Sanibel Sea School students do some pretty amazing things. We are so proud of our young Ocean Tribe members who study sand dollars, experiment with ocean acidification, and observe fish behavior. Not to mention our kids who raise money to save manatees, take amazing photos underwater, and create beautiful ocean art. They inspire us every day, and we think you should hear their stories.

Elinor Rienzo, 9, has been a Sanibel Sea School student for 4 years. During summer camp and trips to the beach with her family and friends, she noticed a lot of trash in the sand, and decided to do something about it.

She thought maybe if people had a trash bag nearby, they would be less likely to litter, so she invented the Trash Stash. It’s an eco-friendly, personal trash bag that you can easily carry with you. Disney loved the idea so much that they awarded her a $500 Disney Friends For Change Youth Grant! Elinor has been hard at work making and distributing her product, but she took a quick break to let us interview her last week. Here’s what she had to say about the project:

What made you realize that trash was a problem for our ocean and the creatures that live in it? 

Cleaning up the beach at Sanibel Sea School and doing beach clean-ups with the Girl Scouts. 

Tell us about the Trash Stash. What is it and how did you come up with the idea? 

The Trash Stash is a reusable, personal-sized trash bag that will allow people to store their trash so it doesn’t accidentally enter the environment. These bags can clip to bikes, beach bags, back-packs and lots of other places. I came up with the idea at the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit in 2014. I wanted people to have an easy place to put their trash when they are on the beach or out in nature. There is just too much litter on the beach.

What has been the most challenging part of your Trash Stash project so far? The most fun part? 

The most challenging part of my project has been finding the right bag. It took a few weeks to get samples. The most fun part has been stamping them with my family & friends.

Where can people reading this get a Trash Stash?

People can get a Trash Stash at Sanibel Sea School and at the Sanibel Island Farmers market on April 26th. 

Besides carrying a Trash Stash, what are some other things people can do to help keep trash out of the ocean?

Use more reusable items, don't buy things that are not useful, and recycle!

What's your favorite sea creature?

That's a really, really hard question! I guess the whale shark because they are cool and big.

Favorite ocean activity?

Jumping off of boats into the ocean.

Thanks Elinor, we are so proud of the work you’re doing for the ocean!

Like the Trash Stash Facebook page by clicking here, and be sure to pick up your own Trash Stash for a $2 donation at Sanibel Sea School or at the Sanibel Farmer’s Market on Sunday, April 26th! Stay tuned for more interviews with young ocean advocates.