The Clean Water Blog

Katrina on the Statehouse Steps in Rhode Island. Photo by Dave Gerraughty

Following the Leader

I am a canvassing intern for the summer here at Clean Water Action in Rhode Island. In addition to knocking on doors, I got the opportunity to shadow State Director Johnathan Berard for one day to learn how the organization operates on the policy and lobbying side. It was incredibly informative and fun! 

The day began with a meeting of the communications committee of the Green Infrastructure Coalition, a group committed to promoting natural methods to filter and absorb storm water to decrease runoff pollution and flooding. It was great to listen to this discussion regarding the multiple variables in a project that both increases environmental sustainability and educates the public.

The next meeting was with the Pawtucket Central Falls Development Committee where  members were discussing the next plan of action for reconstructing Broad Street, a main road that passes through Cumberland, Pawtucket, and Central Falls. The plan calls for larger sidewalks, a bike lane, storm water areas, and incorporating more trees.

The committee is composed of many public and government officials such as members of the Department of Transportation, Urban Developers, City Council members, and members from environmental groups. This project intrigues me specifically because it seeks to involve business owners from Broad Street and citizens who live in the area before the project occurs. Sitting in on this meeting certainly made me excited about the positive environmental progress taking place here in Rhode Island.

Our last stop of the day was at the Statehouse. This was an eye-opening experience for me because I had never seen a legislative hearing in person. I was able to watch John’s testimony against industry-sponsored legislation on plastic bags. The bill would allow continued production of plastic bags in Rhode Island, stipulating that the bags must be made with at least 25 percent recycled material.

As John testified, this would not help our environment or our economy for multiple reasons.  Plastic bags are environmentally hazardous and costly when they jam up machines at recycling and waste facilities. I agreed with John’s testimony that we should be planning to ban plastic bags all together. We should also incentivize individuals to bring reusable bags and inform the public on the consequences of plastic bag use. When thinking about the reduce-reuse-recycle formula, the focus should be on the reduction, not on the recycling because we cannot recycle our way out of these issues!

The day was an incredibly informative and educational experience that reignited my passion to become more involved in organizations that are innovating or working on ways to better our communities. I am entering my senior year at the University of Rhode Island pursuing a career as an Environmental Impact Researcher and Sociologist. My first month with Clean Water Action has been an amazing experience.

I'm also excited to pursue a career like John’s one day and help make a difference in promoting environmental stewardship within multiple roles and organizations. Just like environmental and institutional issues are overlapping and interconnected, so is John’s work at Clean Water Action which is an admirable feat and hard work to say the least. Learn more about canvass internships at Clean Water.