Kate Melges, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace USA
In 2018, the environment has been a hot topic. The good, the bad, the ugly. Kate Melges, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace USA, spends her days researching all three of these adjectives when it comes to plastic pollution into our oceans. This beach loving activist is inspired by water and has taken action to educate the rest of us on the long term effects our everyday behaviors have on this vital form of life. Kate talks exclusively to thecnnekt about her journey into saving the planet now and for generations to come.
Kate, you mentioned your life growing up lead you to where you are today. Can you explain how this all came full circle?
I grew up in Clearwater, Florida near the Gulf of Mexico, all the free time I had was spent in the water or on the beach. As a kid, I cared deeply for animals and nature and wanted to make sure they were protected and would always be around. I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I am TERRIBLE at math and chemistry was extremely difficult for me. So I had a heart-to-heart with myself and decided that what was actually more important to me was to spend my career fighting to protect the planet. I started volunteering with Greenpeace my last year of college, got a job organizing college students around voting rights, which is extremely important but is not what got me out of bed in the morning, I needed to be working to protect the environment. I then got a job with Greenpeace and have been there for 7 years in a few different positions. I am now working on our oceans campaign, specifically plastic pollution. I drifted a bit far from the ocean, but have made my way back.
Your career is so rewarding. How does this type of work affect your personal life and usage of plastic? Do you ever feel like a “fraud”?
I see plastic everywhere I go. I have an eye for it, I can spot it in a park, a tiny piece on the sand, it's ALL I see when grocery shopping, and the first thing I notice on TV shows. It has made me hyper-aware of how just much plastic is in our lives daily. I’m not perfect; it is so hard to avoid it. I do my best to avoid it and choose products that are not packaged in plastic, bring my own cotton produce bags to the store, carry a reusable water bottle and mug around. It sucks not to have a lot of other options, we have to demand that companies are selling us products wrapped in plastic find alternatives and get us out of this mess.
What about your mental health? They say knowledge is power and you are certainly using your power for greatness. But does knowing what you know affect you emotionally?
It does, its very easy to get down in this work, I feel like I know too much at times. I think a lot about what the world will be like in 15 years when my niece and nephew will be in college. I am fortunate enough to know a lot about people that are working to make the world a better place, there are so many! That is inspiring and what keeps me going.
What's your best advice to those who want to start making more conscious decisions when it comes to plastic? What's the best place to start?
Do what you can in your daily life, avoid plastic packaging when you can. There are a lot of great alternatives out there. And ultimately to solve this crisis it is going to take the companies that have gotten us into it to redesign the way they deliver goods to customers. Contact your grocery store or the company that makes your favorite soda, cereal, snack food, shampoo or coffee and ask that they stop using single-use plastic and move toward reusable and refillable systems.
We know your in your dream role, but what could possibly be next for you, Kate?
I am not sure, I love what I am doing and honestly cannot imagine doing anything other than environmental and oceans work.
To learn more about Greenpeace, you can visit their website: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/. Want to dive into environmental work? Learn how here: Get Involved. Be informed and follow Greenpeace on instagram @greenpeaceusa
Interviewed by Emily