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Michael Stanley-Jones: Defending the Environment From Plastics Pollution

Michael Stanley-Jones: Defending the Environment From Plastics Pollution

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and an online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Michael Stanley-Jones, the senior advisor of the Circular Research Foundation. Let’s learn about what’s happening at the foundation and how Michael is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi Michael, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through the Circular Research Foundation?

Michael: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Plastic pollution has been a rising global concern. Plastics are the largest, most harmful, and most persistent fraction of marine litter. The Mediterranean Sea is highly vulnerable to microplastic pollution, small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life. The plastic-free Mediterranean Sea project aims to enhance the Mediterranean through measures to promote the elimination of plastics in “plastic-free beach zones,” where the sale of plastic goods is restricted and sale of clothing made from natural fiber is promoted.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Michael: Growing up near the San Francisco Bay in California, I have a lifelong love for marine life and have worked to protect seas, estuaries, and rivers from harmful pollution. My passion led me to volunteer for grassroots organizations and eventually join the United Nations, where I have worked for two decades on preventing pollution, ending poverty, and promoting environmental justice. Defending the environment keeps me close to nature and brings me in contact with inspiring people all over the world.

Spiffy: What would you say is the impact of your work?

Michael: My work builds bridges between local communities and regional and international campaigns to protect people's health and the environment. As chair of California's Santa Clara Basin Watershed Management Initiative, I helped develop the regional watershed management plan and historic pollution prevention plans for copper, nickel, and mercury contamination of the San Francisco Estuary. In Europe, I am the author of Plastic-free Mediterranean Sea and The Circular Fashion Initiative.

Spiffy: That’s awesome! Next, tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your community?

Michael: In 2023, the United Nations Environment Management Group (EMG) prepared a UN system common approach on pollution to provide a framework for collective action in support of the Implementation Plan “Towards a Pollution-Free Planet.” The common approach helps the UN align its efforts and expertise to accelerate the sustainable, inclusive, and just transition towards a plastic-pollution-free economy. I serve as a communications consultant with the EMG supporting this effort.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Michael: While working in Kenya with Poverty-Environment Action for Sustainable Development Goals, I joined a local group of performing artists and began reciting poems I had written about nature, plastics, and romantic love. I drew close to the world of sustainable fashion during this time, until the COVID-19 pandemic ended my short career as a performer and 'poet-laureate' of the United Nations Environment Program. “I accidentally become a plant…” one poem began. A very happy accident!

Spiffy: That’s so cool, Michael! Thanks for speaking with me today—it’s been an honor!

Michael Stanley-Jones is senior advisor to Italy‘s Circular Research Foundation, working on plastic pollution in the fashion industry. Over an 18-year career, Michael served with the UN Economic Commission for Europe and UN Environment Programme in Geneva and Nairobi. He was the inaugural Secretary of the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion. (Nominated by Alexandra McNair Quinn. First published on the Ladderworks website on March 4, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2024 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.