In 2009, a group of us went to visit our friend in Andalucía, Spain, where he was working as a chef in a restaurant. On our first day there, we ran into a problem when we went to go buy some groceries at a local supermarket. None of the thin, plastic bags that we often used for our own shopping were anywhere to be found. We asked around, eventually learning that the local community had begun shunning the use of these plastic bags because of the large amounts of waste they caused. During our trip we saw just how widespread this movement had become, unlike the situation back home.
Two days later, we went into town one evening to enjoy a huge international festival that had the entire city celebrating. Despite the fact that the city was filled to the brim with people from all over the world eating, buying gifts, and enjoying themselves, we were shocked at how clean the city remained! Our second lesson of the trip was immediately clear—it was possible to keep a city clean, even with big crowds and events going on all around us.
Later, we were walking around looking for the right bin to toss our empty energy drinks into. Suddenly, it hit us: keeping our environment clean, reducing our consumption and waste—these actions are all based on educating people and promoting the right kinds of values!
We would later come to witness this epiphany firsthand. At a well-known city festival of ours held in 2013, activists from an international youth movement arrived to present visitors with information on the “Just Say No to Plastic Bags” campaign. The crowd had a tremendous response to these activists, who were following in the footsteps of American activist and conservationist Chad Pregracke. Chad had previously risen to prominence through an article written in the Smithsonian Magazine that highlighted his efforts to inspire people to improve the environment. After the article was published, thousands of activists and volunteers around the world joined Chad in supporting this cause.