Written By: Helping Ninja Kate, Age 17, 11th Grade, California
The International Statistic of 2018 states that 90.5% of plastic waste has never been recycled. While some of this trash goes to the landfill, a surprising amount ends up in the ocean. This has devastating effects. 70% of the Earth’s oxygen comes from the sea and the sea life that lives there.
In addition, plastics do not biodegrade. They simply break down into smaller and smaller pieces, called microplastics. Small sea creatures consume these insidious microplastics and by doing so, the plastics make their way into the ocean food chain. Microplastics deteriorate an animal’s health and eventually cause death. To alleviate this harm on our oceans, individuals can reduce their waste. There are myriad ways to cut down on waste in almost all aspects of our lives.
Have no fear, it’s definitely possible to pack meals without creating waste.
The first thing to do is to pack your food in a reusable container such as a thermos or metal box. After you’ve done that, fill up a reusable water bottle with whatever drink you plan to have. Next, make sure to pack the reusable utensils that you will need. Now you are good to go, enjoy!
Personal Hygiene Products
Most personal hygiene products contain some sort of plastic. Soaps, shampoos, and conditioners are packaged in plastic containers. Dental floss not only contains plastic but is also packaged in it. Toothbrushes are made of plastic and nylon. These products can be easily swapped for more eco-friendly products. For example, use bars of soap to wash your hands. These are usually wrapped in paper or even better, not packaged at all! Bars of soap can also be used for body wash and believe it or not, shampoo and conditioner. In addition, bamboo toothbrushes work just as well as their plastic counterparts. Lastly, silk floss packaged in glass containers is available in some stores and online.
Shopping greatly contributes to pollution. Many people enter stores empty-handed and leave with plastic bags filled with unnecessary, packaged items. However, that can change with a few simple steps. First, ask yourself if you really need what you want to buy. If you do, then try to find what you are looking for second-hand or sustainably-made. Second, come to the store with a reusable bag so that no paper or plastic will be needed to carry home your purchase. When shopping for food, choose whole foods without packaging. If you bring your reusable bag, there is no need to put fruits or vegetables in the plastic bags that many grocery stores offer. Also, many stores have bulk shopping or refill sections. Here, you can put unpackaged nuts, beans, tea, flour, etc. into your own container or bag!
Eating out, especially at fast-food restaurants, can produce lots of waste. Nevertheless, you can avoid this waste by coming prepared. It’s important to carry all the essentials so that you can refuse single-use plastics and still enjoy your meal. For instance, if you are craving a smoothie or tea with boba, bring a stainless steel boba straw and a reusable cup. Remember to convey to the person at the restaurant that you don’t want the plastic cup or straw when you order.
I hope that you have learned some useful tips from this article.
Keep reducing your waste and living that low-waste life!
Written by Leo Berry, Age 9, Helping Ninja, Creator/ Founder
Today we were looking outside our upstairs window and my mom said, “Leo, look outside!”
I said, “What is out there?”
She said,”Look, what is wrong with that picture?”
I looked again.
At first I thought that it was a white bird then I looked closer and it really was a plastic bag!
My mom and I realized there was plastic bag in the top of our tree stuck on a branch.
I was really worried about the birds.
It is too high for us to reach with a ladder. We are not sure how we will get it down.
This is really not good.
I wonder how many birds die from plastic. I decided to google it and learn.
How many much birds die from plastic bags? Sea birds that die is 1,000,000 million.
Marine animals that die from plastic is one hundred million a year.
This makes me feel sad.
Animals on land can die too from plastic. I can’t find a statistic but I can bet its a lot.
I now want to know how what happens to birds if they get caught in a plastic bag. So, I look up if land birds can get hurt from plastic.
And, yes they can.
It’s really sad
I learned that birds can’t fly if they are entangled in plastic. The plastic bag could get wrapped around the birds wings and keep them from flying. If they are unable to fly they die of starvation. Or they may use the plastic for nesting materials and hurt there young.
This made me ask the question, ‘What happens to animals if they eat plastic bags?”
I found this on a website about plastic pollution and wildlife:
Written By Leo Berry, Helping Ninja Founder/Creator, Age 9
I think kids should go outside more and I think we kids, need to have a longer recess.
Five to ten minutes outside is not enough for kids our age. A school day is eight hours long, kids need more recess.
Kids need to be outside more. Because it’s good for their health and social skills. I like playing tag and I get to talk to my friends at recess.
At my school we only get that , five to ten minutes. The thrid grade classes, we’re supposed to go outside at 12:00 and recess ends at 12:10, but it sometimes ends at five minutes early because the recess teacher wil l say that we have lunch at 12:25. And cuts our time outside, because we have to go inside to get ready for lunch.
But, after recess and before lunch, we read a book or an e-book or talk with a classmate for up ten minutes. (Or with our heads down on our desk because someone acted out and got the whole class in trouble.) I think we should use this time to spend more time outside.
On average, American children spend four to seven minutes a day in outdoor play and spend seven or more hours in front of a screen.
A recent study by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute says on average, children aged 10 to 16 spend only 12.6 minutes a day on outdoor activity and spend 10.4 hours of either indoors in school or watching tv or playing video games.
The study says on average, children aged 10 to 16 spend only 12.6 minutes a day on outdoor activity and spend 10.4 hours of watching tv or playing video games.
When I read this, I flipped and thought, “why are they on so long?”
I think that is too long. And definitely not enough time outside.
Kids should have longer recess because it improves physical activity and social skills. Being outside helps kids to exert more energy. This is sometimes a problem our class. Kids sometimes roll around on the floor or talk too loud because they have more energy and they don’t have a way to get it out. And, they get in trouble.
Doctors say that being in nature is good for kids health.
And that just being outside will help our mind and body get strong.
I think that schools need to think about how they can add more recess time into their school day. And if the school curriculum rules say that they cannot add more reccess, they may need to think about it and maybe rethink the rules. And, teachers maybe they could try to mix outside and our work. Like incoroprate going outside into our daily lessons. Some studies say being outside improves chidren’s creativity and foucs.
I have a freind who is on focus medicine. Some studies and doctors say that it improves this too. That being outside helps you focus better when go inside. There was a big article in the New Yorks Times about how nature helps kids mental health. Maybe it would help my friend if we had more recess and help other kids too.
Another reason kids should go outside more as it helps kids focus and concentrate on class work and also improves the five senses. And being outside also helps your body’s defenses from getting sick – going outside improves your immune system. It also helps the development your brain. It helps with being more friendly and talking – helps your socializing skills .
And, here’s the best part about it – being outside, it’s also proven, that it makes kids happier.
Helping Ninjas Rock Climbing at Central Park, New York City, New York Helping Ninjas Photo Copyright December 2018
TerraCycle is a company that allows you to recycle and reuse, well, anything.
That’s a pretty cool thing because it means, less trash in the landfill. Less trash in the rivers. And, less pollution in the ocean. And, I love animals. My sister Layla loves dolphins. My brother Sawyer loves sharks. Skyler, my youngest brother loves sea turtles. My mom, well shes scared of sharks and to scared to touch dolphins, but she loves the ocean because she says it makes her happy, and because the ocean helps us breathe. She says without it we would not be here anymore. My dad loves to swim in the ocean. He jumps in the waves with us and he goes really far out and it scares my mom. She has to yell at him to come back sometimes. He does.
Why am I telling you all this? Because if we don’t start recycling all things ever made, our ocean will be full of trash. And, then – well, um, it is NOT good.
TerraCycle gives you a box and then you collect the trash and then you mail it back to them. They turn it into something useful and keep the trash out of the landfill.
My mom met a really nice lady named Shannon Cook. She is the sustainability manager at a place that sells cars and trucks and vans. It’s called Tom Wood Subaru.
My family and our friends in our neighborhood collect things that we give to TerraCycle so they can recycle it. Otherwise, it will end up in the trash can. Which, we all know wher that goes. TerraCycle is awesome. They can help save our planet.
Subaru helps stuff get recycled and re-used at TerraCycle.
Subura loves the Earth so they want to help, just like us.
We collect trash at home that we cannot put in our recycle bins and we collect stuff in our neighborhood from other helping ninja’s houses, like Jack and Garrett, and, my mom’s hair dresser, Elana, she collects her K-Cups at her salon for us, and two other helping ninjas, Claire and Alice, their mom, Kate, collects trash at her office for us. Her office, It’s called Eli Lilly.
We collect snack wrappers and snack bar wrappers and chip bags. And K -cups for coffee makers and plastic coffee lids and coffee cups.
Some of the stuff we buy at the store has the TerraCycle symbol on, letting you know you can recycle it with TerraCycle. Otherwise, it will not get recycled and goes to a landfill. Thumbs down.
My little sister Layla, can be annoying sometimes, but I guess we do have some fun when take a trip over to see Shannon, and we get to recycle our trash. with TerraCycle.
We think it is fun to help the planet.
Once we collec all the trash that is not recyable at our homes, we take it to Shannon. She sends it TerraCycle. TerraCycle will recycle the stuff into something that Subaru can use to help others. Like a park bench or a picnic table. Shannon said they have a whole magazine of stuff and she would show it to us next time. Shannon also said that Subaru will donate it to a local school or park. I think that that is very nice and I think that all busineses should do this. My friend and brother and sisters do to.
Shannon helps us to put the trash in the boxes. She thanks us everytime we come and bring her stuff to send to TerracCycle. She says that she mails the boxes and TerraCycle does the rest.
Shannon must be really smart. And Subaru. Becuase they help the planet and becaue they know about TerraCycle.
We collected so much trash this time that we filled all the TerraCycle boxes really quick and Shannon said she would have to take some of our trash out to the work garage to put in the other TerraCycle boxes..
This is Vedh and Sawyer. I’ve known Vedh since he and I were four years old. Sawyer, he’s my little brother, he is six.
Subaru has these boxes to collect plastic coffee lids and cups all over their offices that way you can’t forget to recycle it.
If you do, then well, that is pretty lazy.
TerraCycle has these other boxes that are really cool called zero-waste boxes. These zero-waste boxes, you can put anything in, and they will recycle it. It’s awesome.
By the way, I don’t like writing in school and typing is just ok. So my mom lets me use a voice text in her notes on her iPhone and I get to record what I am saying. She will ask me questions and then I’ll answer into the microphone. Sometimes I just say things like I am now. Then she copies and pastes it into this word press blog so it lets me fix my words pretty quick that were spelled wrong. My mom helps me with the punctuation. And some of the grammer that I don’t know or forget. Like periods and capital letters. I always forget those. She also told me this is still writing even though I am talking, so I guess I like to write when I get to write this way. And my mom is teaching me how to upload pictures to the blog today.
So, why do we love TerraCycle. (My mom just asked me to repeat the question.) I love Terra Cycle becuase the guy who founded it, he doesn’t belive in throwing things away. He says we can resuse everything. My mom says he is right. When he was 25 he had this idea and about ten years later he is doing really great stuff. I have to agree with him. (His name is Tom.) Tom says that ALL waste can be recylced and reused and used as renewable energy.
Here is a picture of Tom. My mom taguht me how to screen shot something on her iphone, and then we can put it in the blog. This picture came from Tom’s website: TerraCycle.com.
What Tom is doing with Terra Cycle is awesome because he is helping the world. He is teaching others about waste and what we cacn do with it, besides dump it in a landfill. It reminds me of when I learned about composting. I thought that was pretty cool too. Taking food waste and making it something else that helps more food grow. My mom taught me about composting. She loves to compost. And she really likes TerraCycle. So do me and my friends and Layla, Sawyer and Skyler. And my dad. When he remembers to do it right. My mom sometimes has to remind him,. She says, “Mitch that goes in the TerraCycle box.”
If you know someone using Terra Cycle, send pictures to us, and we can post them. And your story too. That way we can all help save the sea animals and the ocean and the planet by using less stuff and not throwing things away in the trash can.
Reusing stuff and recycling, well, its actually, cool. And, well, so is TerraCycle.
Leo, Helping Ninja, Age 9
These are our pictures with Shannon at Tom Wood Subau in Indianapolis, Indiana where we take our trash to be mailed to TerraCycle to make cool stuff out of it.
TerraCycle was founded by Tom Szaky. This video is about Tom and his ideas on waste and recycling. You can learn alot by watching the video. You can also learn more about him and his company at TerraCycle.com
Subaru Loves Earth
To learn more about Subaru and it’s partnership with TerraCycle visit:
Did you know that most at home pick up curbside recycling does NOT accept plastic bags and plastic wrap? And, actually, if you put it in the curbside bin and send it to the recyling plant, it could cause major problems. The plastic bags and plastic wrap gets caught in the machines and they have to stop recycling efforts, unlodge the plastic bag and then, what’s worse – they go straight to the landfill. So what do you do? Find a local plastic recyling drop off box, such as this one that my friends and my family — we take ours here.
My mom lets me collect the plastic trash and then we take it here about once a month. It’s not too much trouble, it only took a minute or so and, well, actually, it is kind of fun. Plus it is helping the planet.
Totally worth it.
Leo, Helping Ninja, Age 9
This is a local grocery strore, Market District. Plastic they can recycle: plastic shopping bags, plastic producec clean storage wrap, (plastic baggies, like Ziplock) plastic bread bags, plastic newspaper sleeves, bubble wrap and clean, dry plastic trash bags.
Matt Mays asked me during a shoot at our home for the new Indianapolis Zoo Doplhin Show Production, “After this is all said and done, what do I want this to do?”
“To inspire change and inspire others to choose to refuse single use plastics!”
There I sat in my Be The Change shirt, leading an organization to inspire youth and inspire others to learn how to help the planet, inspire others to stand up to plastic and help the environment, hoping what my family does will inspire viewers in the zoo audience watching – and I failed to say this!
I answered to the best of my knowledge and spoke the truth of what I had learned going plastic free nearly six years ago and nearly zero waste over the past year.
Honestly, I was nervous and I didn’t recall seeing that on the production schedule that I would be personally interviewed, so was a bit caught off guard. Don’t get me wrong, I was flattered that Helping Ninjas were asked to be interviewed, to use our everyday life choices and experience and knowledge of how to use less plastic as an example to the Indianapolis area community, so, yes, I was excited that this photo shoot, Helping Ninjas was asked to participate; I had thought they wanted to interivew just the children!
Layla, my duaghter, and Helping Ninja being interviewed on what types of things she packs her lunch in, other than plastic.
Leo, Age 9, got to share his testimony of how it makes him feel when he helps, and how he hopes others learn the harms of global plastic pollution on marine animals.
It was a great experience for the Helping Ninjas, and anything we can do to help inspire others, we are hope for the challenge.
I do, however, remember telling Mr. Mays under the bright lights and into the camera lens something I feel is important for others to consider before tossing sometihng into the trash can, and that somethng is this:
“There is no such thing as away. “
“Everything must go somewhere.”
Yesterday, I was watching old re-run episodes of the Brady Bunch with my four children, and Mr. Brady had gone grocery shopping; Mike and Carol had switched duties for the day. Mr. Brady had brought home four brown, paper bags full of food! The Brady girls, excalimed, “Good job Daddy!”
He preceeded to pull out plastic bag, after plastic bag, after plastic bag of vegetables.
Layla, my seven year old, goes, “Look Mom at all that plastic!”
Leo, says, “Yep, and those plastic bags are still here on the Earth. “
Almost 40 years later.
Leo is right.
Plastic. made out of petroleum, takes hundreds of years to bio-degrade. Hundreds.
Although, I didn’t ace the interview exactly as I would have liked, said the exact things I wish I had in retrospect, having perfect rehearsed answeres to each question, instead, I had done something just as great. Maybe, even greater.
I had taught my children something.
They were now aware.
I wanted to share this story, and how my family and the Helping Ninjas have embarked on a journey to refuse single use plastics and also, share a few photos that we captured of Mays Entertainment and his crew; a few “behind the scenes” photos of the new production to educate the environemental harms of plastic on dolphins and how one can help. We cannot wait to see the end result, and hope our story and experiences will hope to inspire others to refuse single use plastics!
As I embarked on this journey of learning the consequences of plastic straws, I discovered something. They are everywhere. And – they are NOT recyclable. And, they contain BPA.
Once I started paying attention, I realized the severity of the problem with not just straws, it was plastic.
It occurred to me that if 91% of plastic is not being recycled, then that means a large chunk of that 91% of plastic is ending up in our oceans. And, our oceans supply almost all of the Earth’s oxygen.
@HelpingNinjas quickly realized restaurants were unaware of brands that sold eco-friendly options, some surprisingly were not aware of the “plastic epidemic” & fortunately were open minded & whole heartily willing to try alternative straws.
In fact, Helping Ninjas inspired restaurants to make the swtich.
Some restaurants in Indy where we are based, were not even aware of the issue and were happy to learn. And eager to make the switch.
You can too.
Luckily there are a wide variety of environmentally friendly straws available to consumers.
There are reusable straws.
There are compostable straws.
There are biodegradable straws.
Bamboo straws, stainless steel straws, glass straws, hay straws, corn straws and plant-based PLA straws.
We have all kinds at all house! And we keep them in the console of our family car, so when we are out and about or traveling we our prepared!
Helping Ninjas were able to assist McGuires restaurant in south Florida with making a switch to biodegradable straws!
An initiative to educate the youth on cause and effect of global plastic pollution. Helping Ninjas™ was first founded because of love for animals. Founder and creator, Leo Berry, since he was a toddler had had a love for animals and insects and science.
So, naturally when Leo heard how straws are hurting our oceans and the marine animals living in it or on beaches, his reaction was like this, “Straws are doing what?! How rude!”
Leo and his fellow Helping Ninjas are embarking on a new journey to help tell the world how to take a stand for what is right, and stand up to straws and joining the fight to end plastic pollution.
Wild Kratts™ was a favorite past time show for Leo to engage.
At the age of seven, a month before his 8th birthday, Leo and his mother sat down at the computer and began researching what animals were endangered. Leo’s mother knew that he loved animals and thought it might be an interesting topic to research together and gave them an activity to spend quality time together.
“Leo was very heartbroken when he found so many species on the list, I think I could literally here is heart-breaking,” said Lindsey Fella-Berry, The Helping Ninjas Mom . “I saw the empathy and concern in his eyes. And, then – the despair. and confusion. He didn’t understand why this was happening.”
Leo’s mother explained to him and they read reasons for each species to have been placed on the list. “Then the wheels began turning,” said Leo’s mom. “A honest, genuine desire to help these creatures expelled from his little body and heart, and a passion to tell the world how to do it.”
“If you build it, they will come.” Field of Dreams. 1989.
Helping Ninjas was founded by my son, Leo Berry, out of his love for insects and animals and his desire to help them survive.
It all started with a field trip to a local pumpkin patch, sadly, that is no longer in business.
While accompanying Leo’s class on the hay ride, I learned something.
What I learned was not only alarming, but it inspired me to learn more and to want to find out what could be done to help. The gal on the farm was showing us a bee colony; she mentioned the rapid decline of bees and that less than 10% were left – in the world!
I looked around at the other parents in the wagon sitting in the hay, and not one of them looked up from their smart phones. But, the children, they were listening intently. Bees were on the endangered species list!
Then the ride continued and we were soon picking pumpkins. Pumpkins that bees had pollinated to ensure growth, so that we could be enjoying this activity.
Later that night, I couldn’t get those bees out of my head.
Bees, endangered? How was this possible? And, how had I not heard about it?
I knew a little about our ecosystem, and I had enough sense to realize that this was not good. I discussed this with my husband. He was as shocked as I was. I voiced my concern that this topic was not on the nightly news and he suggested that I “Google it.”
So I did.
We need bees to live, right?
And the answer to that question is—yes. Without bees and their pollination, we will not be able to produce high yields (about 2/3 of all food.). And without food, as we all know, we can’t survive.
The next day afterschool, Leo and I began discussing what I had discovered. His interest was obvious. As a mother I was excited that my seven-year old was asking questions.
A door for communication opened.
My son was demonstrating an interest in something other than playing video games or having a “nerf war” with his friends. I could see the eagerness in his eyes. It was a magical moment. Leo wanted to learn more, and he couldn’t get enough.
I was able to answer some of the questions, and some of them I could not.
So, to take advantage of his interest in electronics –we turned to the good ole internet again. Together, on the computer, we began researching bees and their endangerment and what this actually meant.
In doing so we also discovered that sharks were endangered.
I’m thinking this and I will never forget what Leo said.
“Mom, um,” Leo looked up, “if sharks go extinct, we will die. They are at the top of our food chain.”
I was stunned. Stunned that he connected the dots, and even MORE so, that he was right. Bees at the bottom of the food chain. Sharks at the top. Both species VERY, VERY important. But what I could not wrap my head around was why were more people not talking about this?
His love for animals and insects along with our conversations and research sparked Leo’s passion for science. He wanted to learn more, and he wanted to help.
Learning about endangered species inspired a genuine concern to help. Leo showed a sincere interest to share with other children what he had learned.
After researching endangered species, impacts of pollution on our environment – and how nature works — he turned to me, very matter of factly said, “Mom, we have to help.”
“What do you mean, Leo?”
“We have to help save the world.”
I smile. “I agree.”
“I have to tell my friends.”
“That is so sweet. You don’t think they know this information?”
“No, but they need too. Mom—I know! We need to build a website! Then I can tell all of my friends to come on the website so they can learn about this too. We have to help.”
“That is a great idea, Leo. What should we call the website?”
“Dark Phantom Ninja”
“Um, well, uh, Leo, that might be a little scary for some parents or kids, I see where you are going, like batman, who comes out at night to save people, right?”
“Yes,” he smiles.
“Let’s think of something else, ok? What do you want the website to do?”
“Help who?” I ask.
“The world. I need to teach my friends how to help the world.”
I smiled. I knew.
“Leo, then how about…helping ninjas.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
His three younger siblings immediately engaged and together as a family, Leo founded the club—and we invited friends. Together the Helping Ninjas were formed.
A few days later after this initial conversation, I had the idea of the Helping Ninja Emoji.
Which, now is being used as Helping Ninjas, Inc. Not-For-Profit logo.
It just appeared in a vision.
I was sitting at the computer, attempting to build Leo’s new website, re-learning how to use a website building application, testing out my old skills from college.
I had double majored in Integrated Strategic Communications and English from the University of Kentucky, plus minored in Public Relations and Creative Writing so I had a little experience in web design and content writing, granted I hadn’t used them in a decade or so (I ran a successful Pilates Studio for eight years, then retired to be a stay at home mom for the last six years).
As I sat daunting at this new technology –it came to me.
A ninja headband.
I drew it on a piece of paper and showed Leo.
He loved it.
My then four-year old year old daughter, Layla drew about 50 versions that day with her crayons.
I knew that children would love it – they love emojis!
And, honestly, I do too.
I knew in that instance, it wasn’t just a good idea, it was a great idea. And, it was necessary. Helping Ninjas needed to be a new word in the Wikipedia.
We were going to teach children to be highly skilled at helping and inspire others to want to help through education, awareness and outreach.
My son wanted me to help him share this knowledge with everyone, so they could in turn help animals, our planet, and well, each other!
I was going to make it my mission to show my children the happiness that accompanies helping and giving back; that there is no greater joy than what comes from an act of selflessness.
This reminded me of how precious and impressionable our children are, and how our actions shape our future — and I wanted to help bring Leo’s idea to life.
His idea inspired me. And, now I wanted to “be the change.“
I typed and typed and typed until that late that night.
Playing over and over in my head were the infamous words, “If you build it, they will come.” A line from a classic, Field of Dreams.
“If you build it, they will come.”
I knew if I built this website, if I helped my son achieve his goal, if we started bringing awareness to important global issues and the importance of teaching it to youth and sharing our ideas and/or opportunities of how to help — that people would pay attention.
It might inspire another person to do the same. And another, and another.
It might inspire a company to do more. It might inspire a celebrity to help. It might inspire a pro-athlete to give back, it might inspire more involvement in community service.
Any attention is good and the more attention being brought to being kind, helping one another, helping ourselves, healthy living, and connecting the dots – helps nature and helps the planet.
A helping ninja, by definition, is a highly skilled person who excels in the act of helping. So, let us all show our youth what that means. The power of positivity.
Let’s get kids excited, not just about learning, but learning how to help!
To set an example for our youth as well as the urgency – we must teach our youth how to help; we must show them how, and we must provide a reason for them to want to help and give them the means to do so.
Helping Ninjas was created not to be just a website, or just a club, it was created to be a movement.