Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

I’ve been away for around a week and for good reason.

This summer I had the chance to be an intern at Everglades National Park through a program called Latino Heritage Internship Program, LHIP for short. I was one of two LHIP interns at the Everglades. My job was to work with the education department and help them make their Nike Missile Site Program better.

I had the chance to explore new places in the park and around the park. Sadly, my internship has come to an end. To conclude it, LHIP hosted a conference in Colorado.

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We started our conference in Denver, Colorado in the Intermountain Regional Office for the National Parks Service. We got workshops relating to USAjobs.com and federal resumes. We also had the chance to present to the other 42 interns about our projects or what we spent all summer working on or doing. After the workshop, we started our travel to Boulder, Colorado, where we would have dinner and drive to Estes Park to sleep. Estes Park is the town right before Rocky Mountain National Park on the east side of the mountains.

The plan for the Rockies was to get an exclusive tour of the park since only one of the interns within the program had been working there. We had three “breakout sessions” where the group would be split into three and each person was able to go to two sessions. The three were fire and rescue, llamas, and trail maintenance. I chose the trails and llamas (of course). We were able to see how the rangers in the park are able to keep the park clean and maintained. They use horses for trail work and llamas for the backcountry bathrooms since the park is composed of mountains and you can’t exactly get up there by car.

Here are some pictures of the llamas. We were able to walk them and be with the three llamas that the park leases for a couple of months. Their names were Dorito, Wilson, and Hector.

We were also able to make some stops before getting to the breakout sessions.

The park rangers that guided us took us to the highest peak in the park, where the altitude was no joke.

This trip was an incredible experience. I was able to connect with 41 other Latinos who were also heavily interested in working towards saving our environment. I had never been around a group as incredible as this. We all connected right away and still talk to each other every now and then. We’re already planning a reunion!

The point of this blog wasn’t just to talk about my trip, but to maybe persuade you to going to the closest national or state park. Get out and experience nature for an hour or a whole day. Disconnect and enjoy what this earth has provided you with. Get out there and find your park!

Until next time,

Dani

Shopping: Plastic-free!

One of the hardest things to adjust to is bringing my own reusable bag everywhere I go. It’s so hard to not forget it, especially because we are so accustomed to just conforming to the norm of receiving plastic bags. Well, it’s time to break that terrible habit.

Here’s why:

For starters, oceans. Everything about the oceans. The animals, the actual water in the ocean, the reefs, everything. Sea turtles eat jellyfish and jellyfish look very similar to plastic bags. We might be able to tell the difference, but the sea turtles can’t. When they digest them, it causes blockages within their digestive system and eventually, they will die because of it.

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On the left, a plastic bag. On the right, jellyfish.

Plastic bags are petroleum-based and so they don’t biodegrade. According to the EPA, Americans use more than 380 BILLION PLASTIC BAGS! BILLIONS!!!! A 2015 study estimated that there are more than 15 TRILLION pieces of plastic trash in the ocean.

Now that you know all of those super depressing facts, let’s talk about how to change our habits and thus using less plastic.

If you shop anywhere, you can find reusable cloth bags. Walmart sells them for a dollar. H&M sometimes has them on sale for $0.50. Ross has the big ones for $2. You can find them anywhere for less than $5 each. They sell them in different sizes so you can use them wherever and for whatever.

When you shop for groceries, think about how many produce plastic bags you use….it’s probably a lot. What you can do is just bring your reusable bag or you can spend $5 on a pack of 5 reusable produce bags from Target. You can use one bag for more than one vegetable or fruit and so you won’t need many.

You can also try to stop buying cherries in plastic bags. Cherries don’t need to be in plastic bags. They have this super cool natural skin that protects their insides. Wow, nature is great! But seriously, you don’t need to have cherries in a plastic bag or grapes or strawberries in a plastic container. Try to go to farmer’s markets where they don’t put their produce in plastic containers.

If you can avoid it, try to not buy things that are obviously not supposed to be in plastic containers. Did you ever read that article about the peeled oranges in a plastic container? It was from Whole Foods….so people make mistakes? Sure, but sometimes those mistakes end up with animals being found on the beach with dozens of pounds of plastic in their stomachs.

You can also avoid plastic bags through buying in bulk or at package-free stores like Whole Foods. They have a section in their stores where you can bring your own container (I love using mason jars since they’re glass and serve many purposes), tare it (zero the weight), pour your food in it and then pay by the pound. I think most Whole Foods only have things like oats, chocolate covered almonds, quinoa, possibly rice, trail mix, and other such things. Just by doing this, you can already reduce half of your plastic waste when shopping.

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I could talk about this for days, but I will leave you with what I have written for now. If you have any questions, comment them down below!

Until next time,

Dani