Plastic pollution is an issue that has increasingly been dominating conversations surrounding the environment. Every year, over 8 million tons of plastic enters our oceans—and it doesn’t go away. Rather than decomposing, plastic continuously accumulates in the ocean, threatening all life on Earth. Marine animals mistake debris for food or become entangled, toxic chemicals leach in the waterways, and microplastics are being ingested by both animals and humans at an increasing rate. Even with all of this information, it can be difficult to comprehend the magnitude of plastic that threatens our environment. One Oregon-native artist, Angela Haseltine Pozzi, is helping to solve this problem by using her talents to clean the oceans and inspire positive change.
Angela founded the Washed Ashore Project in 2010 after witnessing the plastic pollution crisis on her own beloved Oregon beaches. Angela and her team of over 10,000 volunteers work together to clean the beaches and then turn what was once trash into beautiful sculptures of marine creatures. After the plastic is collected, it is cleaned, sorted, and then assembled into pieces that eventually create a work of art. According to the non-profit’s website, the group has processed “over 20 tons of debris into over 70 sculptures of the animals affected by plastic pollution.” These cleanups have reached over 300 miles of West Coast beaches and 95% of the collected debris is used in the art pieces.
Washed Ashore’s sculptures make up traveling exhibits that now reach people all over the United States. Guests who view Angela’s artwork can identify many familiar household items, such as water bottles, toothbrushes, fishing lures, and even chairs and shoes. This unique presentation of an ongoing environmental issue enlightens viewers and promotes individual reflection and change. The art pieces encourage individuals to “reduce, reuse, recycle, and refuse” plastic products in order to protect beloved marine animals and habitats.
In addition to the sculptures, the Washed Ashore Project received a grant from NOAA to develop an “Integrated Arts Marine Debris Curriculum” that is freely available for educators. This curriculum combines physical and social sciences with art lessons in order to educate students about the problems facing marine life and the tools that we as individuals and a society have to solve them.
For more information about this non-profit, and to view photos of some of this inspiring artwork, visit: http://washedashore.org/.
What are some other unique ways that we can educate the public about environmental issues?
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