Beware the bag monster.
Aliso Niguel High School students, Madison Montague and Alex Howard, turned their passion for the ocean into a mission of change. The teenagers began a club at the high school in partnership with the Surf Rider Foundation, who shared their mission.
"Our mission is the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network."
The ANHS Surfrider Foundation Club performs at least two beach clean-up events every month at Aliso Beach and Salt Creek Beach. It was the discovery of trash and plastic washing up on the beach that first inspired Montague, president, and Howard, vice president, to form the club.
"I grew up around the ocean and just want it to be a better place," said Montague. "I hope that people start to make a difference and take action."
As part of the Surfrider Foundation's Rise Above Plastics campaign, the club also travels to surrounding cities collecting signatures in support of a ban on plastic bags.
The bag monster is born.
The ANHS Surfrider Foundation Club spent five hours building a bag monster suit, which is worn during Day Without a Bag signature collecting events. The suit consists of 500 plastic grocery store bags. The Surfrider Foundation estimates 100 billion plastic bags are used each year in America. That would be approximately 360 bags per year for every man, woman and child in the country.
The bag monster helps the club present their message a make a unique first impression. After collecting signatures, the club often visits city council meetings around Orange County to make their plea for a citywide ban on plastic bags. The bag monster attends too. Montague said they plan to attend an Aliso Viejo City Council meeting soon.
According to Albert Armijo, director of planning services for the city and head of the Green City Initiative, "the city has not considered or studied a citywide ban on plastic bags."
The club has collected about 250 signatures so far.
Montague and Howard's passion and desire to see a healthy, clean ocean is apparent. Both said they have been forever affected by the amount of trash found during their clean ups.
"It's always hard to see it," Howard said. "Seeing animals get hurt from trash is just ridiculous."
By far, Styrofoam is the most found item found during the clean up events, Montague said. Cigarettes, bottle caps and various plastics are also frequent offenders.
Visit The Surfrider Foundation website for more information or to become a member.