Bristol 2nd-grader starts nonprofit to save oceans

BRISTOL — Eight-year-old Ethan Tanych decided to save the oceans from plastic two years ago, when he saw a video in his kindergarten health class.
“He came home from school one day talking about plastic bags floating in the ocean, hurting animals,” said his mom, Emily Tanych.
At the very same time, Ethan was also participating in the Expanded Learning Program’s Mini Marketers project at Bristol Elementary School, in which kids got to create their own jobs, Emily Tanych said.
What did Ethan want to do when he grew up?
Save the ocean.
For his business he would sell T-shirts and other items and donate the money to environmental organizations.
Ethan didn’t care much for the “when you grow up” part, however. He wanted to get started right away.
“He kept at it,” his mom said. “He would come to us and say, ‘When are we going to start my business saving the ocean?’”
Second grade, it turns out.
Earlier this year, Ethan officially launched Operation Ocean. He sells T-shirts, cloth bags and other items with his own original artwork on them, then donates the money to the Ocean Conservancy.
So far he’s raised more than $250.
In the introduction to his online store (sites.google.com/view/operationocean) Ethan explains the project:
“I want to help save the oceans because many oceans have a lot of plastic in them and I want to stop that from happening,” he writes. “I want there to be clean water and for the animals to survive. I decided to draw a few pictures that I could put on different products. I’m selling the products to make money to help save the oceans. All the money I make will be given to the Ocean Conservancy. One of the things the Ocean Conservancy does is to take the plastic out of the oceans which is my main goal.”
AT WEDNESDAY NIGHT’S Keep Bristol Beautiful forum at the Bristol Firehouse, the Tanych family (parents Adam and Emily, brothers Gavin and Ethan) wore T-shirts designed by Ethan for his Operation Ocean project, a nonprofit retail business that donates its proceeds to the Ocean Conservancy. Ethan became an ocean activist in kindergarten, after seeing a video about plastic pollution.
Independent photo/Christopher Ross
Ethan has inspired his family to live in a more eco-friendly way.
“He’s gotten us to stop using plastic at home,” Tanych said. “Then he goes over to my parents’ house and he says ‘You have to throw this away! No plastics,’” she added with a laugh. “When he goes to restaurants he says, ‘No straws.’”
But it’s always said in a fun way, she added, and it leaves people with something to think about.
“It’s always on his mind and he’s always talking to people about it,” she said.
Ethan discovered the Keep Bristol Beautiful initiative — which advocates for a townwide ban on single-use plastic carryout bags, Styrofoam carryout containers and single-use plastic straws — after his mom saw an online post about it. They went to an organizing event and Ethan wore one of his T-shirts. When the group learned about his business, they invited him to set up a booth at the Green Up Expo held on the Bristol Green earlier this month, and to participate in subsequent events.
Last Wednesday evening at the Bristol Firehouse, during an educational forum organized by the Mount Abraham Union High School’s Environmental Action Group, Ethan stood up in front of 40 people and told them about Operation Ocean.
“The first thing is I like selling (the items) because it’s fun,” he told them. “And I like saving the ocean — a lot. My main goal is to get the plastic out of the ocean and to ban plastic bags and stuff, and plastic products.”
When they discovered how much money he’s raised so far, his audience erupted with applause.
He didn’t know he was going to be asked to address the group, his mom said the next day, but when he got home he said, “That was awesome!”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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