Young environmentalist’s campaign attracts international support

A campaign to encourage businesses and consumers in the Cayman Islands to ditch single-use plastics is attracting overseas attention.

UCCI student Steff Mcdermot was awarded a grant from an international environmental foundation for her campaign. She started the “345 pledge” in partnership with Plastic Free Cayman after attending the Ocean Heroes boot camp held in New Orleans in June.

The pledge, the name of which plays on Cayman’s 345 international dialing code, challenges consumers to sign up to do three things immediately, four things within six months, and five things within a year to contribute to sustainability in the Cayman Islands.

The list of options open to individuals includes committing to drinking from reusable water bottles, refusing plastic straws, patronizing establishments that sign up to the pledge or attending a beach cleanup.

Businesses can also sign up to similar commitments, including using reusable cups instead of plastic cups, stopping the use of Styrofoam, and only offering straws on request.

Ms. Mcdermot said the grant, awarded through international organizations Lonely Whale and Captain Planet Foundation, had helped her market the campaign and amplify the message beyond Cayman’s shores through social media influencers.

She believes pressure from tourists, as well as residents, could help contribute to the ultimate aim of persuading government to consider legislation banning single-use plastics.

“The pressure has to come from visitors as well because they are the consumers. If they don’t want plastic straws, then the businesses will have to comply,” she said.

Dominica just became the first country in the Caribbean to legislate against plastics, banning various items, including plastic straws, cutlery, Styrofoam and carry-out food containers. Jamaica has also brought in a ban on straws and plastic shopping bags, which will come into effect next year.

Ms. Mcdermot said her ultimate aim was to convince the Cayman Islands government to follow suit.

“The reason why this campaign was born is to show government that the community is taking steps to eliminate single-use plastics,” she said.

Around 500 people have signed up to the 345 pledge so far. The grant has contributed to a marketing campaign that includes overseas influencers and a mini documentary series is coming out shortly.

Ms. Mcdermot also received an award for her efforts from the Captain Planet Foundation. She said she was grateful for the recognition, but is focused on achieving the real reward of policy change.

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