The aquatic trash in our oceans is harmful to wildlife like sea turtles. An amazing group of people came up with a creative (I say genius) solution that would both remove some of the debris and also educate people about the dangers of plastic pollution. The group is called the Washed Ashore Project, and it is a non-profit, community-based organization with a mission of educating and creating awareness about marine debris and plastic pollution through art. Washed ashore is a project of The Artula Institute for Arts & Environmental Education, whose mission is to provide opportunities to express and teach environmental issues through the arts.
Under the leadership of Angela Haseltine Pozzi, community members of all ages work together to clean up our beaches and process the debris into art supplies to construct giant sculptures of the sea life most affected by plastic pollution. This has resulted in thousands of pounds of debris removed from local beaches and turned into works of art. These unique art pieces are part of a traveling exhibition that includes signage and programs that encourage reducing, refusing, reusing, repurposing, and recycling. Brilliant!
As lead artist, Angela Haseltine Pozzi orchestrates the construction of these towering, aesthetically striking sculptures of marine life with the assistance of many volunteers and a dedicated staff. Angela has been an exhibiting artist and educator for more than 30 years and now chooses to use art as a powerful tool to encourage community and environmental action about her true passion – cleaning up the world’s oceans.
98% of the trash they collect is used to create sculptures, a walk-through replica of an ocean gyre, a Styrofoam coral reef, Henry the fish, a plastic bottle sea jelly, an oil spill replica, and many more fun and thought-provoking creations.
Though these exhibits are fun, here are some not so fun facts about plastic pollution and what these creations represent:
- The average American will throw away approximately 185 pounds of plastic in a year.
- Plastic bags are petroleum-based and do not biodegrade.
- More than 100,000 marine animals die each year from eating plastic pollution in our oceans.
- Sea turtles and other creatures mistake plastics and other garbage as food and ingest it. (A floating plastic grocery bag looks like a jellyfish to a hungry sea turtle, for example.) This causes blockages within their digestive system.
Don’t forget the part that this is a traveling exhibition. Several cities are already set on the schedule, and they’re in Houston right now. You can check their schedule here. But if they’re not traveling anywhere near you, don’t worry. You can help bring this traveling art and educational exhibit to your area just by contacting your local aquarium, zoo, science center, museum, or community event and pointing out the multitude of benefits (financial, cultural, educational, etc.) this would bring just from hosting Washed Ashore.
They’ll be here in DC in May, and I’m looking forward to it!