I've known Samantha Feld for six years and she's always inspired me, whether it be through our collaborative journalism work or her photo stories. As a graphic designer, Sam's passion is contagious and every time I hang out with her, I just feel like I can take on the world.
So it would only make sense that she's currently taking on the world. When I called her up last night to talk about her social media campaign, Plastic is Forever, we were both drinking Chamomile tea, a perfect beginning to a lovely conversation.
Plastic is Forever is a social media campaign that Sam started earlier this year to help spread news and information about plastic pollution in Lake Michigan.
Sam has always been interested in environmental issues and, as a result, joined the Chicago Conservation Corps and took classes to become a naturalist at the nature museum, where she learned about different environmental issues.
"I was working for something outside of work to keep that environmental work muscle strong because it's something that I'm passionate about," Sam said, emphasizing the importance of always keeping your passions alive outside of the workplace.
At the end of the class, she had to create her own community project that would have a measurable impact on the community.
"I made the mistake of watching a documentary on ocean plastic and I just sat there and cried," Sam said. "It's devastating."
As a result, she started focusing on plastic waste management and how it was affecting Lake Michigan.
"Recycling in Chicago is so complex and fascinating and no one understands that...we're so far behind other cities."
As she started her research, Sam quickly learned that a lot of plastic pollution in Lake Michigan comes from the plastic that people leave on the beaches, "which is so obvious, but you don't think about it...no one really realizes it's a problem because you can't see it with your eyes."
The plastic on the beach disintegrates in the sun, goes into the water and animals end up consuming it.
"Until you see it, you don't really get it," Sam said.
To solve this issue, she wanted to create a visual campaign to help illustrate the connection between what humans use and what happens to it.
"There's so much work to do. It can be so terrifying, and it should be...it's a scary real thing," Sam said.
After she started the campaign, people have told her, "I'm taking a second look at what I am consuming. I've made people think again before they bought that piece of plastic and they can take it from there."
For Sam, that's the short-term goal that she was looking for.
"For my audience, I felt like we were interested in the environment, but weren't aware how close the issue was to us."
For a long-term personal goal, Sam would like to become plastic-free entirely in order to emulate the lifestyle that she's promoting. She would also like to continue her visual campaign.
For her audience, she hopes they can take baby-steps wherever they're at to start using less plastic in their lives.
"It just takes more time to be plastic-free," she said. "The only thing I crave is convenience; we're so addicted to convenience."
Small steps you can take to start living a plastic free lifestyle are: stop using single-use containers, get mesh produce bags, mason jars, reusable silverware and containers, start composting, and overall just evaluate your waste.
"It's hard to make these changes because you don't want to look weird...but it's really not a big deal. It's going to be fine," Sam said.
To learn more about plastic pollution and to help raise awareness, like Plastic is Forever on Facebook. You can also use the hashtag #plasticisforever to promote this cause.