When Rotarian Barb Sheehan traveled to Cambodia with her fellow District 9780 members for a Global Grant visit, she was saddened by the trail of plastic water bottles she was forced to leave behind. With unsafe drinking water and no available recycling, she could see that the single-use bottles and other trash was either burned, or left as litter that would eventually make its way into rivers and oceans.


Like many people who have participated in Global Grants and Rotary travel, Barb’s life was changed by the experience. She realized how lucky she was to live in Australia where it was easier to choose alternatives to plastic products, and she doubled down on her efforts to reduce waste in all aspects of her life.


When ESRAG developed the “I Fix The Planet Video Challenge” to create a short video about a Club environmental project, Barb stepped up.  “My Small Step to Fix the Planet” is a simple but important account of how one person can make simple changes — and how those changes can be contagious. 


Barb’s club now has a Plastic Policy that discourages single-use plastic at club activities and events.  Plastic Solutions caught up with Barb to see if she would share the policy with other Clubs.  She has shared her club’s Environment and Sustainability Policy, which contains the following section on plastic:


  •       That at Rotary Club of Highton events and activities the Club encourages single-use plastic free practices, with the aim not to use single use plastic disposable plates, cups, straws, bottles, and disposable coffee cups, nor use plastic balloons. 
  •       That at Rotary Club of Highton events and activities every effort be made to sort rubbish and recycle. This includes paper and cardboard, hard and soft plastics, glass bottles, cans, and organic food waste. 
  •       That at Rotary Club of Highton events and activities, recyclable drink containers are encouraged, including refillable water bottles and reusable coffee cups.


In an email to Plastic Solutions, Barb said that the policy has helped spread the word to neighboring clubs. In one example, another club invited Highton to jointly host a BBQ lunch.  They offered to provide things like plastic plates, cups and cutlery.  

Barb responded “by gently explaining our policy of not using those items, and they welcomed my options for alternatives, and have since taken a different approach themselves. They host a monthly Rotary market and are currently investigating making the market ‘zero waste.’” 


With more than 48,239 Rotary, Rotaract, and Satellite Clubs in the world, Barb’s “small step” could become a large step indeed.


For a copy of Highton Rotary Club’s complete Environment and Sustainability Policy, click here.  If your Club has a policy it would be willing to share, please send a copy or link to


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