A few months again I received a random email through my website asking to interview me about sustainability and fashion. Never one to miss an opportunity to talk about my passions, I went on to rant about consumerism and our plastic addiction.
At the time I was organising Plastic Free Peaks, and was surprised at the synchronicity. However, I feel like we are at a real tipping point, with sustainable and ethical values beginning to influence consumer choices.
Thanks to Chloe for her questions and the article that went up on Lyst, it gave me some insights into new eco brands and filled my heart with hope that these conversations are taking place in industries all over the world now.
Read the whole article here.
Check out the whole interview below.
You’re currently a WDC ambassador, what first made you want to get involved and speak out about environmental issues?
I was teaching surfing in Morocco in 2010 and became aware of a lot of plastic washing up on the beaches. This was in the early days of social media so I struggled to find support or guidance on how to deal with these issues. I managed to hunt down a French recycling firm, so our surf camp could deal with our plastic waste and ran a few beach cleans. Then I became involved with Surfers Against Sewage who began lobbying against raw sewage run off in the 90’s, and who have since turned their efforts towards plastic pollution and marine debris, check out their #plasticfreecommunities initiative and their success with the bottle #depositreturnscheme.
As a surfer I feel at home in the ocean, and it frustrates and saddens me to see the amount of trash that has ended up in there. The ocean currents know no boundaries or borders and we need to understand the magnitude of the problem, without getting too overwhelmed. It is a massive lesson that we are a global community and need to work together to develop fast, tangible and long lasting solutions. Health needs to our top priority, and that goes for the health of our waterways and the health of other species we share the planet with. I have always felt an affinity with wild whales and dolphins; from swimming with blue whales in California to spinner dolphins in Costa Rica I have no doubt that these sentient beings are hyper intelligent and soulful creatures, and feel honoured WDC have asked me to help raise awareness of how our habits on land affect marine mammals. Plastic is #notwhalefood!
As an environmental activist and ambassador, why do you think is it important that other surfers become involved with foundations like WDC?
Personally, I think it’s quite boring to just go surfing, yes, I like the physical aspects and how it challenges me mentally, but it is about being truly immersed in an environment that is teeming with life (and also pollution) which fascinates me. Every time we surf we are given the gift of entering the ocean and experiencing the joy of being truly present. The sensations it provides are addictive, yet there is a deeper connection to be explored - our dependency on our breath, our development from the womb to individual, our evolution as a species and most of all sharing that stoke with others. A lot of people use surfing as a way to switch off, escape or have fun - but honestly, how can you just ignore a beach full of plastic waste and then get on with your surf? Surfers are able to read the signs and symptoms that something is not right in the ocean habitat, they are exposed first hand to environmental changes - discovering what were once pristine, remote beaches are now covered in plastics. Encountering plastic waste in the sea is massively frustrating because it causes so much damage. Just one plastic bottle takes about 400 years to breakdown and even then remains as tiny microplastic pieces, which will be mistaken for food, eaten by marine life and be responsible for poisoning it.
Thankfully I have learnt to channel that frustration into passion. Passion is the fuel for action. Yes, you can channel that passion into surfing more and surfing better, but without the waves, without a healthy ocean, there is no surfing.
Why should people be concerned about this issue of plastic and the effects it has on the environment?
People can choose to remain in ignorant bliss or they can wake up to the reality of the situation. I am concerned because we only know a fraction of the truth of this issue, we can only see the tip of the iceberg. And I am also concerned that we are not doing enough, that before we know it, it will spiral out of control. We need to reduce plastic pollution at source and then we need to do a global clean up effort. We are all connected by water, by food. If you eat fish, chances are, you are eating fish that has been contaminated by plastic. Studies already highlight this and the “pacific garbage patch” a swirling mass of plastic soup is getting bigger. A big problem is being disconnected from where our food comes from, so switching from processed, packaged food is a good start. Food grows in the ground, start getting it from as close to there as possible. If people still feel disconnected, then I suggest educating themselves. Watching videos or reading articles isn’t enough - immerse yourself, do a permaculture course! I help run environmentally focussed surf and yoga camps in Jersey, UK and Indonesia (www.driftretreat.co.uk), we run beach cleans and schools presentations, forage for food and learn about local wildlife, come get involved!
Do you have any tips on how consumers can reduce the amount of plastic they use?
Begin by waking up to how much plastic you use in your day to day life. Yes, disposable is easier but single use, plastic packaging has a massive design flaw. Designed to be used once, yet lasts for 400 years! It’s insane! Take pride and time in preparing home made meals and nourish yourself, rather than thinking you’re saving time. You deserve time to stop and eat.
Take a moment to breathe, and appreciate the moments when you don’t actually NEED anything. Being constantly bombarded by social media and advertising is a sure fire way to deludedly believe we need more stuff. Step outside and appreciate nature’s beauty. Realise that you’re probably addicted to consuming and have the courage to get to the root of why. Don’t be a mindless consumer. Start a mindfulness practice so you can get a grip on what your internal “monkey mind” impulses and reactions are, and only respond to your true needs and wants that benefit your wellbeing - good food, ethical clothing, quality equipment. Make conscious consumer choices and buy products from companies that practice environmental ethics, or find an alternative.
Pretty much everything comes in plastic these days, so for a start, buy less. Secondly, buy things you only truly need, want and will treasure. Thirdly, understand that nature works in cycles, when we throw away, it’s not “away”, it only gets transformed. We are part of nature yet we have become grossly misaligned, thinking that we live in a linear world. There is power in transformation, so become an alchemist. Finally, know that you do not need to consume to be worthy. You already whole.
Are there any sportswear brands, whose ethos you respect and are inspired by?
Well, unfortunately the retail industry is based on a consumer, capitalist model designed to decimate natural resources and operates on a unsustainable foundation.
Some brands have made some nice gestures including Adidas’ recycled fishing rope trainer and the development of eco-nyl or repreive, who now sell to major clothes labels and manufacturers. There are some more ahead of the game like Picture Organic Clothing or Bureo, who use recycled fabrics and materials. My favourite are Patagonia who are actively encouraging customers to keep their old gear and repair it. Their “work wear tour” recently came to our town and people could get garments fixed for free.
But until we rethink the model of consumerism as well as delve into the socio-psychological reasons we are so locked into it, we have a long way to go. However, because of all these hurdles, it is extremely exciting to be part of a movement, which is advancing toward healing our toxic ways and overcoming our plastic addiction. It takes a lot of thought and courage to make changes, but I believe there is a very natural survival mechanism kicking in, within many individuals and communities being inspired and people are simultaneously waking up to our responsibility to look after our home. We have a deep bond to the earth that is strengthened through activities such as surfing, snowboarding, hiking and climbing; igniting our true potential in becoming caretakers of the planet rather than the species that made a massive mess at the party, left and didn’t clean up afterwards.