Serena Ingram, 18, said she “always loved being on the water” so when it came time for her to develop her final Gold Award project for Girl Scouts, she decided to partner with South Bay Sustainable Communities and use her platform to speak out against the negative effects of plastic and pollution on the ocean.
“I have always been interested in sustainability and the environment is an issue I’ve been passionate about since I was little. When I’d see the drastic effect that plastics and humans are having on oceans and the environment, it made me mad. I realized it was something where I want to use my voice to try and make a difference. I’m very passionate about it and hope to stay involved as I start college,” Ingram, now a freshman at University of California, Los Angeles said.
In addition to creating the plasticfreeliving blog and an accompanying Instagram page, Ingram worked with the Chula Vista-based South Bay Sustainable Communities organization for comm nity events that encourage environmental conservation and sustainability.
In working with South Bay Sustainable Communities Executive Director Tina Matthias, who serves as Volunteer and Programs Manager at Living Coast Discovery Center, Ingram developed in-person presentations for outreach events and community cleanups.
“I actually contacted a lot of aquariums like Birch Aquarium but I’ve been a scout for 13 years and I’d done a lot with the Living Coast Discovery Center when I was younger. I ended up partnering with them for my project,” Ingram said, and ensured her work is still available for future generations on the SBSC website.
That work also led to a 2021 Sustainable Champion Award in the Youth Category for the City of Chula Vista, designed to recognize citizens who are helping to achieve clean air, water, and land within the city.
Her favorite part of the project was engaging with the community on an issue that affects the whole world but is locally visible in San Diego with its proximity to the ocean.
“Connecting in multiple ways was interesting, like I went out physically on things like kayak cleanups but also was able to connect digitally. Finding different alternatives that I didn’t even know about, all the ways to connect with people, that was probably the best part,” Ingram said.
Her social media platforms, she said, give specific suggestions for small ways everyone can reduce dependence on plastic through small changes like switching to reusable bags or using bar shampoo. She believes she’s reached over 300 people through social media and about 100 in person at community events.
Just one Instagram post provides a list of plastic-free, daily-use items such as bamboo toothbrushes that can all be purchased through Amazon, combining modern convenience with environmentally-conscious sustainability.
Although she ultimately chose to complete her Gold Award project on plastic free living, scouting, she said, gave her “countless opportunities” to explore different topics and shaped her into the person she is today.
“I’ve been surrounded by women and girls who are just as driven to create a difference. The Gold Award— from the beginning you’re told to work on something you’re passionate about. I’ve been a Scout since kindergarten and all those years all led to what I chose to work on,” Ingram said.
“I can make the world a better place,” she said.