Wexford People

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Gorey's answer to Greta Thunberg is Jenna (12)

Continuing our series, Cathy Lee meets a proactive 12-year-old taking a hands-on approach to environmental protection, and turns the spotlight on 450 local volunteers who removed almost three tonnes of rubbish from local beaches


12-year-old Jenna Shannon and her mum Caroline

12-year-old Jenna Shannon and her mum Caroline

Jenna picking up rubbish on the beach

Jenna picking up rubbish on the beach


12-year-old Jenna Shannon and her mum Caroline

Creagh College student Jenna Shannon (12) from Ballycanew, Gorey kept herself busy summer this summer as she took matters into her own hands with an environmental project focusing on cleaning up her local area of North Wexford.

Daily she went for walks on beaches, forests and close to rivers with her family and her dog and each time she brought with her a bag and her trustee litter picker to pick up plastic bottles, cans and wrappers or whatever bits of rubbish she found along the way.

She said that since taking part in the project, her eyes have been opened to the message of sustainability and she has begun to change her own mindset and the habits of her family.

'Once I noticed that there were loads of plastic and rubbish that's when I really started to take this seriously and I now have a bamboo cup and cutlery and a metal straw. My younger brother has them too, it's the way to go,' said Jenna.

'In the forest near Dodd's rock beach, there's a swing that my brother and I played on but we couldn't play much this summer because there was rubbish everywhere, with materials left from tents and old drink bottles all left behind. I saw loads of rubbish everywhere and it didn't really make me happy to see that, it made me sad.

Jenna said that the more rubbish she saw, the more bags she wanted to try and collect.

'When you walk around you can see maybe a wrapper here and a wrapper there and you think there's not that much, but then we you actually get the bag and the equipment to do it, you realise that you can actually fill up a whole bag in a half an hour walk. This didn't make me happy at all and it made me want to do more.

'I told my grandparents about my project and my granddad gave me a litter picker. Since then, I take it in the car with me everywhere we go. In the future I would like to see a lot more people care for the environment and pick up the plastic or any rubbish at all like me.

Jenna wants to see more people acting more like the teenager she looks up to, Greta Thunberg, who recently addressed world leaders at the United Nations climate action summit.

'In the future I would like to see a lot more people care for the environment and pick up the plastic or any rubbish at all. I really look up to Greta Thunberg, she's all about the environment. She's young and she does the clean up thing because other people won't and she makes me think I could do that too.

'The way I see it, there are little things that anyone can do like having bamboo toothbrushes, metal straws or bamboo cutlery. You could make it your goal that when you go on a walk you have to pick up two pieces of plastic and put it into the bin.

'They say if we don't change what we are doing that we only have a couple of years before disaster but the way I see it is that really, we don't have those years, we have to do it now,' she said.

Proud mum Caroline said that there is a difference between the younger generation and the last.

'What's different about my daughter's generation and mine is that we used to talk about climate change as something that is coming but that's something down the line. The kids today are getting stuck in but it's common sense. I think Jenna likes Greta Thunberg because she is loud, she has gotten noticed and has got the whole crowd behind her.

Caroline said that from what she has seen from walking with her children is that there seems to be more dumping happening during the summer than any other time.

'We often walk through our local area the whole year round, but the good summer weather brings more people outdoors. Unfortunately while enjoying the beautiful surroundings that the Courtown woods and beaches have to offer, there are still too many uncaring individuals who think dumping is a way of life. On one day, my daughter picked up two full bags of cans, plastic and glass bottles, with some broken and some floating half emptied in a little river beside a beach, all in just one area at the end of Courtown forest by Dodd's rock beach. It was just quiet scandalous really.

'People are more inclined to dump out of sight, but there needs to be more bins in these type of public places as it just turns into a huge accumulation. It's easy to say don't throw it in the first place but as soon as you leave town, there won't be easily accessible bins as you go along your walk. People might pick up their dog dirt but they don't want to carry it for ages before they see a bin. If a bin was within a ten minute walk way, I think then people would be likely to pick up rubbish they see and be more like Jenna,' she said.

Wexford People