Charities We Love is a monthly series featuring inspirational charities from around the world. At We Are Travel Girls we care about giving back and hope this series will help our readers learn about charities and non-profit organizations that are doing incredible work. This month we are excited to feature the Surfrider Foundation, who is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of our oceans from plastic.
Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the ocean, beaches and waves through a powerful activist network. This organization was started in 1984 by a group of passionate surfers who were eager to protect their surf break in Malibu from over development and pollution. Fast forward, there are 81 Chapters in the US, and 3 Chapters in Canada, along with affiliates in Australia, Japan, Europe and Brazil. Surfrider Foundation focuses on clean water, coastal preservation, ocean protection, beach access and plastic pollution.
On the foggy west coast of Vancouver Island is the Surfrider Pacific Rim Chapter, and our focus is eliminating single-use plastics, lowering the amount of pollution entering the oceans through circular economic practices, and working with youth, individuals, businesses and government in taking positive action for our coastlines. Surfrider Pacific Rim operates in the surf towns of Tofino and Ucluelet, which attract over a million visitors from around the world on an annual basis. Though we may be a small region, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to demonstrate what coastal leadership looks like to people who holiday here from all over the world!
THE PLASTIC IMPACT
Plastic has become one of the most common materials in our daily lives, so much that we do not even take notice of its omnipresence. Though plastics have helped humanity to evolve in many ways, we have become over-dependent on this material. Since it never biodegrades, plastic has becomes a major pollutant once it is released into the environment.
It is estimated that 8 million tonnes of plastics enter our oceans every year, and we are learning at an increasing rate the devastating impacts this is having on the planet. Plastic’s catastrophic impact is clear, harming biodiversity, global food security, to coastal cultures and the tourism industry – which is poised on litter free pristine beaches.
On the west coast of Vancouver Island, we are continually battling the incoming marine debris that is washing up from all over the Pacific. One of Surfrider Pacific Rim’s largest program is Love Your Beach Clean, which we organize multiple local and remote cleanups through every month. In the last two years, we have removed 30 tonnes of marine debris from our shorelines.
These cleanups are not a means to an end, and we use data and insights gained from our cleanups to inform campaigns and programs that are working to address the root of the plastic pollution crisis. Our campaigns are focused on addressing single-use plastics, which is helping to guide travellers who visit this coastline to make ecologically informed decisions around their consumption. Here are our tips below on how you can travel plastic-free, and make a positive difference in the places you visit!
GUIDE FOR PLASTIC FREE TRAVEL
Travelling can open us up in fundamental ways; we expand our perspectives to understand different ways of life, to appreciate new landscapes, and overall gain a new vision which can inspire how we act upon the planet. What can be the most challenging about travel is mitigating our environmental impact, and sticking to the environmental practices we cultivate at home while we’re abroad. Included in this is our consumptive behaviours, as there’s a lot more opportunity to use single-use plastics.
Plastics are a material that can make consumption easier, faster and more convenient, but using something for 15 minutes and then throwing it away is not acceptable. The earth cannot absorb the extreme amount of waste we create, and so we all have a responsibility to address this in our lives. Here are some fun and simple ways we can all do this during our adventures!
1) STAY HYDRATED
Water is the foundation for everything, and we cannot travel or do anything without being properly hydrated. So, it is essential that we bring our own reusable bottles to fill up while abroad. Do your research and also look into water quality of the area you are visiting, and find out where you will be able to fill up your bottle with safe drinking water. You can also bring a UV light or other type of filter, like the LifeStraw, to treat the water in the place you’re visiting.
Plastic bottles are a major culprit filling the oceans. In 2017 alone, Surfrider Pacific Rim collected 30 thousand bottles! Let’s take back the tap to protect our sweet seas.
2) PACK A REUSABLE TAKEOUT CONTAINER SET
Packing light can prove to be a challenge, but you can create a compact system that you can tuck away in your bag. This can be composed of a metal container with utensils inside, along with a mug, which can be wrapped inside a reusable bag. You can also choose to eat and drink outdoors with your reusable utensils, slow your pace and enjoy your surroundings! Then, when you want to bring your food on your journeys, you can use your container set.
3) BE SUN SAFE WHILE PROTECTING THE HEALTH OF THE OCEANS
Sunscreen often comes in single-use plastic packaging, and when the product has been used, it has the potential to end up in the sea or landfill. Many sunscreens also contain harmful chemicals, like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are destroying coral reefs around the world, one of the greatest phenomenon to grace our planet.
A sunscreen that addresses both of these issues that we are loving is Avasol, which is organic, fair trade, free of animal cruelty, is part of 1% of the planet, and comes in a paper tube – no plastic! Epic lady travellers and surfers Leah Dawson and Captain Liz Clarke also wear and love this brand.
4) BRING YOUR OWN SNACKS AND AVOID PLASTICS ON THE PLANE
Let the airline hostess know that you don’t support single-use plastics. Of course, you can do this with other transportation stewards, along with businesses. Let them know why you support the plastic-free movement, and then give positive encouragement and feedback to airlines and businesses that are making a difference to lower their plastic footprint! This does make a difference as Alaska Airlines recently announced they have ditched single-use plastic straws.
5) BRING YOUR OWN TOILETRIES
You can opt for shampoo or conditioner bars, and keep them in a container or wrapped in waxed paper. Or, in most cities, there are health food, bulk and organic stores where you can refill your shampoo, conditioner and soap, so you can reuse your bottles forever! Another great item to carry is a metal safety razor, so you won’t need to travel with multiple single-use razors or throw anyway on your travels. You can also pack toothpaste in a jar, a great choice is toothpaste tabs that are packaged in a small glass container. This way, you can refuse the single-use toiletry items that may be provided in your accommodations!
6) CREATE A NEGATIVE PLASTIC FOOTPRINT WHILE YOU TRAVEL
How can you have a negative footprint? By taking part in cleanups that are removing plastics from the ocean, beaches, rivers, forests, mangroves, and any other type of environment. Try to work with organizations that will be recycling the plastics recycled, ideally into products that cannot end up polluting the environment. At Surfrider Pacific Rim, we work with The Ocean Legacy Foundation to recycle all of the marine debris we collect. If there isn’t an organized clean up, you can still collect items every time you visit a beach, park, or any other outdoor space.
TRANSFORM THE TRAVEL CULTURE
Change the travel culture and be a leader in the Rise Above Plastics movement! By following these steps and refusing plastic, you are working to transform the places you visit, from the businesses you interact with, to the beaches you stroll and restore. You can also shift norms around single-use plastics by getting great photographs with your reusable bottle, mug, container, and bag while on your journeys and post them on social media for your network to see!
We hope this guideline serve you, whether you start off small with a few of these suggestions, or master this list and find more ways to travel plastic free! The world gives us so much when we travel, and it’s our responsibility to reciprocate the act of giving. Of course, we would love for you to reach out if you travel to the Pacific Rim, and have you get involved in our programs and campaigns, and join a beach clean adventure! You can also give back to our organization at any time by making a donation or becoming a member, which will help us to protect and restore one of the most beautiful locales in Canada.
Do you know of an inspirational charity or non-profit organization? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! And if you’d like a charity to be considered for this series please submit their story via our Contribute Page.
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Surfrider Foundation Pacific Rim Chapter Manager Lilly Woodbury
Connect with Lilly LillyWoodbury.com | Instagram | Photography by CristinaGareau.com
Connect with Surfrider Foundation Pacific Rim PacificRim.Surfrider.org | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter