‘We are change makers’

The role of the community in environmental protection
Miss Northern Marianas Earth Maria Lael Terlaje hosted a successful cleanup

Miss Northern Marianas Earth Maria Lael Terlaje hosted a successful cleanup over the weekend, on Kilili Beach in Susupe. The beach cleanup, her last as the reigning queen, was held in partnership with Naked Fish Bar & Grill. (Contributed photo)

Two environmental activities happened last Saturday that emphasized the role the community, especially the youth, plays in keeping the islands clean—the Green Gala, and the Beach Clean Up hosted by Miss Northern Marianas Earth Maria Lael Terlaje.

One of the awardees at the Green Gala, organized by the Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance, was Saipan Community School, which won the Environmental Heroes Award, having been implementing recycling programs, tree plantings, and beach cleanups, among many others.

School principal Amanda Dunn underscored in an interview the importance of teaching environmental stewardship to the youth, and sustaining that learning, in order to help keep the islands clean and pristine.

It is Dunn’s hope that students in the CNMI can continue to learn about the power they have for change.

Saipan Community School

“The No. 1 thing we teach [the students] is to refuse,” Dunn said. “Don’t buy the plastic things if you don’t need them. …That they need to refuse plastics they don’t need. It’s hard on this island, with the food processing and everything. There’s so much plastic, and so refusing, and then trying out how you can reduce your use [are important].”

In addition to “refusing,” they also have a recycling program, done through the whole school, where everyone, from kindergarten through eighth grade, bring used plastic and paper, which they take to the Recycling Center in Lower Base. It is a learning process, according to Dunn, admitting that there are months when they are really good at it, and some, when they need to try harder. The key, however, is into giving the children ownership of the programs.

“Giving them ownership of the great things they can do and empowering them is what it’s all about. If they feel empowered to, say, not use that plastic straw, and they feel empowered to try to tell someone else the good thing about not doing that, is not just cliché, but is actually making the difference,” Dunn said.

These programs could be as simple as the school’s “Crayola Recycle Program” where they send their crayola markers off to the Recycling Center so they can be recycled and reused.

Once a year, at the end of the year, Dunn brings the eighth graders to her house, where they also get to learn how recycling is done at her home. At her house, the students see the segregation bins that they have, where “trash’ are segregated to be then recycled.

“They come in and they [would say], ‘Oh, so you do this at home, too?’, and then [I would say] ‘Yes, that’s what I’m trying to teach you to do at home too,’ and so it starts.”

Dunn said she loves hearing when students tell her they have set up more trash cans for their parents too, emphasizing that being eco-avengers “starts at home.” “We will teach them but you got to keep it sustained, and keep them encouraged,” she said. “Learning, growing, and failing. We fail a lot, but I want them to know how to fail so they know how to get back up because we definitely fail, and that’s where you succeed is by failing.”

“We are change makers and I really want them to know that every single choice they make is the next step for something big. And so, to make those big changes and to do great things, that’s what this is all about doing great things,” Dunn added.

Miss NMI Earth, Naked Fish lead beach cleanup

Miss Northern Marianas Earth Maria Lael Terlaje hosted a successful cleanup over the weekend, on Kilili Beach in Susupe. The beach cleanup, her last as the reigning queen, was held in partnership with Naked Fish Bar & Grill.

In an interview, Terlaje said she partnered with Naked Fish as it is one of the most eco-friendly businesses on Saipan, in order to encourage the community to take part in advocating for a cleaner CNMI.

“A beach cleanup is way more than picking pieces of trash along our beach,” she added. “It is about bringing the community together, especially our youth, to inspire each other to protect the home we all share. The trash found on our beaches will soon travel into the ocean, where our ocean’s wildlife will be most vulnerable to our waste, if not picked up and put in a responsible area.”

Terlaje wants the younger generations to be able to have the same experiences that she had growing up in the Marianas she loves and admires. “In order to do so, we must continue to conserve, preserve, and maintain the wellbeing of our land and sea. Our children will thank us, one day, and that is what inspires me.”

Naked Fish owner Joe Guerrero echoed Terlaje’s advocacy for a pristine Marianas, adding that their business implements eco-friendly practices—including the use of reusable straws, eliminating the use of plastic bags, and the use of compostable takeout containers. They also have recycled over a thousand pounds of bottles and cardboard.

Guerrero said they have organized several beach cleanups on their own to help keep the “Hafa Adai yan Tirow” spirit alive.

Aside from Naked Fish Bar & Grill, other local businesses that joined in the cleanup were Ina’s Kitchen, Caravan of Foods, Salty Skin Pacific, Tylers Gelatte Stone, The Hut, Turnkey Solution, and the Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance.

This Saturday, Sept. 18, the CNMI will once again be joining the rest of the world in the International Coastal Cleanup. The Division of Coastal Resources Management is inviting the community to come together, and help collect and document trash that have been littering the islands’ coastlines and waterways.

To join the ICC cleanup, or for more information, contact Colleen Flores at cflores@dcrm.gov.mp or (670) 664-8300/8316 (for Saipan); Edwin Hofschneider at ehofschneider@dcrm.gov.mp or (670) 433-3169 (for Tinian); or William “Bill” Pendergrass at wpendergrass@dcrm.gov.mp or (670) 532-0466.

Iva Maurin | Correspondent
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at iva_maurin@saipantribune.com

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