Our Alternative Approach to Run Against Plastic

We finally made it! Beautiful British Columbia marks the last stop on our virtual tour across Canada, and we’re so excited to share some change-makers with you today. Bordering the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east, B.C. is known for its adventurous and athletic spirit. The people here love and value the outdoors, and we can see this clearly in the number of organizations that are dedicated to protecting the environment. We could only select a few organizations to highlight today, but check out our list of plastic organizations in B.C. to find more!

Andy Sward, our friend at Million Bottle Pledge, continues to astound us with his energy, generosity, and dedication!

Though he’s committed to keeping his plogging within B.C. this year, it hasn’t stopped him from connecting with other local organizations to help with their own cleanup missions. Just last weekend, Andy joined forces with Trash Talk and Bins2Go in a Surrey community cleanup! It’s great to see so many different organizations come together for the common goal of cleaning up Canada.

Great job everyone!

Let’s get started with Ocean Legacy Foundation (OLF), a non-profit organization based in Surrey, B.C.! OLF works with citizens, scientists, government, and all other levels of society to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. With a focus on the local and the global, OLF is a great place to start this week.

Recognizing that the issue of plastic pollution is larger in certain areas around the world, OLF launched the EPIC Program on World Oceans Day 2019! This program is part of their Plastic Pollution Emergency Response initiative, which provides support to communities that struggle with plastic pollution. Communities that need help with their plastic pollution can apply to the EPIC Program through the OLF website, no matter where in the world they are! Once the community has been accepted, OLF provides support and strategies in the four areas of the EPIC acronym: education and research; policy and advocacy; infrastructure development; and cleanup and restoration. This program is still in its infancy so there are no results to share at this time. However, we are looking forward to hearing how this program grows and helps people all over the world!

Along with the EPIC Program, OLF also uses their platform for education. Though most of us know that plastic pollution is a problem, finding accurate information that explains why can be troublesome. Their website has a page detailing The Ocean Plastic Problem, which explains the various issues at play when it comes to plastic pollution in our oceans. By putting this webpage together, OLF consolidates trustworthy information for its audience and simplifies the information so that anybody can read it. From excess plastic production to the impact on marine life, this webpage is a handy introduction to the problem of plastic pollution. 

Each subheading on the webpage, such as The 5 Garbage Gyres, is also accompanied by an original online source, so that readers can continue learning about this issue on their own.

Through outreach with the EPIC Program and accessible education with The Ocean Plastic Problem, OLF helps us all to understand and get involved in the plastic pollution crisis.

Check out the Ocean Legacy Foundation website to keep reading and get involved.

Next up, we have the Pacific Rim chapter of the Surfrider Foundation (SFPR)! The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit organization with chapters throughout the United States and Canada. Though we’re focusing on SFPR here today, all chapters share a passion for ocean health and enjoyment — meaning we have to protect the ocean today if we want it to still be here tomorrow!

SFPR runs several campaigns and programs that address ocean health through the lens of plastic pollution, but let’s start with the Ocean Friendly Business campaign! This campaign was developed by SFPR to help businesses in Tofino and Ucluelet transition to ocean-friendly practices, such as by doing away with single-use plastics and diverting waste from landfills. Every year, SFPR aims to register 15 new businesses as ocean friendly, and they’ve been successful for the past three years in a row! All practices, solutions, and new ideas that SFPR create with businesses throughout this campaign are also shared with all other businesses in the Pacific Rim, making it easier for more people to join the campaign each year!

Currently, it is SFPR’s goal to create an ocean-friendly business corridor between Tofino and Ucluelet, eliminating all plastic packaging in the area by 2022. As more businesses get on board every year, we can see the real possibility of a plastic-free Pacific Rim!

Merino wool felted facial soap - After the Rain YYC

And now that we’re in Plastic Free July, PFY is also running a virtual contest! Every Wednesday morning of July, PFY is posting a challenge for their Facebook and Instagram followers to avoid plastic and reflect on alternative products. For example, the July 1 challenge is all about reusable water bottles! Followers are asked to share photos of their own reusable water bottles and talk about the adventures they’ve had with them over the years. These challenges encourage the PFY audience to try new things, reflect on what they’re already doing, and learn about other people’s plastic-free stories.

And not only is SFPR hosting these cleanups, but they’re also collecting data on everything they find and submitting it to The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup! This way, the data is used to understand litter patterns in Canada and where we need to focus our energy to reduce waste. These cleanups bring the community together in meaningful action as well as help the ocean stay clean for generations to come.

Though they’re part of a larger North American organization, SFPR emphasizes the local in everything they do. From the Ocean Friendly Business campaign to the Love Your Beach Clean program, SFPR works with the Pacific Rim community to show the ocean some love.

Go to the Surfrider Foundation – Pacific Rim website to check out more amazing programs and how to get involved.

And, finally, we’re here at our last stop: Emerald Sea Protection Society (ESPS)! This Vancouver-based non-profit organization is cleaning up marine debris off B.C.’s west coast, but with a specific focus on lost or discarded fishing gear, also known as ghost gear. Ghost gear is a major problem in marine ecosystems, as things like nets and traps continue to catch marine life long after the fishermen are gone. Luckily, ESPS is here to help with that!

ESPS is a member of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, an alliance of NGOs, government agencies, private sector businesses and more that all work together to eradicate the problem of ghost gear. As a member, ESPS is also registered with Ghost Gear Reporter, a mobile app that allows users to inform ESPS of ghost gear in the area. This partnership enables ESPS to engage community members in ghost gear sighting and reporting, making an entire community a part of the solution. The app also makes it possible for people in the fishing industry in B.C. to report lost, abandoned, or discarded gear as soon as it happens, reducing the amount of time that ghost gear spends underwater. Reporting ghost gear to ESPS is easy, fast, and hugely important to the health of our oceans.

And, you’ve probably heard of CBC, right? Well, they just recently produced a documentary called Ghost Nets, and it’s all about the work of ESPS! The documentary follows ESPS Founder Bourton Scott, a commercial diver and ocean lover, and the rest of the ESPS team on a trip through the Gulf Islands as they search for ghost gear. This documentary presents an exciting opportunity for ESPS to show the public what it is they do and why it’s so important for our oceans. As more people learn about this organization and the dangers of ghost gear, we hope there will be less ghost gear in the oceans.

Ghost gear isn’t just a problem off the west coast of B.C., but everywhere in the world where fishing takes place. Thanks to organizations like ESPS and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, this problem is becoming better known and we are seeing more solutions. Soon, recovery organizations like this one may not even need to exist!

Visit the Emerald Sea Protection Society website to learn more about their organization and how you can help.

 

Thank you so much for joining us on our virtual tour across Canada. We had a great time “travelling” from east to west to learn more about environmental organizations in every province, and we’ve even met some great people along the way! Though all good things must come to an end, we’re not sad to say goodbye — because we know we’ll see you later!

If you missed last week’s stop in Alberta, don’t despair, you can read it here!

Rachel Petersen was a Communications Intern for Plastic Oceans Canada, studying Professional Writing and Communications at Humber College. 

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