Ten-year-old Ryan Evans says he is the “main wearer” of the Bag Monster, but his 11-year-old sister Lauren and the other Brandywine Sprouts kids all spend time in the costume – made up of 500 plastic bags – to show people how many bags the average American uses in one year.
The Brandywine Sprouts, a group of kids from a handful of families in Brandywine Hundred, Chadds Ford and the Kennett Square area, are trying to get more people to use fewer plastic grocery bags. In fact, they have been on a mission to make Delaware the first state in the U.S. to ban them, though just last week Hawaii stole that title.
The Sprouts are part of the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots program, which aims to empower young people to make a difference for people, animals and the environment. The Sprouts were founded by Ryan and Lauren’s mom, Dee Durham, and 9-year-old Ian and 12-year-old Guilia Gaadt’s mom, Suzanne.
“We were just trying to get the kids involved in environmental issues and educate them about sustainability isses and conservation issues,” Durham said. “We took them to farms, the landfill, compost facilities, on hikes, overnights at Ashland ... but as they got older we looked for a meaty project ... something we thought we could tackle.”
The kids are passionate about their “Bring Your Own Bag” mission, especially afterlearning that the polyethylene offenders can harm wildlife, “especially [sea] turtles, which mistake them for jellyfish,” said 11-year-old Skyler Wick.
“For me, it’s important because they are polluting everything. There are bags everywhere,” said 10-year-old Mackenzie Fulton.
The Sprouts, whose campaign has been part of the Delaware Museum of Natural History’s “Conservation Quest” exhibit since March, report that 37 countries and 25 municipalities in the U.S. have implemented some sort of plastic bag legislation, whether it’s an outright ban or a mandatory recycling program. They are helping draft a bill to ban the bags in Delaware.