Robyn Halasz is one of the runners-up in our Citizen Entrepreneur Contest to honor local green heroes, for her work with SeaAngels, a volunteer beach cleanup group she started and runs near her home in Boynton, FL. In addition to cleaning up her local beaches, she provides volunteers with reusable buckets and sorts and recycles the collected waste. Below, she answers questions for our Global Green Room Interview.
How did you become environmentally conscious?
I remember as kid seeing the PSA from Keep America Beautiful about not littering. It always just stuck with me. When I moved to Florida and noticed how littered the beaches were, it got to the point that I felt something needed to be done. After I started doing beach cleanups, I realized there was a lot of information that I didn't know so I started to research things -- such as how long it takes for a plastic bottle to degrade and what effects cigarette butts have on our environment. Over the years, I've learned a lot and I'm still learning things about the effects of litter. Now I'm spreading the word so others can learn too.
What would surprise us about your work?
I'm not sure if this is surprising or not, but we are the only cleanup group in South Florida that does monthly beach cleanups that are "green" -- we use only sustainable cleaning materials such as buckets instead of bags, litter grabbers, and reusable gloves instead of disposable gloves. We do not want to add any more plastic or latex to the landfills. We also recycle everything we can at our cleanups, such as mono-filament, batteries, your standard cans and bottles. I will upcycle as well, meaning I will make art pieces from them, display items with educational information on the display and we also send certain items such as juice pouches to Terracycle, since they cannot be recycled. We make every effort to be green, including using our water coolers instead of giving out plastic water bottles and handing out reusable grocery bags so people stop taking plastic bags from stores. We take nothing from the cities or county we are cleaning; therefore, we also save the taxpayers money by using our own supplies and by cleaning up beaches and parks that otherwise may not be cleaned. We have become the example that Palm Beach County uses to have other groups become more eco-friendly.
Who is your hero?
I have two heroes. The first would be my Grandmother, Annie. She was one of the most generous and loving people I have ever met. It was her love of animals that I inherited. She would take care of stray cats and feed the outside birds every day. Her love and compassion for living things showed me how animals needed to be treated. She had a hard life yet took care of herself and anyone who needed help and never asked for a thing. A strong woman with a heart of gold, who was an unsung hero to me. My second hero would be my husband. He has been inspiration not just to me but to others as well. He has been dealing with a serious kidney disease for several years now yet no matter what is thrown in his direction, he deals with it and moves on. He works very hard and his attitude about his situation has always been a good one, which has allowed him to lead a fairly normal life -- and he never complains about his situation. He supports and encourages me with everything I do especially with our Sea Angels group and is always there to help and fight for what's right. So many people would use their health issues as an excuse to let things pass them by, but my husband Mike never does -- and although it's not always easy for him, you would never know it. He's a hero to me and to others who could learn from his example.
What has been a recent work success or accomplishment?
I have had some small victories, such as getting several more garbage bins placed down at our local beach. I also got Palm Beach County to change some of the ways the maintenance workers were cleaning our beach park. They were using leaf blowers, which were blowing cigarette butts and other litter into storm drains that go straight into the ocean water. Plus, they were not sweeping up the litter or picking it up. Leaf blowers are gone and they are now sweeping and picking up the litter, which makes the park look better and is healthier. One of the major things I had accomplished was the installation of the mono-filament bins. We were able to have six placed and I personally maintain them and recycle the fishing line. We are currently working on trying to have cigarette bins installed at the park and have plastic bag bins taken down that were placed on our county beaches. The plastic bag bins have been causing more litter by the bags shredding and pieces of plastic bags littering the dunes -- and adding unnecessary plastic into the environment.
If you had the power to make one global and green change, what would it be?
This is an easy one. I would like all the trash to disappear from our oceans and environment. I would also like to cast a spell on every human being to make them eco-friendly and to stop them from littering.