IT’S IN THE BAG Teenage environmentalist’s campaign is helping to eliminate plastics. STORY: CHRIS GERBASI // PHOTOS: ANTHONY RAO
n the 1967 film “The Graduate,” Dustin Hoffman’s character received one word of advice about his future: plastics. Indeed, in the 1970s, plastics took over manufacturing and consumerism in many forms, including the introduction of plastic bags in supermarkets. But few people could have imagined that one day, 5 trillion plastic bags would be produced annually. Zoé Mueller, a Mount Dora eighth-grader, has a clear image of what she wants her future to hold: no plastics.
She created a successful campaign, Plastic Bag Free Mount Dora, in which many city merchants agreed to use and promote alternatives to plastic bags in an effort to help protect waterways and wildlife. What started out as a project to earn a Silver Award in the Girl Scouts expanded to include partnerships with green companies and environmental organizations, and led Zoé to create more initiatives to persuade people to stop using plastic bags. Her next project, to earn a Scouts Gold Award,
will be to petition the state Legislature to repeal a law prohibiting the regulation of plastic materials. At 13, Zoé seems mature beyond her years. She knew she wanted to develop a project to help the environment because she had noticed the waste of plastic bag use at an early age. “I started realizing how many plastic bags I saw being used just when I went to the grocery store, and that was a small amount of time,” she says. “If you take that and multiply it by how many times a day (that happens), that’s a lot
Every month. Everywhere.