Welcome to our first in a series of profiles on the organizations, and the people who help to make a difference, raise awareness, and give of themselves to help turn the tide on ocean pollution. These people recognize the dire need for change in the way we approach and relate to our planet. If one of our profiled organizations captures your imagination, peaks your interest, or stirs your heart…please contact them and see how you can help. Our first profile is Surfrider Pacific Rim located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.
Lilly Woodbury is the Chapter Manager and was kind enough to answer our questions:
What is the mandate of Surfrider?
Our mission is the protection and enjoyment of the ocean, beaches and waves!
We tend to think of plastic pollution as an issue that occurs elsewhere, like the Southern Hemisphere. The West Coast is known for its pristine environment, but in your experience, is this the case?
No, the West Coast is very inundated with plastic pollution marine debris, which many groups are working to address and continually clean, including the Vancouver Island Marine Debris Working Group, which is made up of many cleanup groups here on the island. Since 2015 to date, the Surfrider Pacific Rim team has collected and removed 43 tonnes of marine debris from our coastline - and this is just in Barkley Sound, along the Pacific Rim, and in Clayoquot Sound.
Of course, a vast majority of the marine debris collected is plastic. You may travel to an island here that is "pristine", that has not felt the effects of mining, logging or development, and as soon as you step onto its shores, you will discover a shocking layer of plastic pollution on the beaches and in the vegetative line.
What 3 things can the average person do to help our oceans?
Three things people can do include rising above all single-use plastics: straws, bags, cutlery, sauce ramekins, plastic containers, coffee cups, water bottles, and foam. Folks can start here and then work to eliminate other forms of plastic in their lives.
People can also use their voice to give businesses feedback - giving them a high-five for eliminating plastics, and/or letting them know they would like to see them eliminate an unnecessary form of plastic. With this, individuals can also let their grocery store know that they would like a bulk section that allows for people to use their own bags and containers for purchasing items.
Lastly, individuals can work to influence the decision makers in their community. They can let local government officials know their environmental opinions, and let them know that they would like to see local, provincial/territorial and federal government regulate plastics. This can be in the form of meetings, delegations, writing letters, paper petitions, and e-petitions. Change needs to happen at all levels, in our daily lives, in policy, in industry and business practices, as well as in educational institutions.
In this age of global communication, where we can reach so many people so quickly, why does it seem to take people so long to change basic habits for the good of the planet and how can we change this?
I think people can take a long time to change basic habits because they are disconnected from the impacts of the issues they are contributing to, and they are disconnected from the natural world more generally. It may be easy for these people to continue "business as usual", especially amidst full days of work, social media, and information overload. Furthermore, many people believe that their actions will not contribute to any form of change - yet a mass amount of people operate under this fallacy, and if they could all make changes in their lives, a major impact would be made. This can be addressed in a multitude of ways, for Surfrider, we host public beach cleanups that the general public can attend - and we always encourage regular attendees to bring people who have not joined before.
We can all be a positive force for people in our lives and networks who may need more assistance in getting involved - because at the end of the day, most people do care, they just aren't sure how to get involved or what they can do. More education is also needed, despite the age of global communication, more direct knowledge needs to be shared in schools and workplaces around the environment and sustainability.
This is also why it's important for businesses and government to also create change and implement strong environmental policies. If a business does not offer single-use plastics, this is going to make the customer think about their behaviour and the motivation for the business to have this practice in place. Hopefully, the business will also have information about their green practices, to help customers understand and learn more.
On the Pacific Rim, both the District of Tofino and District of Ucluelet have passed a motion to regulate single-use plastics, which is beginning with a ban on single-use plastic straws and bags this June. This means all businesses and residents will have to abide by this bylaw, as well as the million visitors who come to this region every year. Again, this will influence all of the people here and those who visit that have not already changed their actions.
How can people find out what’s going on with Surfrider Pac Rim and how can they get involved?
People can always view our event calendar on our website to find out about upcoming events, pacificrim.surfrider.org/events-calendar/, and they can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook to keep a pulse on what we're up to. Our entire website has a wealth of information and resources for people to learn from and use. All people can also firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com to find out how to get involved!
When and where is your next cleanup or event?
Our next clean up is on Earth Day, April 22nd, on Tofino's Multi-Use Path, also fondly known as the MUP! This cleanup will be taking place from 11 am to 2 pm. This cleanup focuses on cleaning litter along the MUP, as all of this litter has the potential to reach the ocean and become marine debris - where it will become much harder to recover. This clean will also bring awareness to the frequency in which single-use plastics are littered, and the need to eliminate single-use plastic takeaway packaging from the Pacific Rim and world at large.
Big thanks to Lilly and all of the Surfrider volunteers for their tireless hard work!