Central Coast Alliance for Expanding Marine Debris Prevention in Schools

Six students wearing "Green Team" jackets lined up in a schoolyard.

One Cool Earth is leading an alliance of partners across the Central Coast of California to incorporate marine debris reduction activities in schools and empower youth to change their waste disposal behaviors.

Type of Project: Prevention

Region: California

Project Dates: September 2022 - August 2024

Who is involved?
With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Once Cool Earth is engaging with other local groups, such as the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo (ECOSLO), NOAA’s Coastal Discovery Center, SLO Beaver Brigade, and unified school districts across Central California, to carry out marine debris education in schools. This will empower students in underserved regions to address marine debris, institutionalize zero waste practices in schools, and train and support teachers.

What is the project and why is it important?
San Luis Obispo County is located on the Central Coast of California, adjacent to many pristine and protected marine resources. Marine debris degrades recreation areas and tourist attractions, pollutes fisheries, and endangers wildlife with the possibility of entanglement, ingestion and damage to habitat. Modifying litter-related behaviors among youth in coastal watersheds can reduce marine debris and can be key in preventing it over time. 

An alliance led by One Cool Earth, including nonprofits, public schools, indigenous groups, and government entities, is working together to carry out this project in 24 underserved K-12 schools. Project partners are working with school district decision-makers in food services, facilities, and administration to support litter prevention practices (e.g., food composting systems, waste sorting stations, water-bottle filling stations, improved bin placement) and purchases (e.g., food packaging, school materials, campus cleanups). The program uses three interrelated strategies to change litter-behaviors in youth to empower disadvantaged students with year-round, culturally-relevant marine debris lessons, institutionalize school-wide waste diversion and reduction policies and practices, and train and support teachers to institutionalize marine debris education. This effort integrates existing local marine debris efforts and includes resources from local organizations, including NOAA’s Coastal Discovery Center, native tribal Chumash indigenous consultants, and ECOSLO’s Coastal Cleanup Day. By influencing the behaviors of the institution and the adults who operate it, One Cool Earth is systematically affecting youth purchasing, disposal, and littering behaviors, and creates immense impacts for marine debris in California.