by Stella Halferty, Aspen High School student
My name is Stella Halferty and I am a sophomore at Aspen High School. This year in Chemistry, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to research and talk to experts from all around the Roaring Fork Valley about different topics and concerns about the Colorado River Basin and more specifically our local watershed.
After doing some background research and learning more about the Colorado River Basin and our watershed in general, we then split into small groups based on our interests and personal concerns. From there, we got to meet with experts and do all sorts of research specific to our topic with the help of the Youth Water Leadership Program director Sarah Johnson and our teacher, Scott Zevin.
I, alongside five of my peers, researched and discussed the topic of plastic pollution in our watershed and within the Colorado River Basin. We found that plastic is EVERYWHERE including in the rain, our drinking water, and even remote places such as at an elevation of 10,000 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park. So clearly, it’s nearly impossible to avoid microplastics which means it ends up in one’s body. It was found that people consume up to a credit card amount of plastic each week which equates to approximately 121,000 microplastic particles each year. A study done in Minnesota found that 83% of the water samples tested were contaminated with microplastics. Microplastics also attract toxic heavy metals which then are consumed by humans and animals which can lead to different cancers, birth defects, developmental and reproductive issues and etc. So not only is plastic harming our environment, but it could also cause severe damage to people’s bodies.
After learning about being surrounded by microplastics, my group and I were left with the question of, “what can we do?”. In the end, we found many solutions that were accessible to everyone. Simply reducing your use of plastic daily can create a major change. Along with making simple and small changes within your own life, you can also ask local businesses and restaurants if they’re willing to reduce their plastic in every way possible to create a community with the same mindset and goals. Using compostable materials as often as possible as well as not fertilizing your gardens before a rainstorm can also have a dramatic effect. Talking to government officials and drawing their attention to this issue can also make a huge difference.
From this project, I feel more encouraged to reach out to government officials and fight for them to pay closer attention to microplastics. Although plastic is everywhere and may seem impossible to avoid, there are many solutions that one can make to minimize the plastic being used and help keep microplastics out of our rivers, drinking water, and other water bodies.
Listen to a local news report about our project on KDNK Community Radio.
My name is Stella Halferty and having been lucky to grow up in Aspen, I’ve always had the most amazing opportunities ranging from backpacking across the West Elk Mountains to Marble, to simply skiing on one of the four mountains in my hometown. I can’t imagine living in a place without these amazing opportunities. This is why I found this project both disturbing and very thought-provoking, and it caused me to want to help my community become aware of the information that I learned from my research. Moving forward, I would like to help find plastic alternatives to use in our school and around our community in general.
Thank to Rios to Rivers for cover photo by Weston Boyles