Name: Kayla Grattan
School: Michigan State University
Hometown: Cedar Springs, MI
5 Gyres Involvement: 5 Gyres Ambassador
When did you first learn about the global plastic pollution issue?
I was in my junior year of high school and read Moby Duck by Donovan Hohn. I became absolutely obsessed with recycling and reuse and was constantly talking about it to my parents and friends. I knew that I wanted to focus on helping solve the issue [of plastic pollution]. It’s not only an environmental threat, it’s a human health threat. I want others to understand how big the problem is. Moby Duck “changed/ruined” my life.
How did you get involved with 5 Gyres?
I was in an Environmental Interpretation Class last year, where I was learning the art of interpretation (developing educational materials). We were asked to focus on an environmental topic and educate others on it. I used the 5 Gyres Education Kit to develop a program for talking about plastic pollution to the public. The kit really stimulates conversation with people. The microbead demonstration freaked people out. The demonstration is a quick activity where you squeeze some product that has microbeads into a jar, shake it up, and put the mixture on a black cloth that really lets you see the plastic beads.
I got in touch with 5 Gyres staff for information and was told about the Ambassador Program. I ended up meeting the 5 Gyres Campaign Manager on one of the Ambassador Webinars. 5 Gyres helped me prepare to testify for stronger microbead legislation in Michigan. Michigan's bill was full of loopholes (that would just allow a different type of plastic) so I went in representing 5 Gyres and called them out on the loopholes while voicing support and a recommending a shift of emphasis to other state bills and the national legislation that did not have the loophole.
What projects have you worked with 5 Gyres on?
I have given multiple presentations to my classmates related to class projects, where I carried out the microbead demonstration. I received really good grades for both projects! I also did a tabling event at an Earth Day Festival. And this last summer, I did an independent study focusing on plastic pollution and island sustainability, while I was in Fiji for a study abroad program.
I focused on microbeads because I wanted to make the school projects relevant. It just made more sense to focus on a policy to ban microbeads in Michigan.
What inspires you most about the issue of plastic pollution?
I think it’s really just that so many people don’t think or know about the issue or they think it's something we can easily clean up (which we know is not the case). The big thing for me is education: People don’t get it and we live in a throw away society. No one thinks about products after they leave their hands. This is a HUGE problem for our beaches and environment that stems from a mentality that we must change.
After graduation, if you got to do anything, what would you do? (Assuming $ is not an issue)
I definitely want to travel. But I want to travel in a way where I can be productive versus just resort hopping. I’d love to go out and make new connections and do something to make a difference.
Maybe Kayla will be able to join one of our Expeditions someday soon!