Meet Manny Rionda of FillABag in Key Biscayne

July 08,2020
Manny FillABag Key Biscayne

Today we’d like to introduce you to Manny Rionda.

Manny, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
The Ocean Conservancy states the number one threat to Florida’s marine environment is trash and marine debris. In 2015, FillABag co-founder Nancy Davis and I had an idea: bring an empty bag on our daily beach strolls, fill it with trash and marine debris, dispose of it in a responsible manner, document and share the stories on social media.

The response was overwhelmingly positive, and it got us thinking. What if we could encourage others to adopt this habit? What if we could make it easier to engage folks in this simple act of eco-activism? How many bags would the collective fill in a week, in a month, in a year? What would the impact be on our marine environment?

Three years later, in 2018, Nancy and I welcomed designer James Duncan to the team, and FillABag was born. Our idea was simple; install wooden posts which hold reusable bags and buckets at beach paths and invite people to turn an ordinary stroll into a meaningful cleanup… anytime.

Urged by our friends at VolunteerCleanUp.org, we submitted our concept to the Miami Foundation’s Public Space Challenge. An ideas contest open to anyone in Miami-Dade County with an idea for creating, improving, or activating our local parks and public spaces. We were honored to be selected as 2018 Public Space Challenge winners and received a grant to kickstart FillABag. Our goal was to activate 5 FillABag Stations in 2019. We’re thrilled to have successfully installed 25 to date not only in Miami-Dade, but also in the Florida Keys, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Naples, the Panhandle, and even as far as Cape Cod, MA, Maryland, and Texas. We are also currently working on our first international activation in Australia!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
At its core, FillABag was designed to provide an on-demand resource for individuals, pairs and small groups to perform beach cleanups. While we see and hear countless anecdotal examples of its effects and successes, one challenge has been documenting and quantifying the amount and types of litter collected.

We’d love to hear more about FillABag.
National Institute of Health studies indicates people of all ages, races, genders, and backgrounds benefit from connections they make within themselves and with others while engaging in environmental activism. After participating in beach clean-ups, people were not only more confident in their knowledge about their environments and more observant of marine life, but their actions also translated into lifestyle awareness and changes in behavior; maybe it’s carrying a reusable water bottle, or bringing your own bags to the market, or refusing single-use plastic. Individuals are impacted at a very personal level. One quickly sees that simple changes in behavior add up and can make a difference.

Our greatest satisfaction comes when we see a photo, post, or live view of a friend or stranger walking down the beach with a FillABag bucket. Our greatest joys have come from the relationships and collaborations we’ve shared with like-minded individuals and organizations, including those who had never participated in a beach clean up before. Our greatest sense of pride has been seeing our positive impact on children. Among our activities over the past two years:

25 FillABag Stations Activated
Partnership with Florida State Parks
Corporate Team Building Eco-Engagements
School Engagements
Community Engagements
FAB Campers: High school interns organizing beach clean-ups for local areas summer camps
Designed and Implemented K12 Curriculum
Coastal/Mangrove SUP and Kayak EcoAdventures
Interactive storytelling booth at the Ramble Art Fair
Issued over 300 Community Service Hours to local area teens
Spearheaded international beach clean up in El Salvador
Weekly curated private clean up adventures for individuals and small groups
Mentoring local youths who are starting their own cleanup initiatives

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We are developing FAB2.0, a game-changing application that will further connect FAB Stations with their communities, and FAB activities worldwide. We look forward to sharing more soon!

Contact Info:

  • Address: Manny Rionda
    155 Sunrise Dr. Apt 4C
    Key Biscayne, FL 33149
  • Website: fillabag.co (Coming September 2020)
  • Phone: 786.423.1459
  • Email: riondam@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @fillabag
  • Facebook: Key Biscayne Clean Up

Image Credit:
Ramiro Carranza. Bill Durham, Theo Quenee are among photographers for pics.

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