Local Heroes: The Plastic Free MV Kids


Because you are never too small to make a difference.

Plastic Free MV

It all began when a group of kids at the West Tisbury School, led by teacher Annemarie Ralph, convinced many Island stores to stop offering plastic straws with their Straw Free MV campaign. But they wanted to make a bigger impact. Since then, Plastic Free MV (PFMV) has succeeded in getting nonbinding resolutions passed in five Island towns that ban the sale of plastic water and soda bottles under 34 ounces. 

Here’s a timeline of their quest:

April 5, 2019 West Tisbury bottle ban becomes of the first of its kind in North America. Tod Hardin, of Plastic Oceans International, told The MV Times then that passing the bylaw was “an example of a long-term solution that can serve as an inspirational model for other communities to follow.”

April 22, 2019 PFMV passes plastic bottle bylaw in Chilmark, and the room full of voters stands and cheers.

May 14, 2019 Aquinnah, the final up-Island town, passes PFMV bottle bylaw.

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Aug. 7, 2019 PFMV begins selling and distributing reusable water bottles, and partners with the Take Back the Tap initiative to encourage the use of public water bottle refill stations. 

March 4, 2020 After Tisbury abruptly removed the plastic bottle bylaw article from its town warrant, PFMV storms the town hall and says they will seek a petition for a special town meeting if selectmen don’t place the article back on the warrant.

March 6, 2020 In a rare move, Tisbury officials vote to reopen the warrant, and return the bottle bylaw to the warrant. 

June 13, 2020 Voters approve the plastic bottle ban, making Tisbury the first down-Island town to pass the nonbonding resolution.

May 15, 2021 Oak Bluffs voters approve the plastic bottle ban, becoming the fifth Island town to do so. 

 –Lucas Thors

Emerging Leaders

“Many people say that Sweden is just a small country, and it doesn't matter what we do,” Greta Thunberg said in a December 2018 speech. “But I have learned you are never too small to make a difference.” 

Like Greta, our students — our own Gretas — were not too small to make a difference when they stood before a full room at the West Tisbury annual town meeting to ask that the town end the use of single-use plastic bottles. They came armed with more than T shirts and earnest faces — they were prepared with facts and rehearsed remarks. “Did you know that plastic doesn’t biodegrade?” “One hundred percent of the fish in the deepest part of the ocean have plastic in them.” “We are looking to you to make a better future for us all.” 

Before the meeting, they’d met with business owners who would be impacted. When the owner of 7a expressed support at the meeting, the room erupted. 

One not-so-small step for the Island.

There are other changes we need to make to protect the Island we love. They aren’t difficult, but we will need to do them together. With leadership — kids and adults working together, one step at a time — there are solutions.

The Plastic Free MV kids and other student activists I’ve met recently inspired me to create this magazine to help communities find solutions to sustainability problems where they live. We hope Martha’s Vineyard Bluedot Living will be the prototype of more local magazines we plan to launch around the country. With the proceeds, we will create an Emerging Leaders Program to support student climate projects.  

Guess where that idea came from.

–Victoria Riskin

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