International Cleanup Day Results – Job Well Done!

Recycled 2009 Banner - we practise what we preach!

Once again, Project AWARE‘s International Cleanup Day was a smashing success! This past Saturday, 25 September 2010 we tackled Mission Bay Beach’s shores for our beach and underwater cleanup.  Volunteers, divers and non-divers alike, showed up to help us collect about 12 kilograms of rubbish from the beach and the ocean.  And again, the most numerous bits of trash left behind were cigarette butts and drink bottle caps/lids.  Food wrappers and containers were the next most prevalent, indicating that in the more populous areas, individuals littering is the biggest issue we need to tackle – as well as getting food shops and food suppliers to use more biodegradable materials when packaging food and/or handing out utensils.

And once again, more than half of the volume we picked up was recyclable material.

Bearing that in mind, my suggestion for trying to curb this behaviour?  Why, yes, as always, education! If we tirelessly continue to educate ourselves, our kids, our friends, loved ones, colleagues, et cetera about the need to dispose of/recycle our trash responsibly, we can help stop thousands (yes, thousands) of tonnes of garbage from polluting our seas.  Last year on International Cleanup Day 2009, 220,000 kgs of debris were removed from the ocean alone (see Project AWARE’s global data here).  This was what was collected in one day.  Also, getting involved in being part of the solution – as our wonderful volunteers from NIWA, Global Dive, the White Shark Conservation Trust and my own dear (unaffiliated) friends did – helps raise awareness among the general public too, and of course reminds us to be responsible with disposing of our own rubbish.

Another bright moment from Saturday, other than the intermittent sun showing its face once in a while, was the chance to meet with Sam, Camden and Simon from Sustainable Coastlines, a charity organisation based in Tirau, Waikato.  Sustainable Coastlines takes a holistic approach to developing solutions for keeping our coasts clean and working with communities and individuals to implement solutions throughout New Zealand.  I am hoping to meet with these guys again soon – I’m looking forward to working with them toward a common goal, and gain some insight into what projects they are planning – and see if I can help.

Some photos from the day are below.   Thanks again to all of you who helped out, I am so grateful for the support shown and I am proud of the efforts you all put forth!  And of course, a big thank you to Global Dive for sponsoring the materials and the barbecue on the day!


Divers getting kitted up for the underwater search

Bruce and Zoe sweep the west end of the beach

Francois and Juliet team up

Harry is all smiles - before he realised he'd be in 3m of water!

Jonas getting ready for the dive

Andreas, Alex and Kate on land duty


Life hangs in the balance…

I originally had the video embedded into this site, however due to different server locations the embedded video would not work. I have linked it below:


1 hour and 33 minutes of excellent cinematography and chock-full of valuable information about how we as humans affect our environment.  A few things I would ignore are the proclamations of grandeur and overuse of words such as ‘miracle’ and ‘perfect’ (such words, I think, lack scientific merit).  However the feature-length video certainly does bring to light the many things we’ve done to throw off the balance of the many delicate systems on which our planet operates, and what we are already doing to change it. The film starts off telling us where we’ve gone wrong – but ends on a high note, reminding us where we’ve gone right, and how we can continue to move in that direction.

Many of us feel that we have no control over what happens to the earth; we’ve gone too far, we’ve upset the order and there’s no way to get things back on track.  What so many of us fail to remember – and this film helps remind us – is that we DO have the power; it lies mainly with those of us fortunate enough to live in developed nations, and we are in control. We have the power to choose where our capital goes.   A few minor changes can go a very long way, for example:

reduce! – printing pages double-sided, having bank statements and bills sent via email and making payments on the internet instead of posting cheques, buying what you need rather than what you want.  This reduces paper waste, reduces superfluous spending, and reduces clutter.  And with less clutter, we’re usually less disorganised too.

reuse – put food into tupperware containers instead of foil and clingfilm, take a thermos/flask to put hot drinks in (many coffee shops will give a few cents off the cost of a drink if it is put in a reusable container – which of course means saving money), and bring reuseable shopping bags to the grocery store/mall/shoestore and others.

recycle, recycle, recycle.  It reduces the volume of rubbish that heads to landfills, helps us create sustainable jobs and supplies material for environmentally sustainable products.

buy free range/organic products such as beef, chicken, eggs, etc.  Organic animal products are more expensive, but they are also much better quality.  Also, think of all the chemicals you are not ingesting, and knowing that the food you eat hasn’t had a lifetime of misery feels a lot better than knowing that it has.

conserve water by sticking a brick or two in our toilet tanks (you’d be amazed how much water this actually does save), turning off the taps when brushing teeth/washing hands and face, and collecting rainwater in buckets to use to water the lawns.

when light bulbs burn out, purchase compact flourescent (CFL) bulbs, and turn off lights when we leave the room.

we can purchase environmentally friendly detergents and recycled materials.  Supporting businesses that are working to create sustainability helps create more work for those who are trying to be part of the solution.  Plus larger companies, when they see the economic profit of environmental sustainability, will want to follow suit.  We really can influence the mountainous corporations to do what we want them to do.

we can turn off the computer when it isn’t in use, turn off TVs, stereos and other electronics that default to ‘standby’ – this saves money as well as energy.

when possible, we should buy local. This supports local businesses, cuts down on fuel usage that would normally be consumed by shipping imported goods, and often times can be a great deal cheaper (for example, when shopping at farmer’s markets).

plant some of our own herbs and vegetables. This saves money and petrol we would normally use to drive to the store to pick up produce.

taking public transport or walking short distances, taking a bicycle for longer distances. This can cut down immensely on the cost of petrol, also free up some time to catch up on reading on the bus or train. Staying active can keep us healthier and therefore out of the doctor’s office, which is always a bonus for our quality of life and our wallets.

only eating fish and seafood that is caught responsibly.  Bottom-trawling, a popular method of commercial fishing, destroys entire coral reef systems which are vital to the oceans’ health and sustainability.  when coral reefs are destroyed, a vast majority of fish can no longer live in the area – which means they can’t replenish their numbers after we’ve fished them.   Bottom-trawling is the equivalent of putting massive parking lots in the middle of the Amazon.  Have a look at Project AWARE’s list of things you can do to help, and further links on that page to direct you to what seafood items should be avoided and what is responsibly caught.

The most important thing of all: education.  We have a responsibility to the generations that follow us to teach them how to survive on a planet with limited resources.  Human population is expected to grow to 9 billion by the year 2050.  Without sustainable living, there will not be enough water, food or other resources to support such a huge number of people.  By becoming good role models for our children, stressing the importance of taking care of our planet (which has taken care of us for so many millennia), and showing them how to live harmoniously within our environment, we can change the outcome of our future.

If you’re looking to improve your health and are willing to take these small changes a step further, consider going vegetarian. Methane gas is 20-25 times more potent as a global warming agent than carbon dioxide, and the number one cause of methane released into the atmosphere is animal farming. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, farmed animals produce more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport system worldwide.

Photography by Alexandria Leonard

Photography by Diverkat

As individuals, there are so many things we can do.  We often feel helpless against a rising tide of apathy, but we cannot – and should not – allow ourselves to be bogged down by the complacency of a few.  We have overcome so many obstacles in the short short time frame of our existence.  In as little as several thousand years, we went from inventing the wheel to being able to fly into outer space.  If we can achieve such great heights as to leave our planet, surely we can develop more ways to help her.  In fact, we already have.