Empowering Youth Civic Action on Plastic Pollution (2021-2022)

An estimated one million metric tons of plastic waste enters the ocean each year and can even be found along the coast, in sea ice and on the deep sea floor. On average, an individual consumes about one credit card of microplastics every week. Local governments have a critical role to play in solving this problem, but few Americans engage in local policy matters. Without systemic change, this issue will only worsen, threatening the health and well-being of future generations. 

This project team set out to engage and empower youth in solving the plastic pollution crisis. Team members created a curriculum for action-civics education outreach on ocean plastic pollution and used an extensive literature review to develop a rapid assessment tool for gauging the impact of local plastic pollution interventions. The team also implemented unconventional storytelling methods on social media to raise awareness about plastic pollution at Duke.

Learn more about this project team by viewing the team's video.


Fall 2021 – Summer 2022

Team Outputs

Education and Outreach to Tackle the Plastic Pollution Crisis (2022 Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase)

Empowering Youth to Address Plastic Pollution in Their Communities: Motivating and Measuring Local Actions (poster by Olivia Polemeni, Lydia Sellers, Madison Griffin, Alicia Medina, Jilly Senk, Emma Shuppert, Amber Skinner, Deven Stewart, Katie Tan and Finnie Zhao, presented at Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 13, 2022)

Empowering Youth Civic Action on Plastic Pollution: Utilizing Unconventional Storytelling as a Tool to Mobilize Plastic Pollution Policy Change in Durham, NC (paper by Juliette Lee)

The Plastic Pandemic (page and document)


Finnie Zhao

This Team in the News

Meet the Members of the 2023-2024 Student Advisory Council

Meet the Members of the 2022-2023 Student Advisory Council

Finding the Gaps in Plastic Pollution Prevention

This project team was originally part of the Education & Human Development theme of Bass Connections, which ended in 2022. 


Image: Wild giant otter plays with plastic bottle in the Pantanal, by Paul Williams, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Wild giant otter plays with plastic bottle in the Pantanal.

Team Leaders

  • Zoie Diana, Nicholas School of the Environment–Marine Science and Conservation–Ph.D. Student
  • Meagan Dunphy-Daly, Nicholas School of the Environment-Marine Science and Conservation
  • David McAdams, Fuqua School of Business
  • John Virdin, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

/graduate Team Members

  • Akash Chopra, Analytical Political Econ - AM
  • Juliette Lee, Master of Environmental Management, Coastal Environmental Management
  • Rachel Earnhardt, Master of Environmental Management, Environmental Economics/Policy, Community Based Environmental
  • Reino Hyyppa, Master of Environmental Management

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Zixin Zhao, Economics (BS)
  • Katie Tan, Economics (BS)
  • Deven Stewart, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Amber Skinner, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB)
  • Emma Shuppert, Marine Sci & Conservation (BS)
  • Jillian Senk, Environmental Sciences (BS)
  • Lydia Sellers, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB)
  • Olivia Polemeni, Biology (BS)
  • Alicia Medina, Environmental Sciences (BS)
  • Madison Griffin, Biology (BS)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Rachel Karasik, Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability
  • Nicolette Cagle, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Daniel Vermeer, Fuqua School of Business
  • Jason Somarelli, School of Medicine-Medicine: Medical Oncology
  • Jessica Sperling Smokoski, Social Science Research Institute
  • Stephen Roady, Duke Law
  • Jan Riggsbee, Arts & Sciences-Program in Education
  • Kelly Reilly, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
  • Amy Pickle, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
  • Jeremy Pare, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Michelle Nowlin, Duke Law

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Duke Law School
  • Fuqua School of Business
  • East Durham Children's Initiative
  • Durham Public Schools
  • Nicholas Institute for Enviornmental Policy Solutions
  • Duke University Marine Lab
  • Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
  • Durham Science Alliance
  • Laura Wesley, Constitutional Rights Foundation
  • Keri Doggett, Constitutional Rights Foundation