Joan Palmer Knows How To “Bee” Kind

Joan Palmer Knows How To "Bee" Kind

... submitted by Tom Deach

 

Early this spring I received a call from Joan Palmer on South Shore Road. She was looking for someone who might till up a small wild flower bed for her. As a result, after meeting with Joan and her friend, Heather Miller, I agreed to do what I could to help her out. About a week later, in between the cold rains which dominate our spring days, I was able to fit the job in. When I arrived I was a little apprehensive to begin working because neither Joan, nor Heather, was there to supervise the extent of the tilling, but I also knew Joan was also apprehensive about being too “late for wildflowers.” I went to work finishing the job just as the next rain squall moved in. I was disappointed with the final product, which was an area about 25' X 40', and quite dismal looking; a patch of dirt, chopped up grass and of course an abundance of Guemes rocks overshadowed by the gray sky above, which darkened a gloomy Guemes channel. As I pushed the tiller back towards my truck, I noticed how beautiful her manicured gardens would become as the weather warmed, renewing life. Joan called me when she arrived home very pleased with the new garden area, stating it was just as she had imagined. “What do I owe you?” Remembering what it looked like when I left it, I couldn't put a value on it. We agreed a donation to the Guemes Island Historical Society would satisfy both parties.

 

Fast forward to mid-June. Another call from Joan: “You need to see what we created, I'm so grateful for your help.” Chuck Farrell helped too, she added. He had smoothed out and tamped down the tilled area in preparation for the seed. I promised to stop by and take a look. While walking from the truck I couldn't help but notice the garden's transformation since my last visit, trees and flowers blooming with birds and bees everywhere. Along the pathway I was greeted by California poppies, a bright orange glow, a seeming reflection of the sun.

 

Volunteer California Poppies

Continuing along, flowers to my left; to the right a garden area with veggies, trees and of course, more flowers snuggled by the inevitable deer fencing. And then, a few steps further on, there they were: wildflowers galore. No more chewed up grass and dirt mixed with rock; in it's place white and pink and blue and yellow and....you get the picture: spectacular!

 

The Garden

Joan and Heather enjoying the view

Walking with Joan, she names the flowers in her gardens, introducing each of them to me. She smiles at both the flowers and me. She understands that I know nothing about flowers, but we share a common attraction to the scene surrounding us, the fragrances, bright colors and beauty that the flowers bring. We are not alone. Birds and bees of all manner abound, with butterflies beginning to arrive as summer approaches. Joan's dream is for wildflower gardens to cover our island. Joan's wish is to share her garden with these pollinators and two legged islanders as well. She would love for visitors to see it and perhaps become inspired to create their own joyful habitat for our all important friends, the birds, butterflies and of course, the Bees!

 

Joan pointing at the bees

Covid 19 has upset the way we visit, however with careful social distancing and wearing masks the gardens could be viewed in a responsible, safe, way. If you would like to see this spectacular garden, please contact Joan. Email: moonrisebay@gmail.com or by phone: 360-202-2540 to make an appointment for viewing.

Read more

2020 Betty Crookes Guemes Gold Scholarship Winners

2020 Betty Crookes Guemes Gold Scholarship Winners

Photo L to R: Anna Prewitt, Jefferson Butler, Rivers Olson

 

Three outstanding Guemes Island high school students were recently awarded this year’s Betty Crookes Guemes Gold Scholarships. Anna Prewitt received the Gold Award of $1500, Jefferson Butler received the Silver Award of $1000, and Rivers Olson received the Bronze Award of $500. Instead of the normal awards reception at the Church honoring the students, this year COVID-19 restrictions forced members of the Scholarship Committee, wearing masks, to visit the homes of each winner to present their certificate and monetary award. Congratulations to all three!

 

Anna:

I am happy to be the recipient of a Guemes Gold Scholarship. I'm a senior at Anacortes High School for a few more weeks. I enjoy debate, playing the clarinet and piano, tennis, and journalism, as well as volunteering in the community. I am thrilled at the opportunity to continue my education, which this scholarship helps make possible. I will pursue my passions in chemistry and English next year at Pomona College in Claremont, California. After college, I hope to go on to earn a graduate degree and continue learning as a teacher.

 

Jefferson:

I am a senior at Anacortes High, set to graduate on June 17. Throughout my high school years, I have tried on many hats, and some have fit better than others. During my freshman and sophomore years, I was a dedicated member of the robotics team at the high school – learning basic software development and machine shop skills. I also played the French Horn and Trumpet under three different band directors. In my later high school years, I dedicated myself more to my future plans – looking at post-secondary education paths and careers. Currently, I plan to join the crew of a yacht as soon as I'm done with classes. Next fall I hope to attend Claremont McKenna College or Harvey Mudd College. I am so incredibly lucky to have a community that supports my dreams so passionately. Thank you Guemes, and thank you Betty Crookes!

 

Rivers:

Hello, I am Rivers Olson. I have lived on Guemes Island all my life and have grown up in the community. I really enjoy being outside and engaging with friends and family. I was homeschooled up until my sophomore year and excelled when I went to high school. I am attending Western Washington University this coming fall and plan on majoring in a health profession to help people. I will use the Guemes Gold scholarship to help pay for tuition, books, and school supplies. I would like to thank the Guemes Gold Committee and Betty Crookes for this opportunity.

 

 

-----

Betty Crookes co-founded the Guemes Gold Scholarship Program in 1991 along with members of the Women’s Club. When the Club dissolved, other island organizations and individuals made sure the program continued. The Guemes Island Property Owners Association (GIPOA) hosted the program for eleven years and now passes the program to the Guemes Island Community Center Association (GICCA). A hardworking and dedicated Scholarship Committee continues the logistical work and fundraising. The committee members include co-chairs Janice Veal and Jan Ebersole, Julie Hopkins, Betsy Ockwell, Carol Pellett, and Susan Rombeek.

 

Applicants for the scholarships must be Guemes residents and are evaluated on successful progress toward completion of their secondary education, concern for the environment and community, and their involvement in extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, hobbies, artistic interests, and jobs. They are asked to provide a school transcript or grade level examination if homeschooled as well as two letters of recommendation.

 

You can help to keep this worthwhile program going by making a tax-deductible donation to the Scholarship Committee through the Guemes Island Community Center Association. Checks should be made out to GICCA with “Guemes Gold Scholarship” in the memo field and mailed to GICCA at 7549 Guemes Island Road, Anacortes, WA 98221. Checks can also be given to members of the Scholarship Committee.

Read bios from the students

Humble Family Legacy of Support

Humble Family Legacy of Support

For several years the Second Century Vision Committee has been studying the future needs of the Guemes Island Community Center, Guemes CERT, the Guemes Library, and the Guemes Island Historical Society. Representatives from each of these organizations, as well as the Guemes Church, make up this committee.

 

Our community has grown considerably since the Community Center Hall was constructed in 1914. The Hall needs more space for community events as well as for emergency shelter. Our library could easily fill a new space twice the current size. The Historical Society dreams of permanent museum space for its many historical and archived items. The plan is to revitalize the Community Center’s capabilities, add much-needed parking, and provide areas both inside and out to display our island’s cultural history. The expansion plan will honor the past and embrace the future as it meets the changing needs of our community.

 

The Guemes Island Community Center Association (GICCA) is pleased to announce that the first milestone on the road to expansion has been reached. At the end of 2019, Clive and Diane Humble donated 1.26 acres of land north and adjacent to the existing Community Hall parking area. This generous donation gives us the green light to forge ahead with more comprehensive planning.

 

This recent land donation by the Humbles is not the family’s first gift to Guemes Island. In 1958 a letter from Helen Vonnegut, the Church Secretary, thanks George and Gyneth Humble for donating a strip of land along Guemes Island Road to the Guemes Congregational Church. This strip became the parking area that runs from the Church to the Community Hall.

 

In 2004 the Humbles again donated land to the community. Gyneth Humble, Clive’s mother, donated land for what became the “new” parking lot north of the Community Hall. This was a sorely needed addition as increased parking needs at community events had outgrown the roadside parking strip. Glen Veal, with Clive’s support, helped facilitate this donation.

 

Now, 15 years later, the third donation is complete. This acquisition continues the Humble Family legacy of support for our Community Center with each donation building on the last. As the Community Center adapts to the changing island demographic and plans for the future, it remains one of Guemes Island’s most prized assets.

 

The Humble family has a long history on Guemes Island. George and Gyneth Humble moved from Seattle to the island in 1948 when Clive, their only child, was two years old. George and Gyneth both worked for the Copeland Lumber Company until their retirement. Clive attended the Guemes Island School through 4th grade. Mrs. Miles taught all four grades and it was difficult for some island children to excel educationally. Clive found the transition to the Anacortes school system challenging initially but managed to catch up with his peers as evidenced by his later academic life. Even though Clive now attended Anacortes schools, the Humbles continued to live on Guemes Island and actively supported the community.

 

George passed away in August of 1975, but Gyneth continued to live on Guemes, her home for 44 years. After suffering two strokes, Gyneth moved to Mountain Glen Retirement Home in Mount Vernon where she resided nearly 20 years until her death in October of 2011.

 

Clive resided on the island, off and on, until 1971. Like his parents, Clive also worked for Copeland Lumber, but only for a short time. He became enamored with boating and began working for Bryant's Marina of Anacortes. He was also employed at Robinson's Marina before it was demolished by a fierce north wind during a winter storm. After graduating from Anacortes High School Clive attended Skagit Valley Community College and graduated from the University of Puget Sound. After graduation, Clive worked for Prairie Market Building Supply of Mt Vernon for 16 years. He eventually finished his career in Seattle after working another 21 years for Builders Hardware and Supply.

 

Clive married Diane in 1972 and moved off the island. Diane was a teacher in the Sedro Wooley school district for five years until their children, Julie and Mark came along. They were her primary focus until they entered public school. Diane then returned to teaching. She spent 21 years at Lincoln View Elementary in Mount Vernon, capping off a long career of public service to area school children. In recent years Clive and Diane have been committed to caring for Diane's mother in her declining years. They reside midway between Anacortes and Mount Vernon. The family still maintains property on the island to this day.

 

Clive and Diane’s most recent gift to the Community Center Association continues the Humble Family legacy of support for the Guemes Island community. The residents of Guemes, both current and future generations, will continue to enjoy a vibrant Community Center thanks to the generosity of the Humble Family.

Read more

The Pelletts – A Lifetime Of Commitment

The Pelletts - A Lifetime Of Commitment

Carol and Howard Pellett know the meaning of commitment through 60 years of marriage and 25 years of community involvement on Guemes Island. Both, now 80 years old, are stepping back from most of their island leadership roles.

 

Stepping away from leadership roles does not mean the Pelletts will sit back and rest on their laurels. They plan to remain strong supporters of island organizations, projects, and personal causes. There will be more cherished time with family while enjoying their ocean view from North Shore. More time to knit, to walk the dog, and to watch the birds on the beach.

 

Carol was born in Washington DC and her family moved to southern California when she was a child. Carol and Howard met as teenagers while attending rival high schools in the Los Angeles area. Howard still speaks fondly of seeing the young blue-eyed beauty in the blue dress and Carol remembers his black convertible automobile, the dream of every southern California teen at the time. The couple found their soul mates in each other and married at age 20. Their family grew as they moved from California to Washington state with a brief stint in Alaska. Carol and Howard’s five boys still live in Washington, all east of Lake Washington.

 

Carol fell in love with Guemes Island in the late ’70s and she convinced Howard that they should purchase property on North Shore in 1979. After a career in administration at Evergreen Hospital, Carol was the first to retire and she moved to their new home on the island. Howard’s retirement followed in 1999 when he ended his long career as a senior agent with the IRS. The Pelletts wasted no time getting involved in the community and making many new friends. Howard credits Carol with setting the stage for their many years of service to the island.

 

The Guemes Island Property Owners Association (GIPOA) was an established island organization in need of new leadership. The Pelletts stepped in and have carried forward GIPOA’s work as a 501(c)(4) non-profit for over 20 years. GIPOA oversees the Betty Crookes Guemes Gold Scholarship Program that was formerly sponsored by the Guemes Women’s Club. Guemes students are recognized for their scholastic achievement and awarded scholarships that are funded by donations from individuals and organizations. Proceeds from the Fall Festival also help to fund this worthwhile program. Howard and Carol will hopefully pass the torch to new leaders as they step down from GIPOA this summer.

 

Shortly after Carol’s arrival on Guemes she saw the need for a library on the island. The ferry runs ended in the early evening and residents longed for access to a local library. Carol and Howard took on the challenge and helped raise the $40,000 it took to build a library addition onto the Community Hall. The Guemes Library is now brimming with books and resources and dreaming of future expansion. This 501(c)(3) library is run by a nine-member library board of which Carol is the president and Howard, treasurer. These positions are also being vacated, leaving big shoes to be filled.

 

Carol worked for 16 years as the secretary for the Guemes Island Fire Department. Howard again helped with fundraising that paid for the solar panels on both the Fire Hall and the Guemes Church. In past years they both served on the boards of the Guemes Island Environmental Trust (GIET) and the Guemes Island Community Center Association (GICCA). Carol can be found at the Church on most Wednesdays with a quilting group that stitches handmade quilts for donation to charities. She is seldom without her knitting and it is a lucky person who has a pair of her handknitted socks.

 

The Pelletts will continue their involvement with the Guemes Chamber Music Series. Carol serves on the board as treasurer. Howard helped facilitate gaining 501(c)(3) status for this organization and he also serves as a current board member.

 

With Carol’s love and support, Howard was able to overcome some personal challenges in his life. This led him to his volunteer work as a group facilitator with SMART Recovery, a self-management and recovery training program for alcoholics. For many years Howard traveled weekly to the Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, WA and the Criminal Justice Center in Everett where he counseled inmates. Howard no longer travels for this work but he continues facilitating SMART Recovery at a weekly meeting in Anacortes. He feels that helping people find their own path to recovery can be a lasting solution.

 

The Guemes community thanks Carol and Howard for their many years of dedicated service and for setting a high bar for community involvement.

Read more

This month the Guemes Island Community Center Association (GICCA) wants to feature YOU, the members of the Guemes community. Your generous response to our Fall fundraising campaign has brought in $12,545 as of January 16. Without your continued support, we would not be able to maintain our facilities or to provide the services that we all enjoy.

 

Donations of money are not the only way you can support GICCA. Time is a priceless commodity and we welcome volunteers for a variety of activities and events. If you have a skill or talent that you can share with others, let us know. Can you teach a workshop, help with maintenance tasks, do light gardening chores or help write grants? GICCA needs you.

 

Please send an email to 4gicca@gmail.com and let us know how you would like to be involved. Thanks again for your support.

GICCA Welcomes New 2020 Board Members

GICCA Welcomes New 2020 Board Members

 

 

At the GICCA annual meeting on Thursday, November 21, 2019, the community elected 2 new Board members - Kathy Whitman (pictured here) and Mary Hale (not pictured).  Kathy and Mary join returning Board members Rob Schroder, Loalynda Bird, Carol Deach, Libby Boucher, and Barb Ohms as your 2020 GICCA Board.

 

Kathy Whitman first came to Guemes in 1973 when she and her sister purchased a tiny cabin in Holiday Hideaway. Her two kids and husband loved the shared cabin, enjoying many hours on the beach. After Kathy’s husband died, she had to develop a new plan for her life and in 2018 made the choice to make Guemes Island her full-time home. She enjoys outside activities including volunteering as a steward for the San Juan Preservation Trust at the Peach Preserve. Kathy shares her love and talent for art by hosting Guemes Casual Art groups at her home. Both of her sisters now have their own homes or cabins on the island.

 

Kathy earned two degrees from UW in Art and in Recreation plus continued education in financial management, art skills, diversity, risk management, and organization. Her background in grant award review, grant writing, fundraising, and creative marketing will be valuable assets to the GICCA Board and our future work for the Guemes community.

 

Mary Hale and her husband Jeff are life-long Washingtonians who moved to Guemes Island in 2017 after raising their two children and retiring. Drawn to Guemes’ beauty and sense of community, they readily embraced island life as full-time residents. Besides giving back to the community, Mary hopes to share her experience from having worked 28 years at the University of Washington. Her work there involved, among other things, administering multiple budgets, coordinating numerous events, and authoring a  web site. Mary says she especially enjoyed the challenge of crunching numbers, staying organized, and paying close attention to details.

 

Mary views the Community Center as a positive gathering place for recreational, educational, and social activities—all of which foster a sense of belonging here—and, to that end, she sees the GICCA Board member’s role as striving to be a good steward of this valuable asset.

 

When Mary isn’t on a walkabout in nature, she enjoys volunteering at the Library, attending Historical Society events, supporting the Skagit Land Trust, and being involved in fun activities such as the Dog Island Dog Show, Luminary Parade, and Fourth of July Parade.

 

We welcome Kathy and Mary as the newest members of the 2020 GICCA Board.

Read more

Guemes Land & Sea Stewards

Guemes Land & Sea Stewards

Place is powerful and can transform humanity as much as humanity has the power to transform place. A sense of place allows us to be grounded in something larger than ourselves; something real that provides context and meaning in our lives.

 

This month we celebrate the “human-place connection,” specifically, the devotion to place demonstrated by the land and sea stewards on Guemes Island. These dedicated volunteers work tirelessly and commit countless hours to help maintain and protect the environment around us to ensure we can all continue to enjoy and take pride in this place we call home.

 

Our fast-paced, consumer-based, productivity-oriented culture can foster a disconnect from nature and from people/community. Our personal well-being is strengthened when we allow ourselves to slow down and connect with nature and those around us. Being purposeful about investing in and caring for the environment is an aspect of investing in and caring for people, as well as place. A uniquely purposeful investment is to become part of a stewardship program.

 

“To steward” is to care for, protect, and guide. Several local organizations offer stewardship opportunities. Their missions vary but a common theme is to connect people to nature and to each other in order to protect and preserve our environment. The following is a list of Guemes Islanders currently aligned with stewardship programs, either formally or informally.

 

Skagit Land Trust (Guemes properties: Anderson property, Kelly’s Point, Guemes Mountain & Valley)

- see also last month’s Featured Neighbor article

Volunteers listed below live on Guemes unless noted otherwise

  • Ian Woofenden
  • John Strathman
  • Tony Allison
  • Karen Lamphere
  • Tim Alaniz
  • Ralph Mendershausen
  • Dave Rogers
  • Phil Fenner
  • Ed Gastellum - Anacortes
  • Elaina Thompson – Vendovi Island
  • Thyatira Thompson – Vendovi Island

 

San Juan Preservation Trust (Guemes properties: Peach Preserve, Guemes Mountain)

  • Randy and Barbara Schnabel
  • Kathy Whitman

 

Skagit Marine Resources (Salish Sea Stewards)

  • Phyllis Bravinder
  • Darla Gay Smith
  • Anne Casperson
  • Dixon Elder

 

We can all be stewards by respecting the integrity of nature and doing our part to care for the environment. Respecting and caring for our natural world ultimately serves to strengthen all elements of society. When humanity assimilates this perspective and lives accordingly, both place and people (and all living things) will thrive at their highest potential.

 

 

“The greatest threat to our environment is the belief that someone else will take care of it.” – Unknown

A HUGE thank-you to the Guemes Island stewards (past, present, formal and informal) who demonstrate their devotion to place, providing an example of how we can all help the environment (and each other) thrive!

Read more

SLT, Guemes Community Partner

SLT, Guemes Community Partner

Three visionary leaders and 31 Charter Members founded the Skagit Land Trust (SLT) in 1992. Their mission is to conserve wildlife habitat, agricultural and forest lands, scenic open space, wetlands, and shorelines for the benefit of our community and as a legacy for future generations. The staff, many active volunteers, and over 1,700 family and business members work to protect the most important and beloved places in Skagit County.

 

In 2007, 70 acres in private ownership atop Guemes Mountain were put up for sale. Guemes community leaders rallied island residents and conservation organizations for the Save the Mountain campaign. In 2009, the money was raised and the property was purchased by the SLT. Including the surrounding conservation easement held by the San Juan Preservation Trust, 580 acres of private and public land is now protected on Guemes Mountain.

 

In 2015, with continued support from generous families, individuals, and foundations, the SLT’s Guemes Forever campaign reached its fundraising goal for the purchase of an additional 9.5 acres adjacent to the Guemes Mountain property. Raised funds also go toward outreach to Guemes landowners who own properties with high conservation value.

 

The Guemes Forever campaign’s efforts continue toward the final goal of funding stewardship needs and trail work on the SLT’s protected land on our island.

 

In 2018, more than 425 families, organizations, and businesses donated funds that made possible SLT’s purchase of 27 acres and 3,000 feet of shoreline that comprise the Kelly’s Point Conservation Area. This treasured beach and wildlife area is now protected for all to enjoy.

 

These achievements are a testament to our community’s love of place and what can be accomplished when we work together as partners toward a common goal.

Read more

The 4 Chicks and Phantom Power

The 4 Chicks and Phantom Power

The 4 Chicks and Phantom Power Bring Music Events to the Hall

 

The 4 Chicks – Cheryl Mansley, Libby Boucher, Lorrie Steele, and Suzie Gwost create a down-home feel at their expertly produced musical events at the Guemes Island Community Hall. Curating the sound before and during the shows is Phantom Power – Tony Boucher, sound engineer, with Rick Mansley and Samantha Legowik providing behind-the-scenes support.

 

Cheryl moved to Washington from West Virginia where for twelve years she produced The RiverHouse Concert Series and later The Blue Moon Sundays Concert Series. She was the Music Director for the West Virginia Wine & Arts Festival and also helped produce The Mountain Stage NewSong Festival. On farms, in homes, cafes, and teahouses Cheryl’s productions focused on bringing the community together to enjoy music in a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere. Her graphic arts expertise adds a professional flair to every 4 Chicks’ event.

 

Libby is the support and logistics person that every great team relies upon whether it’s for housing the musicians, managing the hospitality and promotion or staging the room. Her husband Tony and son Max round out the crew that helps produce these events.

 

Lorrie is a dancer who began with ballet then taught dance in Anacortes for 37 years. In 2001 she started the Fidalgo DanceWorks studio that is now a thriving non-profit that promotes the art of dance. Classes are offered to students of all ages and abilities from age three to seniors with genres from tumbling to belly dancing with everything (ballet, African, tap, jazz, modern, swing, hip hop) in between. Two years ago Lorrie retired from the studio and now focuses on her second love, promoting horsemanship on Guemes Island. She can often be seen riding her horse along Guemes Island Road. Lorrie brings her passion for promoting the arts to Guemes Island through her participation in the 4 Chicks’ productions.

 

Suzie’s love of music is a family affair. Her fiddle playing and that of her father, George Park, along with husband Mike’s guitar picking have gotten many feet a-tappin’ here on the island. Suzie brought her friend, Cowboy Poet Dick Warwick, to Guemes on several occasions. After attending a Brian Bowers concert in Mount Vernon with Cheryl and Lorrie, the production collaboration began and The 4 Chicks were born.

 

From another Dick Warwick show to our own Guemes Island Brian Bowers concert then the American Fingerstyle Guitarists, islanders can look forward to the next 4 Chicks’ down-home production –The Gothard Sisters at the
Community Hall on Saturday, September 14. See details on myguemes.org.

Read more

NeedLESS Plastic, by John Strathman

NeedLESS Plastic, by John Strathman

Photo: John collecting beach debris on an Ocean Legacy expedition

 

In a 2016 survey, The Pew Research Center reported that 74% of Americans said: “the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment." But only 20% said that they make an effort to live in ways that help protect the environment “all the time.”

 

It’s really tough to be environmentally conscious when it comes to plastic. Plastic is a ubiquitous workhorse and a seemingly essential component of our way of life. It’s everywhere, in almost everything we use, for many good reasons. Plastic is light, strong, durable, and cheap. Try to get everything on your grocery list and avoid plastic. Good luck. Try to go a day without using anything plastic. Not gonna happen. But, there ARE many opportunities to reduce our use.

 

The problem with plastic is that we produce, use and discard far more than we can manage. Much plastic waste is mismanaged. Worldwide, 8 million metric tons of plastic finds its way into the oceans every year. That’s a garbage truck every minute. By 2050, there will be as much plastic in the oceans (by weight) as fish. A million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals and turtles are killed by plastic trash in the ocean every year. Microplastics (bits of plastic less than 5mm) have been found in bottled drinking water, shellfish, finned fish, sea salt, even in the air in the Pyrenees mountains, 100 miles from the nearest town. And, yes, it is found in human poop. We eat, drink, and inhale plastic every day. It is believed to be toxic.

 

In 2018, China stopped accepting plastic waste from other countries. That was a game-changer. Much of the plastic we dutifully deposited in our blue bins was baled up and sent to China. They don’t want our trash anymore. So, recyclers like Waste Management are scrambling to find other markets for plastic (somewhere else to send it). Much is sent to developing countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and India where 80% of plastic is mismanaged – incinerated, land-filled, or illegally dumped. Recyclers in the U.S. are forced to landfill or incinerate plastic they can’t find a market for. Six times as much plastic is incinerated in the United States as is recycled!

 

My interest in plastic pollution was triggered on a trip to the gorgeous islands of Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia in 2016. Before that, I didn’t think much about my own plastic consumption. I used whatever I wanted, figuring it was okay as long as I tossed my plastic into the recycling bin when I was done with it. In Sorong, a city of 100,000, I saw plastic containers all over the streets and canals so choked with plastic garbage it was hard to see any water. There were discarded plastic water cups and bottles everywhere. There are no blue bins there, no big trucks to collect the waste and take it away. On the beautiful island where we stayed, home to some of the most biodiverse coral reefs in the world, resort staff cleaned the beach of plastic debris early each morning before guests arose to see it. I kayaked to the other side of the island only to find a beautiful beach covered with plastic trash. It was a shocker!

Raja Ampat, Indonesia

I’ve started to look for ways in which I can do my small bit to deal with plastic pollution. I’ve educated myself by reading articles online and visiting websites. I discovered a non-profit called Ocean Legacy, based near Vancouver, B.C., that collects marine debris from remote beaches and recycles as much of it as possible. My wife Deb and I visited the Ocean Legacy warehouse last November and spent a day sorting tons of plastic trash – everything from rope, floats and other fishing gear, drink bottles, plastic barrels, disposable lighters, straws, tires – you name it. I kept in touch with the organization and in June I joined them on a beach cleaning expedition near Bamfield, B.C. on the west coast of Vancouver Island. For 6 days, I boulder-hopped and crawled under salal at the high-tide line to recover plastic trash that had washed ashore. We filled at least thirty 2-yard “super sacks” with junk. The days were long and exhausting. But it was also quite inspiring to hang out with a dozen fearless millennials who love the ocean and hate to see it trashed.

Beach debris example from Ocean Legacy expedition

 

"Super sacks" loaded with beach debris. Photo credit: Ocean Legacy

 

Of course, plastic is not just a problem in far-away places. I've picked up plenty of plastic bags, water bottles, and miscellaneous plastic waste from Guemes Island beaches. So, in my small way, here are a few things I'm doing to reduce plastic waste in my little corner of the world:

  • Working with others to help ban lightweight plastic shopping bags in Anacortes and at the state level.
  • I feed wild birds. I’ve accumulated a pile of colorful woven polypropylene bags that once contained sunflower seeds. Friends give me chicken feed and other bags.  They aren’t recyclable.  So, I repurpose them.  I watched YouTube videos, learned how to operate a sewing machine and have made at least 50 reusable, strong, washable grocery totes.  You may see islanders carrying them on the ferry or around town.
  • Deb and I try to avoid single-use plastic packaging whenever possible. Of course, we bring reusable bags to market, refusing wasteful, needless single-use plastic bags.  We try to buy stuff packed in glass bottles or jars or in steel cans (big sigh… unfortunately, cans are usually coated with plastic on the inside!) or wrapped in paper.  I was buying food for our little dog, which came in small polypropylene containers.  I switched to dog food that comes in steel cans. I found ketchup in glass bottles (remember those?) at Smart Food Service Warehouse Store (formerly Cash and Carry). I buy olive oil in gallon steel cans to avoid plastic jugs. We take reusable, washable small bags to the supermarket to put produce in, or don’t bag produce at all.
  • If I see a product that is packaged in plastic, I sometimes write the producer and ask them to consider ditching the plastic. I won't buy until they do!
  • We take a stainless steel container with us to restaurants and fill it with leftovers instead of taking a polystyrene carry-out container provided by the restaurant.
  • I take a reusable cup to Starbucks for coffee. They give me a $.10 discount.  To-go coffee cups are plastic-lined paper and not recyclable around here.  The disposable lids are polypropylene plastic, also not recyclable.
  • I don’t buy bottled water or soda. At best, those bottles are “down-cycled” to make carpeting or fleece, but ultimately are destined for the landfill.  I use a refillable water bottle.  Lots of places will allow you to refill it for free (Starbucks is one). Plastic drink bottles are a top item found on beach cleanups.
  • We don’t use single-use plastic drinking straws.
  • Deb makes re-usable beeswax wraps which we use instead of plastic film for food storage.
  • We used to buy ice cream in plastic tubs. A friend gave us an ice cream maker so now we enjoy ice cream without the plastic waste - and we don't have to worry about it melting in the ferry line!

 

I’m old enough to remember when plastic wasn’t nearly so pervasive. Pop bottles were heavy glass, returnable, and as kids we collected them and returned them to the store for money. Milk came in a paper carton without a stupid plastic spout on the side. Meat was wrapped in butcher paper, not sitting on a Styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic film. We had drinking fountains and steel canteens, not plastic water bottles. I dunno, maybe we were dehydrated all the time?

 

That’s my plastic story. What’s yours?

There's so much we can all do to help reduce plastic waste. The world needs LESS plastic!

 

We invite you to tell us your story/share your plastic reduction tips. We'd like to compile tips from islanders and share them (anonymously) on our website. Taking action to reduce plastic waste begins by raising awareness and re-thinking our purchases. You can help!