Despite the challenges of 2020, the Berkeley Heirs have accomplished a lot! January 1, 2020, marked the start of the Disposable Free Dining Ordinance in Berkeley. We helped pass this groundbreaking law by collecting signatures and speaking at press conferences and city council meetings beginning in 2018. The all-encompassing law (as it includes all cutlery, containers, bags, and straws) prevents single-use plastic disposables from being given out by restaurants and other businesses in the first place.
For 2020, we decided to study the rollout of the new law; we wanted to better understand how the citizens of Berkeley would react to this law so we divided the city into four quadrants and interviewed random people to find out what they thought. We conducted interviews before the law went into effect and planned to expand our interviews of people after. Unfortunately, Covid-19 hit, the use of plastic disposables skyrocketed and human interaction became limited.
As we were working on our project (August 2019- February 2020) called Speaking Up For a Disposable Free Berkeley, we decided to enter it into the Algalita Plastic Pollution Youth Summit and National Geographic Geo Challenge. We succeeded in being chosen for both! In early March, we learned that our project Speaking Up For a Disposable Free Berkeley was chosen as a semifinalist to compete in National Geographic’s Geo Challenge for Tackling Plastic Pollution at the regional level competition. Our project included researching, supporting, and educating the public about Berkeley’s Disposable Free Dining Ordnance and the pilot reusable cup program, Vessel. Sadly due to Covid-19 the competition had to be cancelled. We are very proud of our accomplishment of advancing from 6,000 teams to the top 250 and definitely had our eyes set on winning at the finals in Washington DC. We look forward to the day when we can finally return to the streets of Berkeley and continue to raise awareness in our community.
Once the pandemic hit in March of 2020, our Chapter Advisor Jacqueline Omania organized Heirs coming together online in a group called Global Heirs welcoming youth from around the world. As difficult as the pandemic is, it is beautiful to have this virtual connection and to keep learning and growing together.