Fresh Leaf Forever

Unveiling the Lingering Threats of Plastics and Steps Towards Sustainability

August 01, 2023 Vai Kumar interviews Hannah Testa Season 3 Episode 6
Unveiling the Lingering Threats of Plastics and Steps Towards Sustainability
Fresh Leaf Forever
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Fresh Leaf Forever
Unveiling the Lingering Threats of Plastics and Steps Towards Sustainability
Aug 01, 2023 Season 3 Episode 6
Vai Kumar interviews Hannah Testa

In this episode, commemorating Plastic Free July, we encounter the inspiring journey of Hannah Testa, a young environmental activist, book author, Tedx speaker,  who didn't just read about plastic pollution, but made a monumental change.
Witness the transformative power of one determined voice as we traverse her path from a passionate youngster to a renowned international speaker, author of "Taking on the plastics crisis", and founder of Hannah for Change.
An ardent environmentalist, Hannah's resolve enabled her to establish February 15th as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in Georgia - a day dedicated to our planet.
Our discussion also uncovers her unflinching determination in the face of challenges from the plastic industry and the profound impact of a documentary "Plastic Paradise" that ignited her fight against the plastic crisis.

Noteworthy points from this chat:
-Hannah enlightens us on minimizing polyester usage in our clothing
- The urgent need to reduce plastic packaging and why
- Amount of plastics we are internalizing in our body due to our lifestyle habits
- Health implications of microwaving and freezing in plastic containers
- Plastic pollution and seafood impact
- The measures we can take to safeguard our oceans
- Plastic impact and climate change

Join us for this captivating conversation and get ready to be inspired to make a change for our planet's future. The time for us to act is now!
A succinct account, repurposed from a Season 1 episode with Hannah on this show, discussing her role as a youth activist and how youth can make a change for the betterment of our planet.

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Videos available on YouTube channel.
Follow host Vai on socials - Instagram , YouTube, LinkedIn for thought leadership content.
Head to my website for enlightening blogs & service offerings.
This podcast comes to you from Listen Ponder Change LLC, founded by Vai Kumar.
Every support the show contribution is much appreciated !!
Subscribe https://www.buzzsprout.com/1436179/support and help us amplify our voice and reach!

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Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, commemorating Plastic Free July, we encounter the inspiring journey of Hannah Testa, a young environmental activist, book author, Tedx speaker,  who didn't just read about plastic pollution, but made a monumental change.
Witness the transformative power of one determined voice as we traverse her path from a passionate youngster to a renowned international speaker, author of "Taking on the plastics crisis", and founder of Hannah for Change.
An ardent environmentalist, Hannah's resolve enabled her to establish February 15th as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in Georgia - a day dedicated to our planet.
Our discussion also uncovers her unflinching determination in the face of challenges from the plastic industry and the profound impact of a documentary "Plastic Paradise" that ignited her fight against the plastic crisis.

Noteworthy points from this chat:
-Hannah enlightens us on minimizing polyester usage in our clothing
- The urgent need to reduce plastic packaging and why
- Amount of plastics we are internalizing in our body due to our lifestyle habits
- Health implications of microwaving and freezing in plastic containers
- Plastic pollution and seafood impact
- The measures we can take to safeguard our oceans
- Plastic impact and climate change

Join us for this captivating conversation and get ready to be inspired to make a change for our planet's future. The time for us to act is now!
A succinct account, repurposed from a Season 1 episode with Hannah on this show, discussing her role as a youth activist and how youth can make a change for the betterment of our planet.

Send us a Text Message.

Buzzsprout Get your podcast launched!
Start for FREE

Instacart Grocery delivery
Free delivery on your first order over $35.

Enjoy PIOR Living products
Enjoy PIOR Living products at a 20% discount and free shipping on orders over $75 Code FLF20

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the Show.

Videos available on YouTube channel.
Follow host Vai on socials - Instagram , YouTube, LinkedIn for thought leadership content.
Head to my website for enlightening blogs & service offerings.
This podcast comes to you from Listen Ponder Change LLC, founded by Vai Kumar.
Every support the show contribution is much appreciated !!
Subscribe https://www.buzzsprout.com/1436179/support and help us amplify our voice and reach!

Vai Kumar:

Welcome to Freshleaf Forever, a podcast that gives you fascinating insights week after week. Here's your host, vaikumar. I'm here today with Hannah Testa. She is a sustainability advocate, international and TEDx speaker, author and founder of Hannah for Change, an organization dedicated to fighting issues that impact the planet. She excels at partnering with businesses and government to influence them to develop more sustainable practices. Hannah has received numerous awards, including the Teen Earth Day Hero by CNN, the Young Superhero for Earth Award by Captain Planet, the Action for Nature International Young Eco Hero Award, the Gloria Baron Prize and many others. Most importantly, hannah is the author of the book Taking on the Plastics Crisis. Hi, hannah, welcome to Freshleaf Forever.

Hannah Testa:

Hi, thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Vai Kumar:

You have been doing a lot of work relating to the environment and I just am super thrilled about whatever you're doing. So when do you think you started being an environmental activist, hannah, and, as far as memory could tell, what was it that brought about an initiation in this fear?

Hannah Testa:

I definitely grew up loving animals and the planet, and that's definitely something my parents installed in me at a young age to appreciate nature and spend time outdoors. Around the age of 10 was when I first started learning about endangered animal species and it broke my heart and eventually I started my organization, Hannah for Change, to create my own project campaigns and events about the issues that I care about. Around the age of 11, that's when I shifted. I focused more on environmental issues and mainly the issue of plastic pollution, and I haven't stopped since I'm 18 years old now. So for the past seven years I've really focused on environmental issues. I mainly talk about plastic pollution, its impact on our oceans and our own health as well.

Vai Kumar:

And February 15, 2018 happens to be a very remarkable day and a memorable day for you. What makes it so significant and what from that day is vivid in your memory still?

Hannah Testa:

Yeah, so for most people, february 15 is any other ordinary day, but for me, it's very important. Back in 2017, I declared February 15 as plastic pollution awareness day in the state of Georgia, which was the first event of the time, and I was 14 years old at the time, working with a Republican state senator to declare this day. We had over 90 global organizations that were supporting this effort, and it was seen all across the world initiatives that I started here in Georgia, and now there's young people in other states trying to recreate the day where they live as well, and it was also a great way to inspire other young people to get involved in policy. It was a great introduction for them to see oh, I don't have to be a voting age to get involved in policy. I don't have to be an adult or even a politician. I can do something even now in school, where there I had a room in the Capitol to educate people about plastic pollution and why we're even having a plastic pollution awareness day, and so that was a huge success and I had so much fun doing it and so many people all across the world are able to learn about plastic pollution, even though it was just declared here in the state of Georgia and, even though it was a huge success, I also faced some challenges. Challenges are inevitable, but unfortunately, the plastic industry wants to stop my day and stop the work that I was doing. But fortunately, I was able to compromise and still have the day. But the crucial thing that I had to sacrifice was speaking on the Senate floor, which was something that I really wanted to do and have the opportunity to address all the decision makers of my home state, and the following year I recreated the day and I was fortunate to get that opportunity.

Hannah Testa:

So February 15th of 2018 was when I got to address all the state senators about plastic pollution and how important it is to have government action on these issues and specifically on plastic pollution.

Hannah Testa:

And that moment is very pivotal for me and I mentioned this in my TED talk that I was sitting on the side of the room waiting for my turn to speak and there was another adult speaking before me and no one was paying any attention to her, and I felt so heartbroken that I worked so hard to get here and I was so encouraged and so motivated to be here and all that hard work I felt like was going to go to waste, that none of these politicians were going to listen to what I had to say, but I still, you know, got up on that podium and spoke about plastic pollution and after a couple of sentences there was silence and every senator had their eyes on me and was listening to what I had to say.

Hannah Testa:

And that was a very monumental moment for me and it really resonated with me that young people have voices and we are being heard. And it's so important for young people to speak up on these issues, especially because many adults and along these decision makers don't hear from young people enough. They're still we're still their constituents. We need to talk to our representatives and tell them what we want them to do for us, what bills and legislation we want them to support.

Vai Kumar:

Oh yes, Right there. The message is very impactful that young people need not fear or worry about anything. All they need to focus on is their cause. So what made you take up the cause of this plastic crisis?

Hannah Testa:

I was hearing a bit about plastic pollution, but I didn't really know enough about the issue and I, you know, I, if I went out, I would see, you know, litter on the ground and I'd pick it up when I could. But I didn't really Understand what plastic pollution was or why it was so important. And it wasn't until I watched a documentary called plastic paradise, and, and that documentary is really what opened my eyes the issue, and I was like, oh my gosh, this is crazy, how was nobody talking about this? And this was back when I was 11 years old. Around six, seven years ago.

Hannah Testa:

Plastic pollution wasn't a very mainstream topic and most people didn't even know anything about it. We use plastic every day, it surrounds our lives and there's solutions that are easily accessible and obtainable if we work for it. So I knew that I had to speak up and educate people on these issues, because I felt an immense amount of guilt. Once I learned about plastic pollution, I started thinking of all the plastic that I've used in my lifetime and I knew that I had to step up and Educate other people too, so they can join me in this effort, because, like most people, we don't want to be a part of the problem. We just don't know how to be a part of the solution. So ever since, I've made it my mission to educate people on these global issues, and mainly on plastic pollution why it's such a big problem in the first place like why people should care but also the solutions and how we can get involved and help create a better world.

Vai Kumar:

Whatever you have accomplished so far on that front is Certainly fascinating and it's inspiring. I know you were in Hawaii and that vacation trip you probably did something. There was something significant that happened in that. Yeah, I went to.

Hannah Testa:

Hawaii about two years ago and I went with two, a couple of my friends and we did a beach cleanup on a beach in Hawaii that actually is closed off from the public. So all the plastic that was on the beach all washed ashore. Nobody left it there because it's a private beach and there's probably around a total of 15 of us. We spent Couple of hours cleaning up the beach and we had around 500 pounds of plastic from this small section of the beach that we cleaned up and guys, all kinds of plastic they can imagine every color, every size, every type of plastic, and there's even sea turtles that were sleeping on the beach we were cleaning up and that were laying on top of plastic.

Hannah Testa:

It was, I think, really eye-opening, especially for me, because I talk a lot about plastic pollution and ocean conservation but I don't live by the ocean so I don't see it firsthand. Like a lot of people I do live on the coast. But for me, to be there and physically see how much this plastic is having an impact on just this ecosystem, here alone on this one beach, let alone All the coastlines all across the world.

Vai Kumar:

So what role do you think this plastic crisis is going to play? As far as climate change, plastic pollution does play a huge role in climate change.

Hannah Testa:

Around 99% of plastic is actually made from fossil fuels, so the more single-use plastics that we're consuming and demanding is going to have a heavier reliance on the fossil fuel industry, requiring more fossil fuels to be extracted.

Hannah Testa:

So, since climate change has really been on the front of a one's mind, the fossil fuel industries are starting to shift their agenda from fracking for oil and gas for, like, energy and methane, but instead using it for plastics.

Hannah Testa:

We use around 5% of oil for plastics right now, but by 2050 it's projected to increase to 20%, and we produce over 300 million pounds of Plastic every single year, which is crazy to think about, especially a large number. I can't even fathom that. But the extraction, production, transportation, incineration all those contribute to climate change. They all release greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide, so we're seeing a large impact actually over all the plastic production that's happening is equal to 200 coal-fired power plants all the greenhouse gases that we're emitting. So there's a huge connection between the two and I think a lot of times we see them as two very separate issues, but they are very much in our links and interconnected, and plastic pollution is a huge contributor to climate change and a lot of people don't even realize it. So I've definitely seen a shift in just the plastic pollution space, all the other activists realizing that we need to talk More about this. A lot of people know a bit about climate change, know a bit about plastic pollution, but they're very much interconnected.

Vai Kumar:

Yeah, I mean all the carbon dioxide emission and such you know it's like so detrimental. So if you were to highlight the areas of impact that human beings are perhaps not realizing, and whatever is Detrimental to one's health, what would those be, hannah?

Hannah Testa:

Definitely Plastic pollution. Plastics impact on human health. We talk a lot about the pollution side of it, like the After we use it ending up in the ocean and impacting animals, but it's also having an impact on humans all across the globe. Every 30 seconds, someone in a developing country dies from a disease caused by plastic pollution waste, and we are surrounded by Plastic and plastic leeches, toxins and chemicals into our bodies and we don't even realize that it's.

Hannah Testa:

We know that it's having a huge impact on marine life and we are eating the seafood from the ocean. We are eating around five grams of plastic every week. That's not the size of a credit card, and that's from all the seafood and salt we're eating, as well as just from our drinking water and, I think, beer as well. We've already seen it in our bodies and even back in December, scientists have said that they found Microplastics, like small particles of plastic, in human placenta. Just recently it's being found in human organs and it's been linked to things like hormone disruption and necron disruptors. It's a possible carcinogenic and Many people don't even realize it. So there's also been a shift to talk about the health impacts, because when you talk about, you know things happening in the ocean and it's far away, people are more disconnected, but this is something happening to all of us as we speak.

Vai Kumar:

Yeah, I mean, you touched upon how plastics leech into what we eat, and you know all of that, and most people leave Plastic water bottles in hot cars and they don't even realize how detrimental and carcinogenic that can be. Being so young, you know, you realize it, but there are very many adults out there that do not realize that, and I think the shift to Sustainable products is highly significant and important, and you touch upon impact on pregnant women and fetuses, and that's also you know something really eye-opening there, hannah, because most people don't realize. You know what we consume, you know like goes all the way and it's just so hard to even path them, but that's all you know. So Relevant, whatever you're doing. I know there was a bill in US Congress that was introduced in 2020 and you were instrumental in voicing your opinion on that, along with other activists. Yes, so the National.

Hannah Testa:

Breakthrough from Plastic Pollution Act was introduced February of last year, just before all the covered up is the very first national bill that is talking about plastic pollution, which is a great first step. It's very long overdue but it's a great first step and actually there's a second part of the break free from plastic pollution are coming out later this year, so definitely keep a lookout for that. But what the bill, at least last year's version, was, as a quick summary, what it would do is it would ban certain types of single use plastic products, like takeout bags, but also the main part of it would require the producers of these plastics to be more responsible for after-consumer use, like putting more money into the waste management of it or having places to return, like in other states, where you can put in like bring back like plastic water bottles and get like some sense back. So having initiatives like that just to encourage less of this plastic waste ending up in our landfills and overfill exam or ending up in our waterways and into our oceans.

Vai Kumar:

It's great that people so young like you are taking to such initiatives. At the barest minimum, what is it that you would tell people to kind of stop doing in terms of how they can switch to sustainable products and what they should avoid? You touched upon reusable the need to eradicate plastic bags and things like that.

Hannah Testa:

To start off, the easiest thing to do is to stop using single use plastics as much as possible. Sometimes we don't even realize certain things are single use plastics, so sometimes you just have to reflect sometimes and think about more often throughout your day like, oh, this is plastic and this is plastic, and think about ways that you can switch them out. Well, oftentimes we talk about plastic bags or straws or plastic bottles. Those are great things to start off, switching with reusable items. But there's also things that we don't realize, like polyester in our clothing. So something as simple as not buying polyester clothing or buying foods in bulk or plastic free if possible, and checking your cosmetics to have less packaging and plastic exfoliants in them that we wash down the drain, but spreading knowledge within our own network and then they can do it within their network, just spreading the word as much as possible so that more and more people can get involved.

Vai Kumar:

Oh yes, fantastic message there, hannah. I think bringing one's own shopping bag to the grocery store and then refilling their water bottles using, you know, like a glass or stainless steel, whatever that may be, I think those are all great steps in eliminating the plastic straws. I think, right there, those three things can make for a huge change and something that's simple and easy for any human being to adopt in their daily lifestyle. That's fantastic. How has whatever you advocate for impacted how you eat and how you have tweaked your lifestyle?

Hannah Testa:

I know we started talking about your veganism and going on a vegan lifestyle, no-transcript consuming less animal products. How much of an impact that has on our environment. And through my work, through plastic pollution, I've learned a lot about seafood and the plastics that we're eating. Through the seafood we're eating and some of the chemicals and things like mercury that we're eating a lot of through our seafood.

Hannah Testa:

So I always encourage people to just reduce the amount of animal products they're eating and try more vegan foods. You don't have to go fully vegan. That was just the journey that I ended up taking, but I always encourage people to at least take that step and get out of your comfort zone a little bit and really see the enjoyment of eating a lot more plant-based food.

Vai Kumar:

Oh yeah, I mean a lot of people think, oh, I'm pescetarian and so you know I'm not eating core meat as much. But, like you said, there's so much in the fish and you know, like you brought up a great point Back in the moment with our guest on Fresh Leaf Forever People don't realize, even using the microwave and using plastics in them, how it impacts their health.

Hannah Testa:

So just, like going back to the health implications. When you like heat up or cool plastics, that's when it starts bleaching toxins into whatever it's in. So that's why, like, if you have plastic containers and you put certain dishes in it, they'll stain that color Because plastic is kind of porous. It'll bleach stuff in but it'll also take stuff in. So that's how they get that like tainted color. So some of the biggest no-no's is like microwaving any plastic, because that's when it releases the most, such as, like you know, having a water bottle in a car. But even things like freezing stuff in plastic also has similar implications as well. So, whenever possible, try and never microwave plastic. Wherever possible, and instead of having like plastic containers or plastic bowls or dishes or plates that you microwave, instead use ceramics or use glass containers instead.

Vai Kumar:

That's a good message. I think you have spoken on my behalf, too, right there, and thank you for doing that. So what is your plan going forward and where do you see yourself in the next three to five years?

Hannah Testa:

I want to pursue environmental studies and sustainability, and mainly with a focus on like legislation and policy. So that's what I want to pursue. I want to continue the work that I do and still do a lot of like public speaking and campaigning in different events, but I'm career-wise. I still want to do the stuff that I do today. So I do want to go to school for environmental studies and hopefully get a career, either working for nonprofits that are focused on influencing policy or working for a government agency like the EPA, or even working for a sustainability consultancy. So definitely, the work that I do today is definitely how to impact on what I want to do with my future.

Vai Kumar:

I think you're well positioned and you're way ahead on the road to that. How can we get the next generation to care for our oceans and how can people become ocean literate and understand the human connection?

Hannah Testa:

I know you have done something on that, yeah our oceans are in crisis, but many people don't know how to get involved or don't understand the issues that are happening, like, for instance, plastic pollution. There'll be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight in 2050. I talked about like cleanups and having your own personal footprint. Reducing plastic pollution has a huge impact.

Vai Kumar:

You said 2050?. Yeah, 2050.

Hannah Testa:

By 2050, there'll be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight.

Hannah Testa:

I was able to play a role in developing a school curriculum about ocean conservation, and that's with the group Students Rebuild and Global Nomads as part of their ocean challenge. We developed a curriculum for all age schools there's two versions, one for a younger age group and one for an older age group to talk about ocean conservation and develop a campaign for them to start on helping to protect our oceans. Like plastic pollution, that's a huge issue for oceans, but even issues like climate change, coral reef bleaching, obviously sea level rise and the ocean acidification that we're seeing, if our oceans die, we die too. So it's so important that especially young people learn about these issues and their solutions, because by the time we're old enough to be in positions of power and make the decisions to protect our planet and our oceans, it's going to be too late. So that's why it's so crucial for young people to learn about these issues now and speak up on them now, so that we can inspire more policy and legislation or initiatives to be done to help better protect our oceans Fantastic.

Vai Kumar:

Can you give us an answer on how you felt when you got that call from this renowned publishing house when you wrote your book, I think I was just so in awe because I never envisioned writing a book maybe down the line.

Hannah Testa:

And even though I talk about youth activism and not waiting until you're older, I think I even predetermined that I wouldn't do that. I can't do that as a young person. So I think even for me, that was something. That was a learning moment for me. I was like, wow, I really can do something at any age. Like I wrote the book when I was 17 and I published it right before my 18th birthday. So it was truly incredible. It was a lot of fun to write. But, yeah, that moment, I think, was very pivotal for me, and even just the self-reflecting moment as well.

Vai Kumar:

Awesome, and it's part of a series of pocketbook collections, correct?

Hannah Testa:

Yes, so it's part of a series called the Pocket Change Collective, and it's different activists talking about the different issues that they're focused on and they're passionate about and taking on the plastics is available on Amazoncom, and is it also available as an e-book?

Vai Kumar:

It is, it's available as an e-book as well as an audio book.

Hannah Testa:

I did actually do the recording. We read the audio books, so if you'd like to, you can hear me read my book. But yeah, it is available everywhere, but the best place is to find it online and see if your local places have it as well.

Vai Kumar:

Ok, I think I would strongly encourage every listener here to support that, because those marginalized students would also get to benefit from the donation efforts. And what is your message to the community, you children in particular, on goal setting and accomplishment or as to how you go about it and what is your message in general to the society.

Hannah Testa:

There's a great quote that I love from Robert Swan, and he says the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that somebody else will say that, and I think that's so important because I think a lot of times we think that we're not important enough, our voices are not valid enough to make an impact. But we all play a key role in everything. But for such huge issues like this, it's going to take all of us coming together collectively, and something a quote that I love is that the weight of the world is not as heavy if we all lift it together. It's going to really take all of us doing our part. I mean not taking plastic bags from the store and helping with legislation and influencing businesses, but every little bit does count and does make an impact. It's going to take all of us, so it's so important for you to get involved and learn more and ask yourself like, what can I do? And then do it. Don't let yourself limit the work that you can do Excellent.

Vai Kumar:

I think you have inspired me to do more and thank you so much, hannah, for being on the show and I thoroughly enjoyed having this conversation with you. And, as a takeaway from this program, I definitely would like for people want to feel inspired and do more for society and for the causes that impact society and, like you said, not wait for others to do it. Wish you the very best in your future endeavors and we'll constantly keep checking back with you. Thanks so much for coming.

Hannah Testa:

Thank you so much yeah, thank you so much for having me. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation To listeners.

Vai Kumar:

Thanks so much for tuning in week after week. Follow me on Instagram@vaipkumar . I will see you back again with yet another guest and yet another interesting topic. Until then, it's me Vai saying so long.