As the Dear Future Community Challenge continues its 15-city tour across the country, young adults in Boston recently submitted their best and brightest ideas to improve recycling and environmental efforts in their community. The Dear Future community hub visited the University of Massachusetts – Boston campus Sept. 19-21 to ask young adults how to work together to encourage more people to recycle.

Boston is one of the local markets visited as part of the larger national challenge to renew communities across the United States by working with local communities to identify issues that matter most. “We worked with every market to pinpoint these issues, then connected them to our national #CocaColaRenew priorities and built the program from there,” said Caren Pasquale Seckler, vice president, Social Commitment, Coca-Cola North America.

She continued, “The Dear Future Community program is about telling our story of positively impacting local communities through our local bottlers and Coca-Cola Scholars, and is an expression of a commitment we've had for many years around empowering the next generation of leaders. We want to inspire young people across the country to submit their ideas about how to better their hometowns. We like to say this is about sharing our story of ‘the actions we take and the products we make.’”

Dear Future Boston

Coca-Cola of Northern New England joined Save the Harbor/Save the Bay on campus to discuss a shared commitment to turning the tide on the battle against trash and renewing their local communities.

“Recycling is a big part of our culture at Coca-Cola of Northern New England,” said Nick Martin, director of public affairs and communication, Coca-Cola of Northern New England. “We pride ourselves on sustainability. A couple of years ago, our flagship production center was certified as a zero-waste facility and we now recycle 96 percent of the materials that come through our facility. It’s a natural fit that we do events like the Dear Future Boston challenge, focus on recycling, and try to encourage the public and young people to generate ideas that will improve their communities by reducing waste and making sure that our products are recycled responsibly.”

Tapping into the bright young minds of the next generation for ideas and empowering them through mentorship with the local bottler and community partner is the first critical step in making this challenge a success.

“At Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, our first goal is to create the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Winston Daley, Director of Youth and Beach Programs at Save the Harbor/Save the Bay. “A few decades ago, the Boston harbor was essentially an open sewer. By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. That’s why we’re here to see the creativity within the community as they develop these ideas for Dear Future Boston. We seek to empower the community, empower the voices of people who want to be environmental stewards so that they know that we are here to help them, and Coca-Cola is a part of that.”

Students expressed their passion for sustainability as they submitted their ideas to improve recycling and waterway renewal efforts. “Recycling means that the environment should be clean; to recycle a water bottle so hopefully it can be reused in other places. I feel most people don’t realize what recycling means and don’t necessarily recycle themselves that often or don’t care about the environment and how it affects the oceans or other areas,” said Jessica, a student from University of Massachusetts – Boston.

Dear Future Boston

Dear Future Boston

Over the three-day visit, submitted ideas were as diverse as the viewpoints of the students that provided them. Several ideas revolved around local partnership and tapping into younger generations.

Large initiatives can certainly make a difference, but sometimes all that’s needed to effect change is for one person to take a stand and decide they’re going to do the right thing. “I think it comes down to an individual basis of deciding that I’m passionate about sustainability, about helping the environment, and then realizing that I can make a change. Any person can decide that they have a vision, create that vision, share that vision with other people, find the right resources, and then make that vision a reality,” said Kathleen Schwind, a Coca-Cola Scholar and student majoring in Environmental Policy and Negotiation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Boston is one of many cities around the country that are putting their best foot forward to clean our waterways and increase recycling incidence. The Coca-Cola Co. USA is undertaking many such efforts to achieve its World Without Waste vision of recovering and reusing the equivalent of 100 percent of products it sells by 2030.

The Dear Future Community Challenge continues through Oct. 15. Young adults, ages 18 to 24-year-olds, can submit their ideas online at Winners will be chosen as part of the local and national challenges, respectively. Resources in the way of $30,000 grants and mentorship opportunities with local bottlers, local community organizations, and local Coca-Cola Scholars will be provided to turn their change-making ideas into reality.