For the first time in his tenure as president, the Trump administration’s budget proposal has included $320 million dollars for Great Lakes funding thanks to efforts by US Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich) - stressing the importance of the Great Lakes to our community and water supply across the world. This is an example of the government working in a positive manner to reverse a previous incorrect decision - a decision that inspired me to start Oshki in the first place. The importance of these lakes cannot be made light of, especially as the issue of water shortage continues to propagate across the globe, a globe where 1/5th of all freshwater is located in the Great Lakes.
Or, as Mr. Trump so eloquently put it: “I support the Great Lakes, they're beautiful, they're big, very deep, record deepness."
All jokes aside, grassroots and lobbying efforts across the state do have an impact. There has never been a time in history more allowing of all voices to be heard. This is something I have thought deeply about over the past few months.
If I was born thirty years prior to when I was (1970 rather than 2000), I would never have been able to start a company, while remaining involved on campus as a full-time high school and then college student. I would have never been able to make the connections I have been over the past few months, which is what has become my favorite part about founding a company in the first place. The individuals I have met inspire me to master my craft, to be resilient in the face of doubt, and to make the most of the opportunities I have been granted.
I want to highlight the work that a couple of my new incredible connections have done to help mitigate threats to the Great Lakes watershed and other environmental issues across the Midwest:
Williamston High School’s InvenTeam:
Williamston high school (MI) teacher Joe Rasmus is working with a group of students that applied and were accepted into the InvenTeam program run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This rigorous program challenges young people to identify a societal need and create an invention to address it. The students he is working with felt compelled to invent something to address the growing issue of plastic pollution on beaches. Since they live in Michigan, they have seen first hand the problem of plastic pollution. They are focusing specifically on the small plastic pieces that current beach cleaning methods miss, such as broken pieces of larger plastic items, cigarette butts, and cigar tips.
They aim to invent an autonomous device that will identify and capture these small plastics, removing them from the beaches, thus stopping them from breaking down further, leaching toxins into the soil, or being mistaken for food by animals. This device will help with the pollution problems that have plagued lakeshores and oceans across the world, aiding to preserve the beauty of our shorelines, remove materials that leach toxins into the soil and keep wildlife from ingesting dangerous plastic items. A fundraising effort is in store for this group of students to develop their project and attend MIT’s EurekaFest to pitch their idea in Washington DC: Oshki will be contributing to their cause and designing custom Oshki gear for their journey. I encourage you to make a donation to these amazing young people as well, here!
Georgian Bay Forever:
A small non-profit based out of Ontario dedicating intensive research to the preservation of the Georgian Bay aquatic ecosystem - a feeder to the Great Lakes. This amazing group of people is developing a unique pilot they are currently testing as a solution to keeping microfibers from our clothing wash stream out of water using end-consumer filters.
The research they are doing is showing that the diversion tactic they are working on is effective across their local community; they will be pushing to implement their solution on a larger scale in the near future. This is heavily needed research as scientists are uncovering the negative health effects of micro plastics at a rapid pace. Check out their website and consider donating here!
Inspired by these organizations and the many more I have been fortunate enough to talk to, I have decided a main goal for Oshki in 2020 is the expansion of our philanthropy efforts. Beach cleanups are a huge aspect of our community engagement. They allow preservation efforts to occur in the purest form: collecting plastic and waste along the beaches of the Great Lakes and other linking lakes and rivers. 22,000,000 pounds of plastic waste enters these lakes every year. With 90% of this waste ending up on beaches evenly spread across the region, successful cleanups of this area is to be done on a grassroots level. Everyone has a duty to do their part and I encourage readers to take time out of their day to contribute to their local communities.
Organizing four of these beach cleanups this past summer in my hometown (Muskegon, MI) has allowed me to reflect on the reason I founded Oshki and the most impactful aspect of our organization: helping preserve the Great Lakes. In this reflection, the desire to grow these beach cleanup events to other cities around the Great Lakes region became stronger than ever.
I created a donation option on our website recently to aid our expansion efforts to beach cleanups in other cities. A donation of any kind would be greatly appreciated here!
We are looking for lead volunteers in cities around Michigan, Canada, and other neighboring Great Lakes states to represent Oshki in their city by gathering community volunteers to collect plastic waste.
Lead volunteers will be granted:
- 1 free piece of Oshki merchandise as a show of our appreciation
- Volunteer supplies for the cleanup: bags, gloves, and sign-up sheets
- Oshki marketing materials for the event
- A complete guide for how to gather and incentivize local volunteers
Funds from the donation option on our website as well as the Oshki 5% to the Great Lakes fund will contribute to our expansion efforts. If you are interested in being a lead volunteer in your city, please fill out this form. We are looking for impactful, inspired individuals to guide our philanthropy growth, starting with cleanups in May 2020. With the help of the passionate individuals this region has, we can make a great impact.
Thanks for reading.
Founder - Oshki