Friday, May 10, 2013

Watershed Hero, Julie Lawson @srfrjulie: Reducing Litter Through Policy

      In the spirit of Alima, the watershed hero in Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle, I will highlight the heroic activities of one person who is making a difference to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. One voice, activism and motivation can inspire us all to make a positive impact in our local and global world.

What is the Trash Free Maryland Alliance?
The Trash Free Maryland Alliance is a group of environmental organizations, community groups and individuals committed to reducing trash in Maryland’s environment and waterways. Brent Bolin, Laura Chamberlin, and Julie Lawson founded it in 2010.

How have you helped your community?
I have educated people through presentations and conversations about trash in their neighborhoods and communities, how it gets there and that they have the power to do something about it. I help them with the strategies to engage and enact, such as formulating articulate arguments to engage in conversations with their neighbors, friends and elected officials and write letters to the editor. It is empowering to see their name in printed journalism. During my conversations with people in community groups, I listen and hear them stewing over how much trash bothers them in their neighborhoods but they often explain they don’t have the confidence or specific language to confront and challenge the source of trash. I help them create that elevator speech or conversation starter to feel confident and proactive to combat littering in their communities.

What have you accomplished?
In 2009, I developed and led the grassroots campaign to pass the DC bag bill, entitled the Anacostia River Cleanup andProtection Act. Much of the campaign to pass the DC bill was then modeled in Montgomery County to pass its bag bill. Since 2010, I have been working with organizations from around MD to pass a state bag bill. Each year, the coalition gains more success toward its passage. During the 2013 legislative session, the House of Delegates Environmental Matters Committee passed the legislation with a 17-4 vote. The bill never made it to the House floor because it was defeated in the House Economic Matters Committee.

What are your goals for the future?
I would like to:
  • Reduce plastic bag consumption
  • Eliminate the use of Styrofoam
  • Increase recycling of bottles and cans
  • Pass the MD bag bill
  • Pass a MD bottle bill (legislation for a bottle return refund)
  • Raise the profile that trash is a quality of life issue, not just a problem in our waterways (I have already witnessed positive press and more legislation introduced regarding trash in our communities, such as legislation to impose a $500 fine for stealing shopping carts)

Who inspires you?
My dad inspires me. He taught me at a young age to leave things better than I found them and modeled that standing up for what I believe in is important for forward and positive progression and solutions in a community. He was a community activist in my hometown in Florida and always took action on issues that were important to him. He also was a Marine Biologist who worked to rescue and rehabilitate marine mammals.