It’s Not, "Can You", It’s “Will You”

Guest Blogger,
teen at a chalk board
Volunteen Ingrid brainstorming ideas

Humans are destroying the planet. We’re eviscerating our atmosphere with growing holes in the ozone and using the planet as our trash can with no awareness of the consequences. It can be overwhelming to think about. You may be thinking...“well, don’t blame me!” or “what can I do about it?”

For the past few meetings, the teen volunteers of Silverlake TLC have been brainstorming issues that require more awareness from our community. We have been focusing on the environment and reducing waste, as this is a continuously growing problem around the world. We’ve also been looking into better alternatives to recycling. Wait! Why would we do that? Isn’t recycling a good thing? Not if the supposedly recycled materials are going into the ocean or giant holes in the ground.

We were initially going to partner with the Sunrise Club at John Marshall High School, but due to a difference in agendas, we decided to focus on our own projects.

We’ve come up with many ideas "outside" of our meetings and discussed them "inside" our meetings at the library. Last December at the Los Feliz Branch Library, we thought of projects and issues regarding recycling, waste reduction, and educating on sustainable ways of living. We are also planning to teach kids to reuse what they can and how to tell the difference between something useful and something that is not. We are planning to show people the effects of bottled water, on both your person and your purse. A gallon of tap water costs $0.0015. A gallon of bottled water is around $1.25. You might be saying, “It isn’t that expensive!” The average American uses 100 to 175 gallons of water a year. If that is mostly bottled water, then that means it adds up to around $125 to $218.75 a year! If you use mostly tap water, then it adds up to approximately $0.15 to $0.2625 a year. I, for one, would like to see my lawyer.

But, water bottles aren't the only things you're wasting money on. If you go to the grocery store, you’re not going to want to carry around all that weight with your arms. You need a bag! And the store you’re going to has plastic bags which are incredibly cheap! Isn’t that so convenient? As with the bottles, all these "cheap" bags add up. What can you do instead? Use reusable bags! It saves you money and your future! Now that's what I call convenient.

Using our brainstormed ideas, we came up with two more overarching ideas involving all the aspects of our project. The two we thought of were, “The Russian Doll of Recycling” and “Eliminating Waste Illiteracy.”

The Russian Doll of Recycling is about reducing plastic waste, and it's inspired by the fact that so many things come in plastic bags that contain even smaller bags and so on, like a Russian doll. If we went with this topic, we would inform others about the different types of plastic and educate them about which brands are recyclable.

Eliminating Waste Illiteracy is about reducing waste in general. This idea supports informing others about recycling effectively; so they care and are inspired to take further action.

After discussing the two, we realized the ideas were similar, and so we connected them, and our overall focus is now called “Fighting Waste Illiteracy.” Fighting Waste Illiteracy is about reducing waste, but focusing more specifically on plastic.

At the beginning of this year, we researched different and important aspects of our big idea, which will hopefully include all of our smaller ideas and will help us take action. This issue deserves attention from all of us. Volunteer to clean public parks, use fewer plastic bottles, or watch an Al Gore documentary. If you have teenagers or are one yourself, volunteer at your local library. Remember, it isn’t, “can you,” it’s “will you.”

—Written by Jorge, Malia, Ingrid, Ellie, & Mattia: Members of the Silver Lake/Los Feliz Library’s Teens Leading Change Cycle 4.

Teens Leading Change initiative has funded and launched nearly 20 projects across 24 branches, including 8 projects across 11 branches that are happening now! These projects related to topics on Library Advocacy/Information Literacy, Cultural / Community Conversations & Archives, Know Your Rights, Immigration & Citizenship, Net Neutrality / Privacy, and Voting Rights & Voter Registration.