An Interview with Renata Larocca

At the beginning of the month, our own Renata LaRocca attended the World Oceans Conference held at the United Nations in New York. This event went from June 5-9 and brought together people, companies, and organizations from all over the world in order to discuss the current state of our oceans and how to protect them from pollution and hazardous human activity. 

 I sat down with Renata, who also shares a seat on the Board of our philanthropic partner Wild Swell.  We had a discussion about her experience at the event, and she had so much to say that it was well worth laying the interview down in writing for our readers. 

First off, tell me about how you got started working with Wild Swell?

Logan and I were colleagues. During the summer of 2015, I was talking with him over some chips and guac, when he asked me if I had ever thought about what I could do to give back more than I take from this world. I was caught off guard by the question, and found myself thinking that I’m just one person, and the world is a big place. What difference could I make? I really didn’t know. 

 Fast forward to a year later, and Logan had quit his job in Corporate America. I learned more about his plans to start Wild Swell, and I joined in helping where I could, because I believed in him and in his dream. Over the past year I’ve learned so much and it has completely impacted who I am and the way I live. 

You attended the Oceans Conference at the United Nations in New York earlier this month. Tell us a little bit about your experience there.

 I’d never been to a conference or any sort of showing like this before. I was really excited to go, so I even invited coworkers and friends to join me. 

It was the first Oceans Conference that the UN held, and they called for as many countries to try and set aside any short term economic gain in order to avoid the catastrophe of plastic pollution to our oceans. It was a huge weeklong meeting of the minds to educate and discuss this huge problem plastic pollution is creating. 

Wild Swell was invited to attend the event after a meeting with Plastic Oceans – an organization that is creating awareness and fighting against plastic pollution. What was their presentation like?

 Plastic Oceans showed a 20 minute video that was launched this past January. It gave a good perspective of the conditions the oceans are currently in and the risks we are putting on the future of our own species if we don’t make a change in our use of plastic.

 Then after the film they steered an open discussion about possible solutions to escalate action toward this issue, and how to reverse the negative impact plastic has already caused to the ocean.

 That part was really awesome. It was really cool to see such a diverse group taking part in the discussion. There were so many different people there sharing their unique perspectives: college students, world leaders, children, executives of corporations. They were all coming together to discuss possible solutions and asking for advice on how to change the current system. “How can we help?” was the overwhelming theme. 

The discussion gave even small kids the opportunity to speak into a microphone in front of the United Nations. A child, who couldn’t have been more than eight years old, came up to the microphone and said, “You guys this is an issue! We need to tell the government immediately! We really need to tell them!” It was cute, but it was also true! 

What were some of the ideas that people shared to fix the problem?

 There were so many different and creative ideas people had for solutions to the problem. Some I can remember off the top of my head were things like changing current legislation around plastics, and making the government classify plastic as toxic by showing the toxins that are released are bad for humans. Plastic production could be restricted and recycling could be more strictly enforced.

 Another was changing the view of plastic. Instead of saying it’s trash, say it’s a resource. It’s made of petroleum. Maybe when you recycle it, it loads a reward card that generates points toward gas or travel or minutes on a phone. Putting value on plastic rather than treating it like trash could go a long way.

 Another big one was educating our youth. Kids are more independent these days than ever before, and if we can help them understand what they will face in 30 years, they may be more likely to enforce change, and possibly even influence older generations to change, too. 

 Of course there were many other suggestions, too. It was neat to see who these suggestions were coming from, and how simple some of them seem. 

Is there anything else you want to share about the event?

 Overall it was a great event.  I’m really glad I attended, it was good. I just wish it could have been longer, and that I was able to hear more of the different ideas that people had!

How has learning more about plastic pollution influenced your daily life?

 It’s been more enlightening than anything. Attending this event and working with Wild Swell has given me so much more awareness. I feel guilty, because you don’t even realize how much plastic is in your life. It’s part of your every day, so it’s invisible to you. It blends in, and you often don’t even notice it. It’s everywhere and it’s hard to get away from.

 I’ve been traveling a lot, constantly on the go. I’ve noticed situations at the airport for example – I see a sandwich, and think, ‘I want to eat you so bad, but you are surrounded by plastic and I don’t want to buy you’. Now I see it’s not just a sandwich. It’’s a sandwich covered in plastic. 

 Before beginning to learn more about the issue about a year ago, I didn’t even know that plastic never goes away. Never. I had no idea! Now I’m more aware of the choices I have and how to avoid the plastic. 

 I used to think that the world was big and believed that any problems were so far away that I wouldn’t have to worry about them. Everything I’ve come to learn has taken me out of my fantasy world and into reality, and the team has helped me look at the world on a smaller scale and realize these problems are right in my backyard.

I have a whole new level of appreciation for the world and all of the precious life that occupies it. 

Any final thoughts?

 Yes. I think the main goal of this event was to spread awareness. The more we are aware, the more people care, and the more people care, the more we will change. I think that’s really important to keep in mind as we try to fix this problem and save our oceans. 

Thanks Renata for sharing your experience with us!

Written by Lauren Ennis

Logan Avant