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Today we begin our 5th week of our Book-jumper Summer Reading Series and today, we delve into the world of plastic bags.
Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred.
The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock that tried to eat them. Something had to change.
Isatou Ceesay was that change. She found a way to recycle the bags and transform her community. This inspirational true story shows how one person’s actions really can make a difference in our world.
“People thought I was to young and that women couldn’t be leaders. I took these things as challenges; they gave me more power. I didn’t call out the problems-I called out solutions.” Isatou Ceesay
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul and Elizabeth Zunon is a beautifully written story that captives the reader and inspires one to initiate positive change.
As a young girl Isatou noticed a plastic bag. Many years later, all grown up with a child of her own, she walked on the road she had walked as a young girl and noticed a huge heap of plastic bags. She started to notice these heaps of plastic everywhere.
One day a heap was burning and she couldn’t even breathe from the stink and smoke. One day her goat was very sick as were many of the goats in the village. The problem? The goats were eating the plastic bags. Now Isatou as she walked decided to pick up one bag. Then two. Then ten. Then a hundred. But what to do with these bags? Her and her friends washed them.
One evening Isatou was watching her sister crochet and asked her if she could teach her. After a bit of learning, Isatou decided to take her clean plastic bags, cut them into strips and started crocheting them into money purses. She then convinced her friends and family to do the same thing. She took her purses to market and was laughed at but then one kind girl bought one and put her money in it. Soon everyone wanted a money purse made of plastic bags.
The illustrations are multi-layered collages using papers and fabrics of Africa by illustrator Elizabeth Zunon. Elizabeth is a very inventive and talented artist who added many layers to this beautiful story.
About Author Miranda Paul
“Miranda is a teacher and children’s writer. She first traveled to Gambia in 2003 and heard about Isatou’s amazing project. Twelve years and five trips later, she’s excited to have brought this story to the world. “I got rejected many times before I found someone willing to take on the book,” she says. “Through interviewing the women of Njau I learned the importance of determination and confidence when working on something worthwhile.” Miranda currently spends her days writing new books, traveling, and speaking at schools.” www.mirandapaul.com
About Illustrator Elizabeth Zunon
“Elizabeth’s childhood in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), West Africa, featured an everyday life filled with tropical colors and patterns. Now living in Albany, NY, she is happy to help bring inspiring stories from Africa like Isatou’s to the world. Every story is an opportunity to let those bright tropical colors burst onto the page as paint, paper, fabric, and in this case, plastic bags! Using plastic bags in her artwork gave Elizabeth the opportunity to play, experiment, and think about other reusable materials she might make art with in the future. You can learn more about her at www.Lizzunon.com “
Somethings To Do
Let’s Learn about Gambia
Gambia is a country on the West Coast of Africa. It’s the smallest country on the African continent. Let’s take an adventure a learn a few new things about this incredible country. Have a look here for a list of Fun Facts about Gambia.
A Look at Plastic
We have a global problem with plastic. Here are some interesting facts and some things that you can do.
- 160,000 plastic bags are used globally every second!
- 5 trillion plastic bags are produced yearly. Side by side, they can encircle the world 7 times.
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a floating landfill of garbage in the Pacific twice the size of Texas, is mostly composed of plastic.
- Plastic will only start degrading after 700 years and will only fully degrade in 1000 years. This means that all the plastic that has ever been produced has not degraded yet.
- Plastic bags remain toxic even after it breaks down. It doesn’t biodegrade, it photo-degrades. It means that after it degrades, it breaks down into smaller and smaller toxic bits of itself – and bleeds and contaminates the environment.
What can you do ?
- Pack your school lunch in a reusable lunch bag.
- Recycle plastic items such as water and juice bottles.
- Take a cloth or canvas bag to the grocery store and keep reusing that each time you shop.
- Choose not to buy plastic. Buy those things which come in glass, paper or tin containers. Also buying in bulk is good.
- Does your city recycle. If so, make sure you’re in on it. Start a recycling program in your family.
- What other ideas can you come up with to recycle, reuse, or not produce more plastic ?
Want to make your very own plastic bag coin purse ?
You’re in luck. You even get to learn from the hero of our story Isatou Ceesay herself.
I was given a copy of this book for this for review. The opinions expressed are purely my own.