On June 18, a sea of people in green shirts cheered as they rose from their seats in the City Hall chambers. The Los Angeles City Council had just voted to adopt a plastic bag ban throughout the entire county, making Los Angeles the largest city in the nation to approve this kind of environmental legislation.
But not every person in the room was proudly wearing a green shirt. Some of the attendees wore black shirts that bore the names of plastic bag manufacturing companies. They argued that if Los Angeles city adopted the plastic bag ban we would face major economic consequences in the future including job loss.
After seriously considering the proposal for several years, all but one member of the city council voted to adopt the plastic bag ban. The majority of the city council members came to the agreement that the environmental benefits of the legislation would ultimately outweigh the economic repercussions.
This large city-wide decision didn’t come out nowhere. Over the past few years, the city council has held several public hearings where those for and against the plastic bag ban have had the opportunity to voice their opinions. Leaders of local and national environmental organizations, volunteers, plastic bag industry employees, and other student groups have testified at these hearings.
Among the schools represented at the hearing was Archer. For several years, the Archer Green Team has been involved in the legislation and many Archer students have signed petitions in support of the plastic bag ban which have been presented at Los Angeles city council hearings.
When Archer girls first became involved with local environmental legislation in 2009, they had little or no idea that their actions would soon be shaping the course of California history. What started as a small middle school effort to help adopt Marine Protected Areas along the coast of Southern California grew into a powerful green movement in the Archer community and beyond.
Just two years ago, a petition from Archer was acknowledged by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors member Gloria Molina at a public hearing on the LA city plastic bag ban. According to many of the city council members, it is crucial for young people to be aware of local environmental issues since legislation enacted now will have a greater impact on Los Angeles residents in the future.
Archer’s leadership in this environmental issue is a prime example of how activists from the next generation can make an impact on current laws and legislation. “When ambitious, young people get involved in environmental issues in their community, they are more likely to become engaged leaders and activists as adults,” says Edward Murphy of organization Heal the Bay.
Ultimately, students of all ages have the power to help create change in their communities if they have the passion and initiative to become strong youth advocates.