Green Junction: “It is our collective and individual responsibility: By Julie Peller Ph.D.

Younger generations tend to express greater concern about the state of the earth. Their futures are challenged by the rising human population that generates greenhouse gases, pollution, and extorts natural resources, among other stressors. Societal messaging continues to promote materialism, which distresses nature. Unprecedented weather events are among the earth’s messages. Young people who recognize these unsustainable circumstances respond in productive and impressive ways. Lefteris Arapakis, the founder of the nonprofit organization Enaleia(, is part of this youth movement that prioritizes care for the earth (and humanity).

Lefteris’s family has a long tradition of fishing in the Athens area of the Mediterranean Sea. During fishing expeditions, he saw that garbage was constantly collected in the nets with the seafood. Most fishermen responded by removing the garbage and tossing it back into the water. He knew this was extending the garbage problem. As a result, he started his nonprofit organization to incentivize the removal of plastic garbage. Enaleia pays the fishers to collect and separate out the plastic garbage. It is also teaching sustainable fishing, according to the statement on the website: “We teach fishing practices that preserve local fish populations and remove the mounds of plastic that pollute the world’s seas, adapting the fishing industry for a green future.”

Education and collaborations are key components of successful solutions to critical problems. Enaleia has many donors, sponsors, and partners and has a tremendously positive impact. “We work with 229 fishing boats in Greece and Italy to clean thousands of kilos of plastic from the sea every week. Most of this plastic then enters the circular economy through recycling or upcycling and becomes beautiful and useful new products.” People are usually responsive when given ways to solve serious problems.

“It is our collective and individual preserve and tend to the world we all live in.” Dalai Lama 

Julie Peller, Ph.D., is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ). Julie has been writing a weekly column for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), and student and citizen participation in environmental work.

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