Plastic bag and polystyrene foam ban: Northborough, MA
Northborough Sai Center has been actively implementing the “Go Green”1 initiative for the past few years. “Go Green” practices have spread and have been eventually adopted by other Sai centers in the region.
One of the Group 4 SSE students, a 10th grader, Sravya Tanikella, decided it was time the entire community of Northborough pursue a Go-Green initiative. Born in the U.S., Sravya lived for three years in India and saw first-hand how bad pollution could be. Returning to the U.S. in 2016, she realized that while she couldn’t do much about India’s problem, she could at least make a difference in her own town of Northborough. Several of the nearby towns had already enacted bans on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam, but not Northborough. No one else seemed to be taking the lead; so she did.
Inspired and encouraged by the environmentalists within her own Sai Center, her first effort began in 2018 as a freshman in high school when she proposed a ban at the annual Town Hall meeting. Unfortunately, there was not enough momentum to get the ban passed. Being a minor, she could not even vote on the proposal that was being presented. But she got the attention of many of the adults who would eventually vote.
The next year, along with her fellow Interact Club2 members, she launched a serious campaign to garner support for her proposed ban. They solicited signatures of the town citizens to submit the petition. With the help of the local Sustainable Northborough citizens’ group, Sravya helped to craft the proposed bylaws. In order to whip up support, she and the team held an informational Q&A session at the local library, during which they played an influential documentary about waste and how the Earth has been adversely impacted. They held a demonstration identifying products that were recyclable and those which were not, and the impact that many types of waste produced. They distributed brochures3 and visited every store owner in Northborough, explaining the issue and working patiently to overcome each of their objections.
Next Sravya created a thorough fact-based presentation4 that made a strong case for a ban on plastic bag and polystyrene foam. Armed with her preparation, Sravya presented at the annual Town Hall meeting on April 23, 2019. She described her experience during this time: “I really just worked my hardest and surrendered the rest to God. That helped me get through this very challenging period. In the town meeting, my heart was pounding as the debate raged on, and some people voiced their opposition to the ban. I really had no idea what was going to happen, and prayed fervently while they voted.”
But her presentation had clearly impressed the audience with the seriousness of the issue and elicited a high level of concern from the citizens present. With an overwhelming majority, the petition passed. Sravya describes that unforgettable moment when the votes tally was announced: “In that moment, I shed tears of happiness for the very first time in my life. It was a huge turning point in my life. I know that it was my faith in Sathya Sai Baba that gave me the faith and courage every step of the way to see this through.”
The ban against plastic and Styrofoam in Northborough will go into effect January 1, 2020.
1For more information on the SSIO initiative on environmental sustainability, please see http://www.sathyasai.org/environmental-sustainability
2For more information on Interact Clubs, please see https://www.rotary.org/en/get-involved/interact-clubs
3 A copy of the informational brochure sponsored by Sustainable Northborough has been posted below.
4 A copy of the presentation can be viewed at http://bit.ly/2KHwWvO