Mangroves are one of nature's miracles. Tropical trees that can somehow grow in saltwater and even thrive with the give and pull of tides. They're also one of the planet's secret weapons in the fight against climate change, able to hold three to four times the amount of carbon as land-based trees and forests.
So when Gusti Deska Yunita saw a lot of rubbish in the mangrove forest in her hometown Borneo, Indonesia, she knew she had to do something. After all, the plastic piling up wasn't just threatening the beautiful forests so vital in our climate fight, it was also at risk of washing out to the ocean and adding to the billions of tons already swirling around.
Collaborating with the Mangrove Centre Balikpapan in East Kalimantan Borneo, Deska organized a community cleanup to mark World Mangrove Day. Rather than just dumping the trash elsewhere, Deska saw the effort as a chance to develop a better waste management and a circular economy initiative. Volunteers sorted and the trash they picked up and sold to the recycling company to be recycled. The income from the waste was dedicated to the Mangrove Centre to support their efforts to conserve and restore the mangrove ecosystem from waste.
For Deska, the effort was proof that we can all make a difference.
"The climate crisis can affect anyone and anyone can be a changemaker to tackle this problem . . . Just imagine if everyone makes just a few simple things to their day-to-day lives – collectively it would make a huge positive movement to the environment. I can say, everyone can be a changemaker!"
Protect mangroves from marine debris, be part of the solution by implementing a better waste management.
In Their Own Words
What was the problem you saw?
I discovered the severe waste problem and handled the waste problem (mainly plastic) in mangrove forests in my hometown as the forests filled with garbage and it significantly disrupted the growth of the mangrove trees.
What was your idea to solve it and the end result you wanted to achieve?
In cooperation with the Mangrove Centre Balikpapan, East Kalimantan (Borneo), I initiated the celebration of World Mangrove Day by promoting better waste management and a circular economy in order to conserve mangrove ecosystems and prevent plastic waste from going into the ocean.
Why is this solution important to your country and community?
I think it is tremendously important to become a movement in the community and my country. We collected and separated the waste and then sold it to a waste management company to be recycled. The income from the waste was dedicated to the Mangrove Centre to support its efforts to conserve and restore the mangrove ecosystem. As we know, mangrove forests are able to keep three to four times more carbon than the forest in land. Therefore, tackling climate change is important through mangrove preservation and the improvement of waste management.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
The lack of awareness of people who live in mangrove areas. They throw their rubbish into the mangrove forests. Furthermore, beyond that, residents threw their garbage in unused land and openly burned the garbage, resulting in air pollution and health problems in the surrounding environment in the city. As an environmental leader, my goal is to mitigate climate change by improving waste management in the community.
How did you mobilize people to take actions?
I coordinated volunteers by using WhatsApp and making a poster announcing the Balikpapan Mangrove Clean-Up. More than 20 volunteers joined the event. We cleaned up three hectares of the mangrove area. We collected and separated the waste and then sold it to a waste management company to be recycled. The income from the waste was dedicated to the Mangrove Centre to support its efforts to conserve and restore the mangrove ecosystem.
Who were key stakeholders and partners that worked with you?
I would say thanks to volunteers, the government body, and the recycling company who were involved in this movement.
What insight, ideas, or suggestions would you offer someone looking to take action in a similar way?
Waste management can help climate change by reducing waste and recycling, which are effective ways to decrease the generation of greenhouse gases and methane, especially when it happens in a mangrove conservation area. I call changemakers to mitigate climate change in mangrove areas right now.
How did this project you created promote equity or justice in your community?
The climate crisis can affect anyone and anyone can be a changemaker to tackle this problem. Not only men can go to mangrove forests and lead stakeholders to clean mangroves from garbage, but women can also lead movements to fight climate change issues in mangrove forests. During the World Mangrove Day event, many women were involved in this movement. Just imagine if everyone makes just a few simple things to their day-to-day lives – collectively it would make a huge positive movement to the environment. I can say, everyone can be a changemaker!