Young Caymanian’s green message goes international

| 17/12/2018
CNS Local Life

Steff Mcdermot (far right) at the Captain Planet gala with fellow young superhero award winners, and actor/environmentalist Adrian Grenier (far left) who was also honoured (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

(CNS Local Life): Fresh off receiving a Captain Planet Foundation award for her environmental work at a ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia, Steff Mcdermot is not resting on her laurels. Armed with an impressive passion and drive for an 18-year-old, the University College of Cayman Islands (UCCI) student remains focused on her goal of “empowering youth to empower the planet”.

Named a Young Superhero for Earth, Mcdermot’s award, presented 7 December, recognises her work to set up the  “345 Pledge” with Plastic Free Cayman and her efforts to reduce plastic pollution.

The campaign, aimed at lessening and eventually banning single-use plastics, challenges businesses and individuals to reach that goal by making three changes immediately, four after six months and five after a year, numbers echoing Cayman’s dialling code. In addition to stopping the use of plastic straws, bags and utensils, the pledge targets the ubiquitous styrofoam container.

Mcdermot secured the funding for this initiative after attending an Ocean Heroes Boot Camp in New Orleans this summer, which gave her the tools to develop and pitch a campaign. The camp is the joint brainchild of Captain Planet and Lonely Whale. She then presented her idea on the 345 Pledge and was awarded a grant to implement it.

The resulting marketing campaign has already attracted attention far from Cayman’s shores, with an international influencer campaign sending a group here last month. Earlier this year, she appeared in the documentary, “Reberth”, which was filmed on island and screened in June at the CayFilm festival.

But her green efforts started before this whirlwind year. At UCCI, she founded the Environmental Conservation Club to motivate her fellow students into action. Mcdermot pointed out there was no recycling on campus and the “cut trail” between the college and a nearby fast-food outlet on Walkers Road was strewn with litter with no garbage bins along the path.

“I wanted to step up and do something,” she said, and started organising cleanups of the trail. Eventually, the Department of Environmental Health placed a bin there, which, she noted, was “one of my first accomplishments”.

CNS Local Life

Steff Mcdermot with her superhero award

Mcdermot also saw an opportunity to make a difference in the ocean. An avid diver, she encouraged club members to combine diving with environmental work. With gear donated by The Lobster Pot she organised an ocean cleanup with five other young people. That was important, she said, because “if I get students to dive, they see trash and pick it up, a passion grows in them. My goal is to get them out there.”

She laments what she sees as mostly expats being involved in environmental projects here and wants to inspire young Caymanians like herself to take positive action. “They’re fighting to protect the land and it’s not even theirs,” she said, adding that she wants to create a youth-led environmental organisation, as well as see her environmental club at UCCI continue after she finishes school.

On a larger scale, she wants to get the government here to step in to make Cayman plastic-free. She said one of her reasons for attending the boot camp was “because I need help for my country, which is not taking environmental issues seriously”.

Even though still a teenager, Mcdermot knows the importance of taking the long view, hoping to get her peers to see the value of working to make a difference. She speaks of her transformation to becoming a “well-rounded and better person, who cares and has passion”, adding, “I want them to ask ‘How can I volunteer?’ If you see a problem and know the solution, why not do something? I want to build a platform for young Caymanians to be supported and see that their voice matters.”

Not surprisingly, her ultimate career aspiration is to enter politics. “I want to impact local communities on a global scale,” Mcdermot said, and her message to her fellow young people is to get involved, like she has. “You can do it, too. Not being afraid is the major thing.”

For more information on the 345 Pledge go to the Plastic Free Cayman website

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Category: Environment

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