Tracy Holmes photo Mason Vander Ploeg is encouraged by White Spot’s efforts to better the environment, including the recent announcement to eliminate the use of plastic straws. It’s a step he put his push behind last fall.

South Surrey 10-year-old aims to take bite out of pollution

White Rock Christian Academy student Mason Vander Ploeg determined to have impact

Mason Vander Ploeg doesn’t know if his push to get White Spot to eliminate straws was a deciding factor in the move that took effect this past April.

But he’s optimistic his enthusiam had at least some impact.

“I think I influenced them a little bit,” the charismatic 10-year-old said Friday, referring to a message he delivered at the Morgan Crossing restaurant in February.

“Maybe I just pushed the ball.”

Mason, in Grade 4 at White Rock Christian Academy, has been keen on the environment – and particularly ocean animals – since he was a toddler. His mom, Shanna, remembers him making videos about nature and saving animals from the time he was four.

But it was discovering sharks that pushed his passion to a new level.

“I just love sharks,” he said during a lunch-hour interview, his eyes lighting up. “They can almost do anything.”

“I was all about the ocean and I really liked dolphins, and I still do,” he added. “Then my mom showed me (underwater photographer) Rob Stewart.”

Stewart, a Canadian, is best-known for his documentaries on sharks, Sharkwater and Revolution. He died early last year in a scuba-diving accident in Florida, and Mason said he hopes to carry on Stewart’s work in some fashion in the future.

But first, he’s determined to do what he can to ensure sharks will still exist by that time.

“If I want to scuba dive… I better start protecting them so them so they can last,” he said.

Part of that effort involved becoming a junior shark ambassador – he’s one of 13 kids highlighted on the organization’s website, www.sharks4kids.com – and committing to carry out three to four projects annually to help educate people about sharks and/or environmental risks to the ocean.

He made his first presentation to his Grade 3 classmates, and in September, encouraged his Grade 4 peers to ‘Stop Sucking’ – a reference to the use of plastic straws.

This year, he’s taken to social media to further his messages, creating Instagram and Facebook accounts – search ‘Mason’s Ocean’ on Facebook and masons_ocean on Instragram. In addition to sharing information through the sites, Mason uses them to give ‘shout-outs’ to others who are taking positive steps for the environment.

WRCA teacher Paul Lukacin said Mason’s online efforts grew a notable following in its first week. He currently has 67 followers on Instagram and more than 100 on Facebook.

Lukacin described Mason as “charismatic and infectious.” He’s also the reason his class committed to a zero-waste lunch on May 31.

“We all bought in,” Lukacin said.

Mason said he started bringing zero-waste lunches after noticing how many paper plates and other single-use products were in his classroom’s garbage bins – “it’s almost halfway full every day,” he said – noting such products are bogging down the oceans and hindering ocean life.

“Seventy per cent of marine birds are found with plastic inside them,” he cited as one example of the impact.

With sea turtles, the figure is 20 per cent, he said.

Shanna Vander Ploeg said her son’s passion has inspired her and the rest of their family to do better as well. She now carries reusable straws with her, bought mesh bags for produce purchases and even brought reusable mugs and water bottles on a recent school trip to Tennessee.

“He is so passionate,” she said. “I really feel that God has put this in him. He’s actually helped us to be more bold and speak out.

“We’ve learned a lot from Mason.”

White Spot marketing department head Cathy Tostenson told PAN Tuesday that the company received many letters and cards, including from elementary students, in the lead-up to the decision to offer straws by request only. The decision was made March 19, she said.

Tostenson didn’t know if it was specifically Mason’s push that made the difference, but said the influx of requests for the change coupled with research convinced officials “this is the right thing to do.”

Mason said his push for White Spot to cut out straws – which also included a letter-writing campaign and Facebook petition – won’t be his last.

Next up?

“I think I’m going to try to get McDonald’s,” he said.

“They just announced recently they don’t think the problem’s urgent enough. I’m just going to show them it is urgent.”

Just Posted

Final skate at former ‘Stardust’ rink in Surrey this Saturday

Central City Arena is closing to make way for tower development

Mixed emotions on Surrey’s Strip as homeless begin moving into modular units

Some in the area are hopeful as 160 transitional homes open, while others say the plan is ‘containment, not a solution’

Langley area curlers: ‘Great’ ambassadors of the sport

Several athletes who play out of Langley Curling Centre were lauded for efforts on and off the ice.

Surrey mayor’s state of city address back on at Sheraton

New date for mayor’s fourth annual address, hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade, is September 19

Cloverdale’s June Market Days to be bigger than ever

More than 90 vendors will line 176 Street for event this Saturday

VIDEO: In Surrey, ‘The Magic Flute’ opera has makings of ‘modern-day superhero movie’

Show director Dolores Scott raves about young talent in weekend production at Surrey Arts Centre

B.C. RCMP looking for $70,000 in stolen collector cash

Money, in Canadian and Chinese denominations, goes missing in Chilliwack

Port of Prince Rupert names Shaun Stevenson as new CEO

Stevenson has worked for the port for 21 years as vice president of trade development

Senate officially passes Canada’s marijuana legalization bill

Bill C-45 now moves to royal assent, which is the final step in the legislative process

Mosquitoes out in full force already? Blame the weather

But a B.C. mosquito expert says the heat wave will help keep the pests at bay

Man pleads not guilty in 1987 slayings of B.C. couple

William Talbott of SeaTac was arraigned Tuesday in Snohomish County Superior Court

New GOP plan: Hold kids longer at border – but with parents

Move would ease rules that limit how much time minors can be held with their parents

Without a big data strategy, Canadians at risk of being ‘data cows’

Presentation said artificial intelligence could give Facebook and Amazon even more power

Five B.C. families stuck in Japan as Canada refuses visas for adopted babies

Lawyer points to change in American policy around adoptions from Japan

Most Read