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Cumming teen leads initiative to reduce plastic pollution
Hannah Testa raises awareness about plastic bottles impact on the environment through her foundation
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Fourteen-year-old environmental activist Hannah Testa poses with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal at the Capitol in Atlanta. Testa partnered with State Sen. Michael Williams to host Plastic Pollution Awareness Day on Feb. 15.

10 ways to reduce your plastic footprint

* Place spare reusable bags in your car for groceries

* Use a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic bottled water

* Use stainless steel containers and mugs instead of plastic cups

* Carry glass, paper or stainless steel straws in car or purse

* Tell waiter “no straws please” at restaurants

* Use reusable bags instead of produce bags for fruits and vegetables

* Replace plastic food storage containers with stainless steel

* Avoid microbeads in face scrub, body wash and toothpaste

* Buy products with less plastic packaging

* Support businesses pursuing sustainable resources

Source: www.hannah4change.org

Republicans and Democrats were swamped by mermaids last week at the Georgia State Capitol for a singular cause: to bring awareness about plastic pollution and its impact on the environment.

The mermaids were friends of 14-year-old environmental activist Hannah Testa, who is making a difference in the world around her by doing what she loves. An eighth-grader at Vickery Creek Middle School in Cumming, Testa partnered with State Sen. Michael Williams to host Plastic Pollution Awareness Day on Feb. 15.

“The environment gives us so much,” Testa said. “We can’t live without the Earth, but the Earth can live without us. Our oceans are in jeopardy. If oceans die, we die.”

Testa explained oceans give off more oxygen than all the forests in the world combined. And plastic bottles polluting the ocean not only impact marine life, but also find their way into the food chain.

“Not only does plastic end up on our streets, streams and oceans,” Testa said. “It also affects 600 species of marine life through ingestion and entanglement, often killing them.”

To make her point, Testa’s mermaid friends wore fins made from plastic waste collected along beaches in Costa Rica.

This show of support for the environment — which Testa estimated a few hundred people attended — was not her first foray into the activism world.

Testa has been involved in several fundraisers and protests for different animal species since 2012. She also founded the organization, Hannah4Change, which is focused on educating consumers and businesses about a global issue called plastic pollution through online videos, social media, traditional media and speeches.

“I’ve always had a strong love for the environment and animals,” Testa said, adding her parents raised her to care about them.

Her hard work has amazed her father.

“(Plastic Pollution Awareness Day) is the first event of this kind nationwide,” Testa’s father, Chris, said. “Just to think this was started by a 14-year-old girl, my daughter. I always knew she was going to do amazing things.”

Her interest in the environment began almost three years ago when she watched the documentary “Plastic Paradise.” The film centers around Angela Sun, who travels to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in Midway Atoll, which is an unincorporated territory of the United States between North America and Asia. Along the way she meets scientists, researchers, influencers and volunteers who discuss the effects of global plastic consumption.

“After watching it, my family made immediate changes to our daily life,” Testa said. “We reduced our use of plastic products. I felt if other people knew about it, they would make the shift as well.”

Once Testa made changes in her life, she set out to educate the world on plastic consumption, hoping others would make similar changes.

“I hope that other people will hear about this and reduce their use of plastic,” she said. “Even if just for one day. If they realize how easy it is to cut it out for one day, maybe they’ll change they’re lives.”

Testa’s hard work paid off. On Feb. 15, more than 75 environmental organizations were represented at Plastic Pollution Awareness Day under the gold dome in Atlanta.

Different exhibits were set up and guest speakers shared their insights on the topic throughout the day. Testa spoke at the event, too.

Seeing people come out and become educated on the topic was Testa’s favorite part of the day.  Williams also introduced a resolution declaring Feb. 15 as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day to the state Senate.

Testa said it was an honor to work with a Republican on this topic because environmental issues tend to be thought of as ones championed by Democrats.

“I’m very impressed by Hannah’s efforts, especially by someone of her age,” Williams said in a press release. “By educating the public, we can help people make informed decisions.”

Testa said while reading his resolution, Williams said plastic pollution is not a Democrat or Republican problem.

“‘This is a world problem and we all need to work together to solve it.’ I couldn’t agree more,” she said.

Testa hopes to continue the momentum of the inaugural event, helping it expand to other cities and countries around the world. She also hopes it will eventually turn into an event as well-known as Earth Day.

In the meantime, Testa is working toward her goal of saving the planet. She hopes to conduct marine work for the United Nations in marine biology or continue her work with plastic pollution awareness.

For more information about the organization and plastic pollution awareness, visit www.hannah4change.org.

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