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USA: Colorado State Representative Ms. Lisa Cutter worked with “NoStyrofoam Ninja”, 10-year-old Madhvi to achieve ‘Zero Waste’

Ms. Cutter and Madhvi

By Tendai Guvamombe

USA: The State Representative for Colorado, Ms Lisa Cutter closely worked with 10-year-old environmentalist, Madhvi Chittoor, aka , “The NoStyrofoam Ninja”, heeding her advocacy and signature campaigns during climate change rallies. This comes amid, the passing of the Plastic Bill in July this year.

Ms. Cutter, Democratic Party member for Colorado House of Representatives, representing District 25
Ms. Cutter, Democratic Party member for Colorado House of Representatives, representing District 25

Ms. Cutter, Democratic Party member for Colorado House of Representatives, representing District 25 since her election in 2018 had intrinsic motives to take decisive action against plastic and Styrofoam. Some of her great works include her ability to set up a Special Committee to deal with Zero Waste. She was one of the lead sponsor of the Plastic Bill.

The most economically developed world is now part of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and this has escalated the institutional capacity to broaden climate action programs at local levels.

Despite the hurdles in convincing the generality of citizens in the adoption of a new legislative framework, Colorado has reached remarkable strides in aligning climate action programmes with polices.

The most astounding move is the collaborative efforts by legislators, stakeholders and advocates in achieving the House Bill 21-1162, also known as the Plastic Pollution Reduction Bill.

The new law comes with the scrapping of the 1989 Act that restricted the State from banning plastic products. The inception of the new law will now see single use plastic bags and Styrofoam being banned in stores and restaurants with effect from 2024.


Role of partnerships between legislators and environmentalists in achieving ‘Zero Waste’

Honourable Cutter delivering key speech at the Bill Signing
Ms. Cutter flanked by young Madhvi aka “No Styrofoam Ninja” 

The two years of advocacy, awareness and consultations had seen government officials and environmentalists joining hands together on the roadmap to plastic pollution act. In an interview with Spotlight Online News Journalist, Colorado State Representative Ms Lisa Cutter said she noted great efforts made by environmentalists particularly young people like Madhvi Chittoor in raising awareness on the bill.

“I think the public doesn’t always understand about legislative process. Whenever we do advocacy it’s a big public perception and opinion. So advocacy is really important on our work. Sometimes it’s very difficult to get things to pass without advocacy. When the public is coming along with you it gets easier.”


Ms. Cutter narrates advocacy role of 10 year old Madhvi Chittoor during campaigns

Ms Cutter narrated the role played by the 10 year old young environmentalist Madhvi Chittoor whose advocacy work gripped the attention of both the public and government officials.

“Madhvi, the NoStyrofoam Ninja, has been so wonderful in her advocacy that it had brought about real change and it is really important for our work. Her speeches and signature campaign brought more awareness and mobilized the people.”

Madhvi just prior to campaigning for a State-wide rule-change, made her school district Jeffco Public Schools switch from single-use carcinogenic Styrofoam non-biodegradable lunch trays to compostable ones impacting 155 schools and 86000 students.

This not only eliminated 7.6 million Styrofoam containers from going to the landfill annually each year but also protected the health of all K-12 students. This she had achieved from April 2018 to Sep 2019 through direct letter to the then Superintendent Dr. Jason Glass and also through a petition campaign to garner public support.

“I am grateful to have Madhvi and a lot of young people that she had inspired to get involved in lobby days, river clean-ups and climate rallies to bring attention on the dire need for a Plastic Pollution Reduction Bill. She was very vocal during her testimonies before the many Legislative Committees.”


Impact of the Bill on a global scale

The Governor of Colorado signing the momentous Bill
Bill Signing by the Governor of Colorado

Colorado is one of the few states around the globe to introduce a strong bill to effect a ban on plastic. This had a direct impact on developing countries, especially Africa where climate action programmes are still to be complemented with new forms of legislation.

Ms. Cutter emphasised on the possibilities of having a new form of legislation that may positively inspire other nations.

“It is a beautiful thing to have actions that ends in a cascading impact. Maybe our bill inspires somebody else to say that they did it in Colorado we can do it here. It’s just that it had a multiplier effect impacting people to create change in other places.”

As the nations are preparing for the 26th Session of the Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP26), anticipations are that nations that have made legislative laws on waste management will inevitably find a platform to present their recent developments.

Ms Cutter called for collaborative efforts by global leaders and all people to achieve a common purpose.

“We are hunger for more global change. I wish all the global leaders will get together. It is imperative for all of us to continue to advocate all we can to move our policies forward.”


Young Madhvi echoed on her working relations with the legislator

10 year old Environmentalist Madhiv Chittoor
10 year old Young Environmentalist Madhvi Chittoor

In a separate interview, the young Madhvi Chittoor echoed similar sentiments as she expressed her excitement in working with Ms Cutter and other government officials.

“I am so happy to work with Ms. Lisa Cutter. We need government leaders like Ms. Lisa Cutter who care about Climate Change. I first met the State Representative in 2019 during a Climate Rally after my collection of more than 3000 signatures on the ban of plastics and Styrofoam. Also, I had championed for Zero-Waste starting from 2018 and my first Climate rally speech in May 2019 at The Capitol Hill Steps lead to Ms. Cutter heading the Zero-Waste Committee in the summer of 2019”.

“Ms. Lisa Cutter is a strong leader and her leadership in the Legislative Assembly really helped to cut-through the bill passage process. We are working not only on Plastic and Styrofoam but also on many other issues like composting, waste diversion, recycling and extended producer responsibility. ”

Apart from this, the young Madhvi is the founder of EcoEthics, an environmental movement, that is gaining grounds across the globe.
She championed the EcoEthics Summit early this year in which Ms. Lisa Cutter was one of the Guests of Honour.

As countries of the world are working round the clock to fight against climate change, waste management has been seen as an alternative approach to achieve circular economy and simultaneously aiding towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Tendai Guvamombe
the authorTendai Guvamombe