|Interviewing at Radio Vanuatu to promote the race.|
My childhood in South Minneapolis included things like the Mayday Parade and the Milk Carton Boat Race. I created a crossover between the creative, constructive process I learned while building boats of milk cartons and parade floats out of paper mache and this tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It was pretty fantastic.
My job at Wan SmolBag is outreach about the environment and waste disposal. On a small island, landfills are a pretty unappealing concept, however there is no trash incinerator to take care of the rubbish a different way. We have a new metal recycling place, but that doesn’t help with the plastic bags, plastic bottles, glass and paper waste. So, I’ve decided that my job needs to be teaching reuse and creative thinking about garbage.
Here is where the Milk Carton Boat Race comes into this story. From when I was 6 or 7-years old, my family built boats made of milk cartons and raced them on Lake Nokomis against other equally questionable seafaring vessels. We saved milk cartons, milk cartons which would have been thrown in the trash, for months before the race. Then we used them as the building blocks and flotation devices for our boats.
I took the idea of boat racing on things that would go into the garbage a step further. I opened it up to any form of garbage and put in a rule that they couldn’t buy anything from the store. I looked around online and found other people with the same ideas. I took pictures of their boats and showed them to the staff at Wan SmolBag. Then I asked if they were interested in a boat race. They said yes.
The public schools here run on a trimester system. Between each term there is a 2 week break. School break causes a disruption in the population of the youth center with regulars going out to the island to visit family and students coming down with their friends. I suggested that we should do our boat race during school break so as to not disrupt the classes any more than they otherwise would be. That was one week before the term break.
I spent that week requesting funding and sponsorship from local organizations, interviewing to promote the race, writing and re-writing budgets and generally doing all the behind-the-scenes work these things take. On Friday, I presented the boat race concept to the youth at the Friday meeting. Then I forced them to sign up. Every youth I saw that day, I made sign up with a team. At the end of the day I had under 50 youth signed up for 6 teams and I was pretty convinced it was all going to fall apart under me.