• Lydia Ferrari Kehoe

Meet Flossie Donnelly, The 11-year-old environmentalist who cleans Dublin beaches

Like many young people in Ireland, Flossie Donnelly is part of a global shift in attitudes towards climate change and the environment. The 11-year-old, who lives in Sandycove in Dublin, has been cleaning her local beaches for the last 3 years. She first became aware of plastic waste in the sea while on a family holiday to Thailand when she was just seven-years-old. “I went on a kayak with my mum and the amount of plastic and rubbish we found in the water was crazy. That really encouraged me to fill a boat with rubbish and bring it back to the shore.”

When they returned to Ireland, Flossie noticed that the same thing was happening here; “When my mum and I would go crabbing, we’d see rubbish everywhere. At first, I just started picking it up not really thinking about it.”

What started out as an instinctive act to pick up unwanted plastic, evolved into Flossie starting her own beach cleaning group. “The group started with me making posters and no one showing up!” she says, admitting that at first, the support wasn’t very good. “Luckily I ran into the local councillor [Cormac Devlin] who told me to put it all on social media instead. So I did, and a lot more people came to the beach cleans.”

Last year, Flossie campaigned to have Ireland’s first seabin put into Dún Laoghaire Harbour. These are floating devices that collect rubbish in the water by creating a small current, dragging debris towards them. After roughly 6 months of fundraising, Flossie finally achieved her goal and the bin was put in place in May of last year. “When we finally got the seabins and put them in the water it was a really exciting time. We donated the other one to the National Yacht Club and it is going in in April.”

Flossie is also involved in the School Strike for Climate Change movement, which has recently gained traction in Ireland after originally starting in Sweden. “I got my whole school to protest,” she says, and has also encouraged her school to become a greenschool.

When asked about Ireland’s attitude to the climate crisis, Flossie told me that she thinks “we can do a lot better, but everyone is really trying now.” However, Flossie is not unreasonable, and added that she is sympathetic towards the government’s other responsibilities, “I remember that they have a lot of other things on their hands. But I still would like them to listen.”

Flossie believes that no one should be angered by the environmental situation we’re in, “there’s no point feeling like that, we just need to get on with it, do the best we can and keep a positive attitude.”

Her advice to any young people who want to help the environment is “it doesn’t matter what age you are, the main thing to remember is try to recycle and don’t put things you are recycling into a black bag, it ruins it! Try to use as little plastic as possible, and finally, if you can pick up a piece of plastic or two when you see it, do!” You can find out more about Flossie and her work on her blog, flossieandthebeachcleaners.com.

Flossie pictured with a seabin, photo credit: Twitter of Cllr. Cormac Devlin

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