Students Write Op-Eds Advocating for Preserving Tampa Bay’s Environment
April 28, 2021
The Academy’s Our Earth club organized an array of activities from Apr. 19 through the 23 in celebration of Earth Day. And during Rose Project, Alumna Jeanine Ramirez (’16) — who works for the USCCB advocacy division for Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home — led one of the projects with primarily virtual students. She taught them about advocacy writing and coached them in co-writing op-eds.
As a result, two groups were formed amongst the students and each wrote an op-ed — one is titled “Why We Should Keep Tampa Bay Sanitary” and the other is named “Making Recycling More Accessible in the Bay.” Achona Online has published both, which can be found below.
Make Recycling More Accessible in the Bay
To Whom it May Concern,
We are seniors at the Academy of the Holy Names. We are writing to you to address an outstanding issue that we have found to be prevalent in Tampa Bay: recycling. The current procedure to obtain a recycling bin, specifically cost and access, is discouraging to citizens that lack both. We hope that we have presented our argument effectively in order to persuade and encourage citizens in the Tampa Bay area to advocate for a more equitable recycling program.
It is time that the residents of Tampa Bay are made aware of the faults in our recycling system. This is an important issue because, as humans, it is in our rights and responsibilities to care for our planet and all it entails. We can start by fixing how we recycle. In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis emphasized the request of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew “to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing.” That being said, it is evident that the overall issue of recycling in Tampa Bay is significantly impacted by difficulties in accessing, obtaining, and affording recycling bins.
After further research, one realizes just how misleading and discouraging the process of receiving a recycling bin is in the Tampa Bay area. First, these bins are not readily available to lower-income areas. Second, the process is not compliant or cooperative with working-class families who do not have time or the access to the process of obtaining a recycling bin. Third, The current process takes time and lots of patience as it is not user-friendly. Oftentimes this leads to final defeat as citizens do not have the time to sit through a strenuous process of obtaining a simple recycling bin.
Many people also do not realize that cost is a significant barrier. According to the Hillsborough county website, it costs $103 to purchase a recycling bin for a standard family. Despite being willing to recycle, the cost alone can discourage many families from purchasing one. This means that although many are willing to recycle, low-income families are often (understandably) forced to put their needs before the needs of the Earth. This is why our community should work to find ways to make recycling an affordable option.
If you compare the practice of waste management of recyclable materials in Tampa to that of a more progressive city, such as San Jose, California, the differences are clear. According to Busted Cubicle, from 2012 to 2015, the city of San Jose’s commercial recycling rate increased from 22% to 43%, which equates to a total percentage of 71%. This was accomplished with a joint effort between the city and two waste management companies. These companies work to both collect and remove both recyclable and organic materials, process them, and finally transform them into energy or compost. In 2018, Florida’s recycling rate was 49%, falling short of its goal of 70%. This is evidently a much lower percentage than that of San Jose, and the City of Tampa would be wise to follow in their footsteps.
It is important to remember the many benefits that come from recycling, as it helps fulfill Pope Francis’ call to steer from throwaway culture. Today, many who live along the Tampa Bay, Hillsborough River, and many beaches have noticed high percentages of waste and pollution building up. Without recycling, these natural resources will continue to build up with waste. According to a study that was published in November by scientists at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, there are four billion bits of microplastic that are in the Tampa Bay area. Microplastics like plastic bags or water bottles that only get used for a limited amount of time by our doings will spend an entire lifetime polluting our Tampa Bay. Recycling will not only help reduce pollution in our Bay, but it will help create a better living environment for those who call the Tampa Bay their home.
Why We Should Keep Tampa Bay Sanitary
To Whom it May Concern,
We are a group of girls from the Academy sharing our concern about how women are unknowingly harming the planet simply by buying mass-produced products that society encourages us to use every day. We wrote this letter in the hope that we can shed light on this important issue and to see the Tampa Bay community become a leader in environmental and women’s health standards.
Emma Grace Coley
200,000 tons of plastic waste are produced annually from one source: sanitary pads. An out-of-the-box solution to reduce this waste is to make ecologically sustainable hygiene products more accessible to all. Doing so shows respect for the human condition as well as respect for our environment. In the Laudato Si, Pope Francis states, “Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” By making sustainable and safe hygiene products more accessible to women is not only an expression of sincere love, but a way we can help our environment and improve the quality of life within our society.
Most people don’t know that feminine hygiene products can contain up to 90% plastic. In fact, one pack of feminine pads is made with the same amount of plastic as four grocery shopping bags. A few of these products would be enough to cause substantial harm to marine life and wild animals. Imagine if 2.5 billion of these products flushed down the toilet every day. This can lead to 1,000 tons of waste each year from these products alone. Not to mention, they do not disintegrate overnight. It can take from 500 to 800 years to be exact.
According to a 2019 study by Zero Waste Scotland, tampons and sanitary pads contribute about 95% more to climate change than reusable menstrual cups. People can reduce waste by turning to reusable hygiene products. Reusable products are not only better for the environment, but they can also save over $100 each year. Transitioning to sustainable products not only decreases environmental hazards but protects the health of women as well. There are many chemicals in hygiene products that can be harmful to our environment and the bodies of those who use them. Some examples of these physical dangers are Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), irritation from dioxin (bleach), artificial perfumes, and pesticides.
Hygienic production companies switching to manufacturing more environmentally conscious products would greatly reduce the amount of waste created yearly. One of the most effective ways to start the switch to more environmentally sensible sanitary products is by spreading awareness through word of mouth or advertisement. This means commercializing products that are normally seen as useful for a people of certain economic demographics and making them more accessible. Increasing awareness within the Tampa Bay community as a whole makes it easier to donate and allows for the problem to be solved.
Moreover, in order to educate those around us and the community, we must properly educate ourselves. We must become aware of how the current feminine products put a strain on our environment. Using these environmentally friendly products while promoting the use of them not only educates ourselves on the importance of these products to be more eco-friendly, but benefits our personal health. Following in the light of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ we need to come together as a community and commit to fixing this because no single person can fix a problem this large.
As people of a community, it is our responsibility to work together to care for our environment and the people within it since life is all a precious gift. Additionally, it is important to note that organizations such as The Healing Hands Project, Helping Women Period, The Homeless Period Project, and many more projects like these are accepting donations and listing volunteer opportunities to deliver menstrual supplies to those in need. It is important that the people of the Tampa Bay community know that there are opportunities to start this in the area.
Ultimately, feminine hygiene products are harmful to the environment and to women who aren’t fortunate enough to have access to safer types of products. Alternatives should be more accessible to all women, as they are much safer to their overall health and to the health of the planet. In order for women to have access to safer products, organizations and donations in the Tampa Bay area should be encouraged to help all women, especially those in difficult economic circumstances. Tampa Bay can do much more to modernize the way it approaches both the health of the women in the city and the planet, and it can begin now.