by Justin Murphy
“Ordinary, regular people are the ones that make the biggest differences in the world every single day”
Meet Danielle Richardet. She is a wife, a mother of three, and like many of you, an owner at Tidal Creek. Lately, she has been receiving some extra attention for a film collaboration, inspired by her blog, that garnered honors in the Brita FilterForGood Film Project and was screened at the Sundance Film Festival. If you ask her, however, she’ll tell you that she is simply a UNCW student who started recycling because it was “awesome on campus” and became “contagious.” She soon realized she wanted something more. “When I started looking at my recycling bin like I looked at my trash can and saw it overflowing, I decided, I wanted to get rid of that too,” Richardet said. “It turned into: the first ‘R’ isn’t recycle. The first ‘R’ is reduce, so I’m going to reduce what I buy and reuse what I already have.”
Richardet started blogging in November of 2009 after an enlightening experience on a camping trip with some friends. After a friend’s husband exited a gas station toting drinks in a plastic bag, she spoke up: “You can say no thank you,” Richardet said. “They are three easy words, and it’s not a big deal.” After the trip, her friend suggested she start spreading the word about environmental consciousness, as her husband had taken Richardet’s words to heart. “Whatever you say works,” she told her.
The blog, entitled It Starts with Me, started as sporadic tidbits of advice on how Richardet reduces waste in her day-to-day life: choosing not to use plastic produce bags, purchasing music digitally, using reusable shampoo travel tubes. The key to reducing consumption, she explained, is to stick with a waste-reducing habit once she has picked it up. “I take everything step-by-step,” she said. “I don’t want to overwhelm myself.”
After taking a family vacation to California and helping a friend pick up litter on Santa Monica beach, she created the Our Daily Ocean section of her blog. “We do Surfrider clean-ups and Big Sweeps at Wrightsville and we pick up hundreds of cigarette butts,” Richardet said, “and in the twenty minutes we were on the Santa Monica beach we picked up zero.” Smoking is banned on Santa Monica beach and the Santa Monica pier provides “bait tanks” that house butts and feature information on the dangers cigarette butts can pose to marine wildlife.
In the Our Daily Ocean section Richardet chronicles twenty-minute beach walks that she takes with her children, husband and friends while picking up litter. In the first day alone, they picked up 346 cigarette butts. Since that day, Richardet and friends have picked up 15,572 cigarette butts in 52 twenty-minute walks. In the film, also entitled It Starts With Me, director Destin Cretton and crew follow her as she collects butts and presents her evidence to the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen. “I don’t think it’s a new problem,” Richardet said, “but to have somebody break it down to 20 minutes helps bring more awareness to the problem.”
There hasn’t been much of a response from the Board of Aldermen as a result of the film, as they wish to wait until September to address the problem. (There is talk of a beach ambassador program where members of the community could sign up to educate people on the beach about the effects of litter.) Over the summer they are encouraging people to do their own twenty-minute litter walks in order to get a gauge for how bad the problem is. Tidal Creek will have a sign-up sheet at customer service for those wishing to pledge twenty-minute litter walks at Wrightsville Beach.
Danielle will also be volunteering in the store in order to educate shoppers on the benefits of, and ways they can save by, shopping in bulk and reducing waste. As stated in her blog, “When we stop accepting the products that litter our streets, our beaches, our parks, our world, then we effectively start changing a system that isn’t working. Plastic pollution is a global problem, but in order to fix a global problem, we have to start local. And it doesn’t get more local than your own home. I encourage everyone to take the Show Your Plastic Challenge on myplasticfreelife.com. My thought process: if we don’t like something, we need to stop talking about how much we don’t like it, and actively work to change it.”
Danielle Richardet moved to Wilmington in 1999, to attend UNC-W and because her family loves the beach and everything about this area. She moved from St. Louis, Missouri, the number 8 most toxic city in America.