Ella: The Youth Ocean Ambassador
Imagine an 8 year old girl who loves all the usual things that kids her age love: mermaids, dancing, snowboarding and pizza. Sounds fairly typical, right? Now add in the fact that on top of everything else, she’s passionate about saving the ocean. At only 8 years old, she understands the damage we’ve done to our ocean better than most adults, who will quiz you (and stump you) with ocean facts, and who has participated in more ocean cleanup initiatives in eight years than most of us will in a lifetime. This young girl’s name is Ella Kennedy Dodier, and she is a true ocean ambassador.
Shaelyn : So Ella, when did you first learn about how polluted the ocean is? How did you feel?
Ella: I went to the Museum of Natural History in Halifax when I was around 4 years old. I saw the exhibit for Trash Island - the one where you open the lid to like a touch tank, but instead of seeing the ocean inside, it’s just a huge pile of trash. When we got home, my mom showed the real Trash Island on Google. I was embarrassed that we had caused this, and so worried for all the ocean life - especially the mermaids. I also found out that turtles often eat plastic bags because they think they’re jellyfish and choke, which makes me really sad.
S: What kinds of things do you and your family do at home to reduce single-use plastics?
E: About 4 years ago we stopped using single-use plastics in at home. We don’t use any straws or plastic cups. We have metal straws at home too in case we do need a straw, like for smoothies. We always bring water bottles and thermoses with us. We don't use ziploc baggies for my school lunches either - we have reusable, washable zipper bags or small tupperware containers for my snacks. When my mom buys food we need like bread or tortilla wraps that have to come in plastic bags, we reuse those until they cant be reused anymore for things like wrapping my sandwiches in. When we go to restaurants, we always ask for no straws, and the waiter accidentally brings us a straw we take them home to recycle them in the best way possible. We also use beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap, and we have tons of reusable bags.
S: I hear you have an Oceans Day tradition with your parents. What is it?
E: We do beach cleanups all day! This year will be our 4th year doing it. We start in St. Margarets Bay, and drive all the ways to Queensland beach, stopping at every cove, inlet or landing we see. On Earth Day we do a forest clean-up - we used to do it behind our old house in the woods, but this year since we moved we did it around my new school. We also have a cottage on the North Shore and we do cleanups on that beach all the time!
Ella’s Mom, Kristi: Recently, we took the “Take3” pledge. This means that every time we go to the beach, we commit to picking up and properly disposing of 3 pieces of garbage. We’ve learned a lot about where things should actually go.
S: Is there anything you do at your school? Do your friends get involved with you?
E: Some of them. I wish more would! Last year, I brought a recycling bin into my classroom because everyone was just throwing their juice boxes in the garbage instead of going to the big blue bin in the hallway. Sometimes my friends will come on cleanups with me, which is fun. My school is also starting a Green Team next year that I’ll be on!
S: That’s awesome! Okay, last few questions. This will be a quick fire round!
S: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you’ve ever found on a beach cleanup?
E: A sneaker and a flip-flop, or a plastic mask! Also, a tire and beach glass.
S: What’s the yuckiest thing you’ve ever found?
E: Once we found a dead fox, eagle and seagull all in one day.
S: What’s your best ocean fact for convincing people to stop using plastics?
E: By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean if we keep it up like this.
S: What are your favourite ocean movies or TV shows?
E: Brain Child, Big Miracle and Dolphin Tale. I don't like The Little Mermaid because I don’t understand why she didn’t want to stay a mermaid!
S: What is your favourite ocean animal?
E: Either a stingray or a dolphin
S: Finally, in one sentence, why do you love the ocean so much?
E: Because animals are just as important as humans, and the ocean is home to a lot of animals. The world’s biggest and smallest animals live in the ocean!
S: What Oceans Week Halifax event are you most excited about?
E: The Cow Bay Beach Community Picnic and Beach Clean! I’m the Youth Ambassador for this event, and I can’t wait!
And there you have it folks! If you want to be more ocean-responsible and plastic-free like Ella and the Dodier family, come out to any - or all! - of the Oceans Week Halifax events (click for schedule), engage with us on social media with the hashtag #OWHFX and start taking small actions to make big changes. We hope to see you out at the events!