Museum Launches Effort to Reduce Single-Use Plastic

say no to plastics

Mystic Seaport Museum launched an initiative to work toward eliminating single-use plastics on its 19-acre site on the Mystic River.

The program is being developed and implemented through the leadership of a staff Sustainability Committee in collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md. The teams at each museum share information, resources, ideas, and results of implementation efforts, and will be giving a joint presentation at the 2019 Council of American Maritime Museums Annual Conference in Manitowoc, Wis., this coming April.

“Both of our museums are situated on estuaries, which brings with it the responsibility to be stewards of the water and shoreline that provide so much for our institutions,” said Steve White, president of Mystic Seaport Museum. “We recognize the gravity of our role in shedding light on the human impact on ocean health, and we believe in doing our part to help change that impact in a positive direction and to set a standard among maritime museums and surrounding communities.”

The Sustainability Committee at Mystic Seaport Museum began meeting in early 2018 at the direction of White, who encouraged the committee to make recommendations for financially sustainable, positive changes to the Museum’s impact on the environment that also will inspire and energize the public to adopt similar practices.

“In searching the web for information on plastic pollution, it is very easy to become overwhelmed with all the organizations, the photos, the news stories, and the tips, which can lead paralysis because it’s too hard, it is too vast a problem,” said Sherri Ramella, who leads the committee. “But we have to start somewhere and focus on what can be accomplished with each tiny step.”

In conjunction with the Museum’s food-service partners Coastal Gourmet and Event Network, the following changes replacing single-use plastic products have been implemented:

  • Paper shopping bags instead of plastic
  • Nautical-themed reusable shopping bags made from 100-percent recycled plastic water bottles are available for purchase
  • Plant-based straws and pasta stir sticks
  • Plastic lids and straws are available upon request only
  • To-go containers and serving ware have been switched to paper rather than plastic or foam
  • Catered events are using wooden utensils, and plant-based cups, or rented china, glasses, and cutlery.

Moving forward, the Museum will continue to investigate ways to reduce single-use plastic consumption, while keeping in mind that alternatives used must be ecofriendly, and will focus on making changes across the Museum grounds to enable visitors to reduce plastic consumption and recycle more effectively.

Ramella observed that plastic is a product designed to last forever and In the first 10 years of this century the world economy produced more plastic than in the entire 100 years of the  20th century.

“This is not a problem we can ignore,” she said. “Habits are hard to change, but once they’re changed, the new habits are just as strong.”


New Captain of Schooner BRILLIANT Named

BRILLIANT captain Dan McKenzie
Dan McKenzie, the new captain of BRILLIANT.

Mystic Seaport Museum has named Daniel McKenzie captain of the schooner Brilliant.

The 61-foot schooner is the platform for one of the oldest youth sail training programs in the country. Designed by legendary naval architect Olin Stephens II and launched in 1932, Brilliant operates a busy schedule of summer youth programs and spring and fall adult programs on multi-day cruises throughout New England and beyond. McKenzie will be responsible for all aspects of the vessel’s operation.

“Being captain of Brilliant requires someone who is not just an outstanding mariner, but someone who understands the special role the schooner plays in introducing young and adult sailors to the joys and life lessons of sailing,” said Mystic Seaport president Steve White. “Brilliant is a public ambassador for the Museum and everything that makes sailing special. We are confident Dan is the right person to be at Brilliant’s helm.

McKenzie brings extensive experience in sail training and education with billets on numerous sailing vessels, including the Los Angeles Maritime Institute’s 110-foot brigantine Exy Johnson, the clipper Stad Amsterdam, Pride of Baltimore II, and most recently completing three trans-Atlantic voyages on the SeaMester vessel Argo.

“My emphasis in sail training is definitely to make sure that the students have a strong foundation and support net where they feel comfortable challenging themselves–and being challenged,” said McKenzie. “I expect that for a lot of these people maybe they’ve been on boats before, but not a sailboat, and certainly not on such a large boat that requires so much work.”

Schooner BRILLIANT. Photo: Mystic Seaport
Schooner BRILLIANT under sail.

For high school students, getting beyond peer approval and instilling self-confidence is a key goal for McKenzie.

“They are at a time in their lives when the approval of their friends matters a lot to them—and that’s OK—but  they need to know that none of it matters if they don’t have confidence in themselves,” he said. “I think that is part of the reason why I enjoy challenging students so much on these boats. It’s an important lesson for everyone.”

A native of New Jersey, McKenzie has a B.S. from Warren Wilson College and is presently completing a M.S. ExEd from Minnesota State University. He holds a USCG 500 tons Ocean Masters License and is a resident of Mystic, Conn.

When asked what is he looking forward to most in his new post, McKenzie had a quick answer: “Sailing that beautiful boat!”

For more information about the Brilliant and her sail training programs, please visit the Brilliant webpage.