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By Brooke Bauman

Brooke BaumanBrooke Bauman is a junior environmental sciences major and journalism minor at UNC-Chapel Hill. Brooke was recently recognized by the Udall Foundation for her leadership on environmental issues at Carolina.



Taking an Interest in Understanding More About the Impact of Plastics

When I started school at UNC in 2017, I started hearing about how plastic straws were a convenience and representative of our wasteful culture. Up to that point, I had never questioned my individual impact. In high school, I used multiple plastic bags per day in my lunch from home without a second thought. But as an environmental science student in college, I became immersed among people who were striving to live sustainably and reduce their individual waste stream. Their passion inspired me to start making small changes to reduce my plastic usage.

But I still wasn’t fully onboard. Because in the back of my head, I kept thinking: does it even matter? It seems like my individual choices are just a drop in the ocean-sized problem of rampant plastic production.

My head was swimming with thoughts. Sometimes when I needed a break from homework, I’d go down these rabbit hole Google searches to learn more about our plastic addiction. I found interesting scientific studies, personal websites and articles exploring the different facets of the issue. In the initial research stage, I whittled down my concerns to a question. Who is responsible for fixing our plastic addiction: individuals, governments or corporations?

In fall 2018, I took Elizabeth Baier’s audio journalism class in the School of Media and Journalism. It was one of the best classes I’ve taken at UNC. Throughout the semester, we learned how to weave natural sounds and music into narrative pieces. We shared our work in class and provided productive feedback for each other. At the end of the semester, I wasn’t quite ready to put down the recorder. Professor Baier encouraged us to keep practicing by taking on our own creative projects. That’s when I had the idea to create a podcast to explore my question about plastics.


The Origins of the Guilty Plastics Podcast

During winter break, I started working on an outline for a four-episode podcast series called Guilty Plastics. Each episode explores a different topic related to the central question. I went through the outline and noted places where experts could provide insight to the discussion. Sometimes I had a speaker in mind and other times I searched online for someone who studies or works in that field. Throughout the spring semester, I interviewed guests over a platform called Zencastr.

This summer, I produced the podcast episodes. I went through each interview and picked out the most relevant sound bites. Then I wrote a narrative around each interview, incorporating music from Blue Dot Sessions and other background sounds that I had collected from visits to the beach, a recycling facility, and an ocean clean-up.

My vision for this podcast is that it doesn’t promote a certain agenda but rather, explores the central question so that people can form opinions on the topic for themselves.

This project would not have been possible without the initial guidance from Professor Baier and insight from those interviewed, especially Bonnie Monteleone and Alexis McGivern. I’ve also been so thankful for feedback from Jeremiah Murphy, Sara Peach, John Bauman, and Anja Krieger, who produces the Plastisphere podcast.

Creating this podcast has been a humbling learning experience and I’m so grateful to my family and friends for their encouragement to go for it. I still have an imperfect track record on limiting my plastic use, but the people I interviewed for this project have motivated me to keep trying.

If you find a space to produce something that you’re passionate about, I encourage you to go for it! Passion is enough qualification to create.

All episodes of the Guilty Plastics podcast can be found here:

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