The international Ecochallenge took place this past July.

By Nick Edwards

In the past 30 years, plastic consumption has increased by almost 400 percent worldwide, prompting individuals to devise eco-friendly alternatives to everyday items. This waste is exactly the target of local organization Reduce Your Use Tampa Bay, which, according to Hillsborough County recycling coordinator Daniel Gallagher, serves to motivate the public to “say no to single-use plastics.” The organization not only informs Tampa Bay residents on their ability to lessen their ecological footprint but also recognizes local businesses that commit themselves to producing as little waste as possible.

This July, Reduce Your Use Tampa Bay participated alongside Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, City of Tampa, City of St. Petersburg, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and Keep Pinellas Beautiful in the annual international Ecochallenge. The self-titled Reduce Your Use Tampa Bay team was the largest in the state and competed against dozens of other teams worldwide, aiming to rack up the most points and leave the smallest ecological footprint possible. This marked the first year Tampa Bay had its own team in the competition.

Participating individuals completed various actions suggested on the competition website, ranging in difficulty from Level 1 to Level 3. Easier tasks, such as using reusable water bottles instead of their disposable alternatives, were deemed Level 1, while tasks like contacting congressmen to advocate for change would earn teams the Level 3 point value. Some tasks recommended on the team website included becoming more involved in the county’s recycling program, ditching plastic bags and cooking meals without any single-use plastic wrappers.

The Reduce Your Use Tampa Bay team alone diverted the waste from 8,000 single-use plastic items. Top scorers from the team were Tessa Melson in first place, Daniel Gallagher in second, and Ashley Wyland in third. These individuals all earned more than 750 points, which qualified them to receive eco-friendly prize items provided by the Reduce Your Use campaign. The success of these individuals and the entire team drives the mission of Reduce Your Use Tampa Bay and allows it to continue to inspire the Hillsborough area to live more sustainably.

For more information on how to reduce your ecological footprint and to get involved with Reduce Your Use Tampa Bay, visit

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