Standing Up for the Sea: Shelby O. Forms Jr. Ocean Guardians Non-Profit to Spread the Word About Ocean Conservation
As soon as Shelby O., from Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast, got involved with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, she became keenly aware of the ocean, both of its great magnificence and its urgent need for protection. So to support her love of the ocean and to help realize her dream of earning her Gold Award, she formed a non-profit with the State of California called Jr. Ocean Guardians.
Shelby and the Jr. Ocean Guardians, along with her team of Girl Scouts and members of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, then created “No Straw November.” This initiative brings much-needed attention to single-use plastic straws, one of the top polluters of the ocean.
Shelby went before the California Coastal Commission to request a "No Straw November" Resolution, and it was unanimously approved with the recommendation that the Legislature consider introducing a measure officially declaring the month to be “No Straw November."
Her efforts were featured on Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation’s website and on Martha Stewart Living’s Changemaker series. Shelby was also thrilled to be a presenter for the Dreamforce 2017 Forbes CEO Series on Oceans where she asked the audience to support her initiative.
Her project also includes an ocean activity book for children in grades K-3 so that they can learn about the ocean and how they can protect it—all in a fun way. Once a child completes the activity book, they become eligible for a special Jr. Ocean Guardians patch that Shelby designed—sweet!
Conserving the vast ocean is a massive and ongoing effort, and thanks to Shelby, Jr. Ocean Guardians is prepared to be there every step of the way.
Q: Why did you choose this topic as your Gold Award project?
A: I’m a Teen Conservation Leader at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and this is where my love of the ocean began. So when it came time to start thinking of a project for my Gold Award, I knew that it had to address issues facing the ocean and our planet.
Did you know that by the year 2050, scientists are predicting there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish? I created the “No Straw November” movement as a way to bring awareness to single-use plastic straws by challenging people all over the world to refuse single-use plastic straws during November and keeping a tally of how many plastic straws they were offered and refused during the month. The invention of plastic straws is only a little over 50 years old, and yet they have already become one of the top polluters of the ocean.
As part of my project, I also designed an activity book to help educate children on how they can help and hurt our planet while having fun learning. Working with children in the classroom, I saw first-hand how excited they were to help save the ocean and our planet, and this led to the idea to create a challenge that kids and people of all ages could participate in and use to make an actual change.
Q: What have you learned from being Girl Scout?
A: I know that I can make a difference in the world!
Q: How has your project been successful and how have you worked to ensure it is sustainable?
A: My project was initially rolled out in the Central Coast area of California. I gained support from community leaders, others started to get on board, and before I knew it, I had a grassroots movement on my hands.
By challenging people and companies to say "no" to single-use plastic straws in November, Jr. Ocean Guardians was able to eliminate millions of single-use plastic straws every year. In 2018, Dignity Health is eliminating more than four million single-use straws and stirrers from their 39 cafeterias. Starting in 2019, Farmer Brothers will no longer offer their customers single-use plastic straws and stirrers to their customers, instead they will provide sustainable options. And Pacific Gas & Electric Company is eliminating all single-use straws and stirrers from their facilities and conference centers.
My No Straw November Resolution was unanimously approved by the California Coastal Commission and is now being sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning. If approved, it will be forwarded to Governor Jerry Brown to officially recognize November as "No Straw November." Other cities and counties are also working to recognize the month by approving their own resolutions.
I have support from large environmental organizations, colleges including the University of Washington and California State Monterey Bay, grade schools and preschools, and Girl Scouts throughout the United States, Japan, and beyond. Girl Scouts are even using No Straw November to earn badges. Troop 26284 from Friendswood, Texas used cookie money to purchase and distribute 1,000 reusable straws with information on #NoStrawNovember at festivals, to Sister Troops, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and in their schools.
By developing the Jr. Ocean Guardians education activity book as a fun learning tool, I have teachers requesting it for their classrooms. And I'm very excited to announce that I was able to translate my book into Spanish. An electronic version of the Jr. Ocean Guardians activity book is even available free to schools and organizations. It's important to have this educational activity book available to as many people as possible in order to grow our impact.
Jr. Ocean Guardians will keep being vocal about ocean conservation through our website, www.jroceanguardians.org, and continues to make waves with the power of G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™.
Q: What kind of G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ are you?
A: My Girl Scout Gold Award Project truly embodied the power of G.I.R.L., and enabled me to be a true Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, and Leader.
I have learned that people aren't going to believe you if you don't believe in yourself. I learned that confidence is genuinely key to success, and that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to, and be successful. I have also learned to keep pushing forward and taking risks by stepping out of my comfort zone.
Q: What advice do you have for other Girl Scouts?
A: Let's all get together and kelp the environment! Become a Jr. Ocean Guardian and help save our oceans!