How I Sea: Straw-Free San Francisco

Source: The TerraMar Project

Photo: Straw Free San Francisco


Meet the team of youth ocean heroes who created the short film ‘Strawbucks’ highlighting the problem of single-use plastics in our everyday lives.

Avery: My name is Avery Benello and I am 13 years old. I live in San Francisco, and I am part of the Eco Council at the Hamlin school.

Dani: I am 13 years old. I am from San Francisco, California. I was born in Bermuda(an island in between the US and Europe) and that sparked a love for the ocean from a young age.

Helena: My name is Helena Gans and I am 13 years old. I am from San Francisco, California and I go to the Hamlin School. I love to surf and I love the ocean so I want to do everything I can to help get it plastic free.

Allie: Hi I’m Allie Chung and I’m 13 years old. I have always loved weekends going to the beach and summers swimming in Lake Tahoe. When I learned about the oceans and how they connect to each in every one of us, I was surprised and interested and wanted to help in conserving them to the best of my ability.

What inspired you to create this video? And how many people were you able to sign up/how much plastic did you stop in this one month from entering the ocean?

Dani: We were all inspired to create this film after we passed out fliers and information to local restaurants and cafes about straws and the effects it has on our planet. We did this four years ago on earth day with our school. Although this wasn’t the most successful, we saw that there was an opportunity now for work to be put in and choose straws as our topic.

Helena: When we were choosing our topic for the film, we thought back to our fourth grade campaign and decided we wanted to focus our film on straws. Americans alone us 500 million straws per day and most of them end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is a huge island of trash in the ocean. This is very harmful to sea animals because they can either get stuck in the trash or ingest it. After finding this out, we knew we had to do something about it. We decided to start by informing the public about what straws are doing to our oceans through our film, ‘Strawbucks’.


Photo: Ali Yahya/Unsplash

How important do you think it is to lead by example when it comes to stopping plastic pollution?

Dani: I think that leading by example is everything because if you aren’t practicing what you preach there is no way that you are going to make a difference. If you are following sustainable practices everyday then there is not way that you are behind helping the environment.

Allie: As cliche as this sounds, what we’re doing is NOT hard. You can literally just not use plastic straws and that would be a start. But even doing something as big as this film is not challenging in any way. Everybody should get involved with something they care about and make a difference.

Do you think young people today are more or less engaged in protecting the health of the planet than older generations?

Dani: I think that younger generations are going to be more engaged because as we saw with the recent student protests, young people have a lot to say. And we are the new face of this word. I think that we are going to see this hidden problem and resurface it, to make change.

Allie: I think that younger generations are more informed thanks to all the new technology. Although technology can be harmful, it is a very valuable asset when protecting the planet because we can find and spread information easier than ever before.

What do you think is the biggest threat to the world’s oceans?

Avery: I think that the greatest threat is humans because we are the cause of the many problems that the oceans face such as overfishing and plastic pollution.

Dani: I think that the biggest threat is people who are un-educated on the environment and don’t lead sustainable lives. If everyone is educated on the state of our earth then maybe we can all change our ways and save the earth together.


Photo: Matteo Catanese/Unsplash

What do you think sends a stronger message to the world about ocean pollution: beach cleanups, or campaigns like yours aimed at stopping pollution at the source? Or both?

Avery: I think that it sends a stronger message when people have campaigns that are aimed at stopping pollution because although beach cleanups are an effective way of caring for the environment, more people can become aware of the issues that the oceans face through a campaign.

Allie: I think both things are equally important. Our campaign was able to spread information to the public while beach cleanups are taking direct action that other people can see.

What’s next for you? What would you like to be when you grow up? There are so many different ways to get involved in ocean conservation.

Avery: When I grow older, I want to be an investor or architect, and I would help build houses that were environmentally friendly or help companies become more environmentally friendly.

Dani: When I grow up I want to be an investor and help environmentally conscious companies grow.

How I Sea is a new effort by The TerraMar Project to dive into the minds of our global ocean community. We highlight opinions on conservation issues such as: marine pollution, overfishing, drilling, climate change, marine protected areas, scientific discoveries, and much more. Stay tuned for more.

Sign up today to become a citizen of our global ocean community and sign up for your very own passport to the world’s ocean by visiting us at: