#GoneGreen2016 Day 3 / 365

Part of going green is cleaning up messes you didn’t make. 

One of the many things that attracted me to my husfriend was his un halted ability to do this, not just at home but on the streets of whatever city, town or beach we find ourselves on/in, No matter how gross and untouchable I considered his garbage finding to be, he's grab it and place it in the next best place for it: the bin, the recycling or the compost.

This wasn’t my main habit, I would do it, but not habitually like he did and still does. 

On our first trip away together we went to Morocco and as we prepared to leave the beach, he began spiralling out from where we sat, picking up garbage others had left before us until he had all he could carry. I remember smiling at him as he walked away, oblivious to any impression he’d made on me, and though I’d already been sold on his soul the day I met him, I felt myself fall a little more in that moment.

Fast forward almost two years to that day and we’re in Fuerteventura (story on our trip coming this week) on our travels through the island we found ourselves in a small town called Lajares which was buzzing with music and market stalls. We’re suckers for both, so even though we were attempting to hightail it to a surf spot, we stopped to see what they had on offer. We got to talking to a suntanned, smiling guy who drew us in with his beautiful hand-painted sunglasses and driftwood creations.

We shared with him our interest in eco friendly products and he directed us to the Clean Ocean Project, a series of shops which had popped up around the island over the last ten-ish years after Wim, a Belgian surf lover arrived on the island and found himself profoundly affected by the rubbish which had accumulated there.

It disturbed him so deeply that he decided to do something about it, he began organizing protests and beach clean-ups and educating both himself and the community on the issues at hand.

Fuerteventura is an island, so much of the garbage which arrives on its shores is not produced by the islanders themselves, but instead of blaming the pollution, exploitation and destruction of the Ocean on the fault of ‘others’, he united the community in the idea that everyone is part of the solution and must take responsibly in protecting and preserving it.

Shane (my husfriend) and I wandered over to the shop, where we found ourselves face to face with Wim himself, a handsome, silvering haired surfer with a shy smile and a quiet charm.

This shop and others located around the island provide a platform and finance for Ocean Clean Up's their anti-litter and pollution projects. They have their own clothing line featuring eco-friendly garments, as well as a collection of items made by artisans around the island. Beautiful brands like Earth Positive Apparel and Salvage Tees  (the two greenest and greatest tee brands I know) line the walls alongside AirbagCraftworks items made from upcycled airbags, Surya Jewelry made from upcycled scrap metals, painted driftwood art from CabrasantaAre Ciclarte which upcycles binned objects to create jewellery and accessories, Organic 100% natural eco surf wax from Matunas, locally produced cold-pressed 100% natural soaps, and art created from the garbage collected on the beach.

He presented us with a plethora of facts, like the top 10 items found in 2012’s International Costal Cleanup, in which 97 of the 196 countries cleaned the coastal beaches and inland waterways on our planet partook:

  • 2,117,931 Cigarettes and Cigarette Filters
  • 1,140,222 Food Wrappers/Containers
  • 1,065,171 Plastic Beverage Bottles
  • 1,019,902 Plastic Bags
  • 958,898 Caps/Lids
  • 611,048 Straws/Stirrers
  • 339,875 Beverage Cans
  • 521,730 Glass Beverage Bottles
  • 692,767 Cups/Plastic Cutlery
  • 298,332 Paper Bags

That's more pieces of garbage than there are humans living in New York. And that was a single time clean up years ago in which only portions of the coast and inland waterways were tidied by 560,000 volunteers. It doesn't factor in the 5 gyres of garbage sitting in our ocean, nor the litter inland.

To top off the staggering numbers above are these more heartbreaking ones:

  • 188 Reptiles were found entangled in crab traps, fishing nets or plastic bags
  • 45 Amphibians were found entangled in beverage bottles and debris
  • 1,551 Birds were found entangled in fishing lines and nets
  • 955 Invertebrates were found entangled in crab traps, fishing nets or plastic bags
  • 1,440 Fish were found entangled in fishing line, or plastic bags
  • 17 Coral & sponges found entangled in fishing line or other debris

And again, that’s just portions coast, so you can imagine how much higher the number would be for the entire ocean which makes up 70% of our planet, and the land, on which we drop most of our waste.

      Pick up garbage on the streets and on the beach when you see it. It makes you feel good, you’re doing your part in saving the planet and all of its inhabitants and you’ll inspire others to do the same.

Do your best to avoid making garbage, especially plastic garbage. Get a reusable bottle, use reusable bags, get compostable picnic/party supplies, buy a reusable coffee mug. Don't order take away meals from companies that don't use compostable packaging ect ... (each suggestion holds a link with corresponding eco items)

Make sure every piece of recycling, compost and garbage you touch end up in the bin it belongs in.

The next coastal clean up is on September 19, 2016, sign up to partake or organize a clean up on the shores of a body of water near you. Sign Up Here: http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/international-coastal-cleanup/sign-up-to-clean-up.html

With your time, product purchase, or through donation, a protector of the oceans, for example Ocean Conservation or Clean Ocean Project.

Buy less, you'll reduce the number of manufactured items polluting our planet.  

Send emails to companies asking them to reduce packaging and create new eco-ocean-friendly materials. Write your legislator asking for policies that address Ocean trash.

Be a Green Boater with Ocean Conservancy's GOOD MATE program.

Smoke not, and if you do (which I often do) make sure it ends up in a garbage bin.

Educate yourself and your children. One of the most visually poetic documentaries I’ve ever seen is Planet Ocean by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, it allows you to, in the most serene and stunning way, learn about the harms we do to our oceans and solutions for reducing those harms. They offer it to watch for free on Youtube HERE