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Weekend Agenda: Jeremy Casebeer Reflects on Single-use Plastic in the Dominican Republic

I’ve been playing beach volleyball professionally for over a decade, lived half the year in Rio de Janeiro since 2015, and have been fortunate to train and compete on hundreds of the most beautiful beaches in the world. 


Sadly, I’ve never seen a beach without plastic. 


I recently attended the third annual Batting for Clean Up in the Dominican Republic, hosted by the nonprofit Players for the Planet which unites athletes for global change. The Dominican Republic is a relatively small island nation with a disproportionate amount of world-class baseball talent. Some of the biggest names on the island (Nelson Cruz, Robertson Cano), 150 volunteers and younger athletes, half a dozen American major leaguers, and world champion climber Sasha Digiulian came together to raise awareness through beach clean ups in the capital of Santo Domingo. 


One of the beaches we cleaned was a small cove littered a foot high in some places with single use plastic bottles, styrofoam containers, and trash. Waves were constantly rolling in and taking trash out to sea. 


I’ve seen plastic at every beach I’ve ever been to, but this was brutal. 


Instead of a stunning Caribbean beach, we saw a disturbing reminder of the true cost of cheap products and short term thinking in business. 

 

Jeremy Casebeer Cleaning Beach


It was apparent there were multiple systemic problems at play. It would be easy to look at a beach full of trash and say the local community needs to do better. But in reality, in Santo Domingo and the majority of the world, there isn’t a robust infrastructure for trash collection, let alone recycling programs. Even if there were, that would be a system to clean up the mess, rather than prevent it in the first place. 


If your bathtub is overflowing, it wouldn’t make any sense to start cleaning up the water on the floor before turning off the tap. Yet, this is how we approach many environmental issues. Instead of looking upstream to fix the problem before it begins, businesses too often try to mop up their mess with a fancy press release, cleanup, or offsets without addressing the real cause - single use plastic.  


Without better materials and policies to force or incentivize the large multinational corporations that have the largest impacts to pay for the true cost (externalities) of their products, nothing will change. 


Recently the failures of capitalism have become more apparent. The climate crisis, the loss of entire ecosystems, human rights and child labor violations in the supply chain, the lack of jobs that pay a living wage, and systemic racial inequality to name a few.


Capitalism has lifted billions of people out of poverty since the industrial revolution and fossil fuels have played a pivotal role in that. 


However, all systems and technologies come with unintended consequences and must evolve. Capitalism and the way businesses operate must evolve beyond maximizing profit, to account for the true cost of their products and impacts on people and planet. 


That’s why I have so much respect for MiiR and thousands of other B Corp, 1% for the Planet and Climate Neutral brands, that work to understand what their impact is, what they can do about it and actively work to implement an upgraded form of capitalism and long term thinking into their businesses. 

Jeremy Casebeer On Computer


John Wooden once said: "If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" Unfortunately we don’t have time for do-overs. 


My son is 5 years old and has been obsessed with the ocean since he could walk. I have this (hopefully) rational optimism that by the time he’s my age he’ll be able to take his son to our favorite beaches without any plastic.


Yet, there is a very strong likelihood that he may never experience that in his lifetime. To reference my son’s favorite book, The Lorax, ‘Unless someone like you (all of us!) cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’ 

 

Written by: Jeremy Casebeer

 

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