Who is Laura O’Shaughnessy-Swan?
Laura O’ is an art teacher at Long Beach Long Beach Middle School, a mother of two, and an environment activist who has triggered important changes for her community. She also holds the Guinness record for the world’s longest continuous line of surf boards (2016)
The message in the artwork and tireless effort of Laura, together with local environmental groups, was the combined effort behind the reduction of single use plastic bags in Long Beach, which was signed by the Long Beach City council in 2016, and enforced in early 2017. This important milestone is called the “Reusable Bag Ordinance”. This ordinance made stores charge people if they wanted a plastic bag instead of using their own. Laura catalyzed this through the advocacy group she created, Stewards of the Sea, and by hosting clean-up events and informational sessions to recruit support. Together with other local organizations, she succeeded in implementing important changes for her community.
- Poison and injure marine life
- Threaten our food sources
- Disrupt human hormones
- Litter our beaches and landscapes
- Clog our waste streams and landfills
- Threaten the survival of our planet
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American produces about 4.4 pounds of garbage every day, 29 pounds per week and 1,600 pounds per year. Most trash ends up in landfills and, with decomposition, can end up polluting oceans through runoff and contaminating our food chain. We have a responsibility to reduce our ecological footprint for the sake of all life on earth.
How can we help?
The Video above captures International Coastal Cleanup Day in Long Beach, NY
What was your initial inspiration for creating Stewards of the Sea and leading this movement?
"Born sea side, baby of five and aware always of mother ocean and her force. I learned and respect her power... healing and otherwise it felt natural to get large with children’s art and form Stewards of the sea (STEWARDSHIP:job of taking care). We take care of our ocean. I have raised two compassionate, scholar athlete, bilingual sons. Both of whom are ocean faring first responders as senior guards on the Long Beach Lifeguard Patrol. They proudly worked as teacher’s assistants while pursuing their careers in education.My eldest son, is now a Food and Nutrition Director at Long Beach HS. They both have known the necessary force behind an art build and have supported my every move by being there on site and involved in the conception stages of an environmental impact statement through art"
What was the hardest thing you had to do to gain credibility?
"I did not need to win any credibility. I am a local art educator for almost three decades and I am always willing to “jump in” to lead or lend my skills when it comes to Art, the environment and creative solutions. The art studio in town was getting together to make art “Save the Mermaids” to help gain awareness of the LNG port Ambrose.When people become aware; thats how I get my credentials"
Whats your go to dinner on a Friday night?
"virtually impossible....elderly parents learning from their wisdom.but we like an outdoor grill in the yard under the sky."
All time favorite Movie?
"The Incredibles, no doubt. I believe in using my “powers” for good. 🌎"
Whats your favorite thing to do with your family?
"The ocean, 900 feet from our home, is our family favorite go to. In a world where one is always searching to live in the now, the ocean humbles and helps one rely on instincts. We learn a reverence for a broader perspective as a human, while in the mercy of the ocean, the wild. The ocean provides a lot more for us than we probably even consider as an essential resource for life on Earth. Without us consciously thinking about it, the ocean provides: about 70% of the oxygen that we breathe, absorbs a huge amount of carbon dioxide and converts it to oxygen, the food we eat, extraordinary biodiversity, the transportation of goods ,the support for local economies, travel destinations, recreation"
How does the result of the reduction of Single Use plastic bags in Long Beach and in Nassau county, and hearing back from Trader Joes about reducing plastic from their stores help your movement to ban single use plastic bags?
"Traders ... We have all been wondering...waiting...WAKE UP PEOPLE! Anything that makes people aware. What else is it about except raising awareness through example around the need to eliminate or at least cut back our uses of plastic bags. There is No away!!"
One Person can spark change with the help of others. Laura with her students and community, with help other organizations, reduced the amount single use plastic bags used in Long Beach. This helped keep their streets, beaches, and oceans clean, which resulted in a domino affect across Long Island and NYC.
"One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.”
Pictured here is Laura with Governor Cuomo and her students from Long Beach Middle School
-LongBeachNY11561. “Fin2Tip Surf Board World Record.” YouTube, YouTube, 29 May 2016, http://youtu.be/aenDGHGuVr0. -Nutshell, Kurzgesagt – In a. YouTube, YouTube, 1 July 2018, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RS7IzU2VJIQ. -“Plastic in Our Oceans Is Killing Marine Mammals.” Wildlife & Environmental Conservation Organisation - WWF - WWF-Australia, http://www.wwf.org.au/news/blogs/what-do-sea-turtles-eat-unfortunately-plastic-bags. -Maxwell-Gaines, Chris. “Austin Plastic Bag Ban and Its Connection to Water.” Innovative Water Solutions LLC, Innovative Water Solutions LLC, 5 Mar. 2017, www.watercache.com/blog/2013/03/austin-plastic-bag-ban-and-connection-to-water. -Mishra, Isha. “Dead Whale Project of Greenpeace Philippines: Stirring Art Installation Will Show You the Reality of Marine Life.” InUth, Inuth, 19 May 2017, http://www.inuth.com/beyond-the-headlines/environment/dead-whale-project-of-greenpeace-philippines-stirring-art-installation-will-show-you-the-reality-of-marine-life/. -“Municipal Solid Waste.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, http://archive.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/web/html/. -Lbeachms. “Trashion Show Video.” Vimeo, 21 Feb. 2019, http://vimeo.com/166280083. -“Gov. Cuomo: Pass the CCPA.” New York Renews, www.nyrenews.org/cuomo?fbclid=IwAR3d1KY2jt0v8NIQKXgW4OWInBB3OsqT9oqa7mJHncgtW0GPGZRT2N4DxNM. -“Stewards of the Sea.” Katie Couric - You Can Watch #GenderRevolution Right Here,..., www.facebook.com/stewardsofthesea/?epa=SEARCH_BOX. -Rifilato, Anthony, and Jasmina Dzurlic. “Long Beach Bag Fee to Take Effect on Earth Day.” Herald Community Newspapers, 19 Apr. 2017, http://www.liherald.com/stories/long-beach-bag-fee-to-take-effect-on-earth-day,90378?fbclid=IwAR0MKzzdmW3lVMIp1SsKltNid2o96gHXYhY5UUPq7Fi2nAxl-qqJZRi3Vkg. -DeWitt, Karen. “Cuomo Kills Long Island Gas Transfer Station.” NCPR, 13 Nov. 2015, www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/30095/20151113/cuomo-kills-long-island-gas-transfer-station?fbclid=IwAR0MKzzdmW3lVMIp1SsKltNid2o96gHXYhY5UUPq7Fi2nAxl-qqJZRi3Vkg