include keeping oil in the ground, refusing single-use plastics, and more. 

I hear a lot of people say “youth are the future” or “we will change the world.” But that isn’t true because we are not the future, we are the present and we are changing the world right now.

Hannah Testa, Founder of Hannah4Change

As the climate crisis continues to accelerate and disproportionately impact the future of young people, it is especially important and empowering to have youth leading the climate movement. We not only have the moral courage to stand up for what is right, but also the courage to continue believing in, and fighting for, a safer and more just future.

Sena Wazer, Director of Sunrise Movement Connecticut


A Song for a New Generation

“I believe that music has the power to heal,” Keb’ Mo’ explained in an interview, “and I wanted this album to make people feel good.”

About the song “Louder,” Keb’ Mo’ said in an interview, “You know, at one time, I was part of a new generation. In my 20s and in my teens, I was part of the Vietnam War and against nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants and polluted oceans, and they were talking about it back then. And we were mad at the previous generation because they let that happen. And then we became the old generation, and we didn’t do anything, you know? So I’m just kind of calling us out – calling everybody out (laughter) so to speak, kind of apologizing to the new generation.”

This song was born out of a need to talk about things that matter and affect all of us. A song of truth and accountability. I’m honored to help today’s youth amplify their message: We need climate action, and we need it now

Keb’ Mo’, Musician

I’m so moved by the ‘Louder’ video, because I feel for young people navigating the world today. We must support them in every way possible as they advocate for a better future, and we must invest our resources and power to co-create that better future with them.

Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO, Plastic Pollution Coalition


Acknowledgments

The activists and organizations involved in the video include (in alphabetical order):

Bahamas Plastic Movement
Xiye Bastida, Re-Earth Initiative
Break Free From Plastic (BFFP)
BFFP YOUTH for Plastic Free Campuses
Jack, The Kid Conservationist
Kareena Desai, Perform for Change
Levi Draheim, Our Children’s Trust
Jerome Foster II, One Million Of Us
Daphne Frias, Box the Ballot
Eva Geierstanger, Plastic Free Gen Z
Cole Hall, Sea Change
Catarina Lorenzo, Eco Club Sustentare
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, musician
Kevin Mtai, Earth Uprising, Kenya
Maria Serra Olivella, Re-Earth Initiative
Dominique “Dicky” Palmer, Fridays For Future
Kevin Patel, One Up Action
Plastic Pollution Coalition
Lilly Platt, Lilly’s Plastic Pickup
Lauren Ritchie, The Eco Justice Project
Karina Samuel, Bye Bye Plastic Bags
Justin Sather, For the Love of Frogs
Theresa Rose Sebastian, Re-Earth Initiative
Vasser Seydel, The Oxygen Project
Hannah Testa, Hannah4Change
Greta Thunberg, Fridays for Future
John Sollos Trudell, Iyuha Acu Youth Services
Alexandria Villaseñor, Earth Uprising
Sena Wazer, Sunrise Movement
Melati Wijsen, Bye Bye Plastic Bags
Youth PLAN (Post Landfill Action Network)



“Louder” Lyrics

Young people are talking
They want action, and they want it now
They want to change the direction that we’re walking
And the lack of common sense that our laws allow
Some people are saying
That the young folks just don’t understand
But a raging silent revolution
Is rising up all across the land
It’s gonna get louder
It’s gonna get crazy
It’s pickin’ up power
Pickin’ up steam
Got a new generation
Stronger than steel
They’re gonna get louder
It’s about to get real
Young people are thinking
With a mind that’s all their own
Thеy are ready, willing and they arе able
Why don’t we just let them take control
They’re gonna fight the fight ’til they find the answers
They’re gonna do what we have failed to do
They’re gonna throw all the cards on the table
It’s their life they’re giving voices to
And they’re gonna get louder
They’re gonna get crazy
They’re pickin’ up power
Pickin’ up steam
We got a new generation
And they’re stronger than steel
They’re gonna get louder
It’s about to get real
And I’m dreaming of a transformation
Like the world has never seen
Around the world and across every nation
There’s a whisper turning into a scream
And It’s gonna get louder
It’s gonna get crazy
It’s pickin’ up power
Pickin’ up steam
We got a new generation
Stronger than steel
They’re gonna get louder
It’s about to get real
And It’s gonna get louder
It’s gonna get crazy
It’s pickin’ up power
Pickin’ up steam
We got a new generation
Stronger than steel
They’re gonna get louder
It’s about to get real
They’re gonna get louder
It’s about to get real
They’re gonna get louder
It’s about to get real

Guest blog by: Eva Geierstanger on behalf of the Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassadors.

Before the start of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow Scotland this November, we sat down and spoke with several experts on the global plastics crisis—addressing its impacts from the perspectives of health, and environmental and social justice.

We felt that in our 10 Calls to Action for COP26 leaders, we had to acknowledge the often hidden and complex reality of the plastic crisis, like the involvement of fossil fuels in plastic production and the various impacts of plastic on human and animal life. Specifically, we have learned that plastic has become “the new coal.” As stated in the new report The New Coal: Plastics and Climate Change: “As of 2020, the U.S. plastics industry is responsible for at least 232 million tons of CO2e gas emissions per year. This amount is equivalent to the average emissions from 116 average-sized (500-megawatt) coal-fired power plants.” 

We are seeing  the petrochemical industry increasingly use plastics to make up the profits they are losing due to the global push for cleaner energy. As climate change continues to  threaten us all on a daily basis and endanger future generations with increasing urgency, it is more important than ever to amplify the voices of the scientific community, activists, and victims of industrial colonialism to educate the world on the continued dangers these materials pose.

As youth, we may only be 18% of the population today, but we are 100% of the future. As we look ahead to COP27, we continue to demand that world leaders take urgent action on plastics.


Interview with Heather White, One Green Thing

PPC Youth Ambassadors Amber Chen and Eva Geierstanger interview Heather White about her experience as the founder of One Green Thing, a nonprofit seeking to raise awareness of the impact of climate anxiety on mental health, as part of the Countdown to COP26 and Beyond 2021 campaign.

In this interview, we discuss Generation Z and how the climate crisis has impacted the wellbeing and mental health of the generation as a whole. Heather speaks to the importance of taking climate action one green thing at a time, which can range from writing a letter to congress to spending time outdoors. Heather encourages climate activists, especially youth activists, to find a unique place in the movement that gives them joy and prevents burn-out. 

One Green Thing
https://www.onegreenthing.org/

Heather’s page
https://www.heatherwhite.com/


Interview with Jackie Nuñez, The Last Plastic Straw

PPC Youth Ambassadors Amber Chen and Eva Geierstanger interview Jackie Nuñez about her experience as an activist and leader of The Last Plastic Straw as part of the Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador’s Ten Calls to Action campaign to world leaders at COP26 and beyond.

Jackie created the No Plastic Straws movement when she founded The Last Plastic Straw in 2011 as a volunteer project for Save Our Shores, and now a program of Plastic Pollution Coalition since 2016. Her goal is to help educate the public about the absurdity of single-use plastic, it’s effects on our health, environment and oceans. Eliminating single-use plastic pollution from the source. While using the plastic straw as a gateway issue towards eliminating our single-use plastic habit.

Jackie Nunez Bio:
https://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/thelastplasticstraw


Interview with Alexis Goldsmith, Hudson Mohawk Environmental Action Network & Beyond Plastics

PPC Youth Ambassadors Countdown to COP26 and Beyond with Alexis Goldsmith PPC Youth Ambassadors Amber Chen and Eva Geierstanger interview Alexis Goldsmith about her experience as a grassroots organizer and an organizing consultant for Beyond Plastics as part of the Countdown to COP26 and Beyond 2021 campaign.

“Plastic is a production issue and not a consumption issue,” Alexis says. With Beyond Plastics, she is helping bridge the gap in public knowledge about the connection between plastic pollution and the climate crisis. Coming from Indiana, Alexis has a deep appreciation for sustainable agriculture and helping land “thrive ecologically.” As co-founder of the Hudson Mohawk Environmental Action Network, a grassroots organization advocating for environmental justice and indigenous rights along the Hudson River, she shares the importance of giving back to the lands damaged by fossil fuels and plastic. When asked about her hopes for COP26, Alexis replied:

“We need to stop fossil fuel development, period. We need to stop taking fossil fuels out of the ground and stop the build-out of fossil fuel infrastructure. We need to protect the ecosystems that we have left and restore ecosystems that have been damaged. We need to listen to indigenous peoples and BIPOC peoples, listen to their stories, and let them lead on this.”


Interview with Dr. Arlene Blum, Green Science Policy Institute at UC-Berkeley

PPC Youth Ambassadors Amber Chen and Eva Geierstanger interview Dr. Arlene Blum about her experience using scientific research to change policy toward a healthier world as part of the Countdown to COP26 and Beyond 2021 campaign.

In this interview, Dr. Blum shares how her biophysical chemistry and mountaineering background helped her to not only solve difficult research problems and climb challenging peaks, but also to overcome the obstacles from the chemical industry in reducing the use of toxic chemicals. She conducted groundbreaking research of the elimination of flame retardants from children’s sleepwear. Since then, as the Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute and as a scientist at UC Berkeley, Dr. Blum has taken the lead in convening scientists, policy makers, and business leaders to reduce harm from toxics. In this interview, we hear how she hoped COP would consider “Plastic and chemicals in addition to climate”.

Green Science Policy Institute’s homepage
https://greensciencepolicy.org/about/

Dr. Arlene Blum’s Website
https://www.arleneblum.com/


Interview with Dr. Shanna Swan

PPC Youth Ambassadors Amber Chen and Eva Geierstanger interview Dr. Shanna Swan about her perspective of single-use plastic as one of the world’s leading environmental and reproductive epidemiologists as part of the Countdown to COP26 and Beyond 2021 campaign.

Dr. Swan and her colleagues have been studying the dramatic impact of plastic and environmental chemicals on the reproductive health of all people. Her book Countdown, which talks about how the modern world is harming reproductive health, came out in February 2021. In this interview, Amber and Eva ask Dr. Swan about the impact of the toxicity of plastic and recent developments in her field of research. When it comes to COP26, Dr. Swan hoped for “a discussion of the role of fossil fuels in the production of plastic and a recognition that these two conditions, climate change and the plastic crisis, are intimately linked.”

Swan’s website
https://www.shannaswan.com/