The following post was written by World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council member, Baylee Ritter. Baylee is 21 years old and lives in the Chicago, Illinois, USA.
This past June, I was able to travel to Vancouver, Canada for the trip of a lifetime. For this Illinois native, traveling to a coastal city is always extremely exciting - I always feel a sense of home when I’m near a large body of water. But this trip was more than exciting - it was transformative, impactful and above all else, necessary.
On behalf of the World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council, I flew to Vancouver to attend the Sustainable Brands conference. The Sustainable Brands conference is a series of global events attended by sustainable business leaders from around the world. The mission of the conference is to empower more brands to lead the way and prove that sustainability can be imbedded into the fibers of any organization. I attended the conference to provide a youth perspective on the sustainability conversation and demand more from the brands that I buy. More specifically, I was able to jointly host a two day workshop with our partners at P&G to address the plastic pollution crisis in our ocean.
Gabriella Schauber, a former Council member, and I invited youth from the Vancouver community to participate in our workshop where we posed a single-use plastics challenge question to them. We asked: How can the ideas of youth be reflected and incorporated into the sustainability strategies of industry to stop the flow of ocean-bound plastic? From there, it was up to the youth to design a game plan that we could present to leaders attending the conference. Our groups thought of everything from algae based bottles to expanding zero-waste grocery stores! There was so much idea generation that our two hour session continued hours after the conference was over.
After formally planning our recommendations, we were able to present our ideas to a large crowd of leaders eager to hear from their future consumers. In the end, I think this conference was particularly meaningful because our session was the only one that invited youth. If brands want to think about solutions for a sustainable future, why don’t they ask the very people who will be inheriting the future from them? Solving the plastic pollution crisis must be a collaborative effort amongst several different people and organizations. So doesn’t it make sense to invite the future leaders of this world?