I've always considered myself an environmentally minded person. When I was a kid I spent a weekend one summer building a hospital for butterflies after finding one who couldn't fly due to a damaged wing. When I was in year 3, wanting extra work, I decided to do a project on green house gas. Around the same time I knocked on all the neighbours doors (ok, we only really had 2 neighbours... country living and all that) asking for donations because I wanted to save the koalas. Later, I made my mum change her cleaning products to those with the sticker on them that said "dolphin friendly".
I guess what I'm saying is that I basically did fuck all to help change the state of our environment.
As I got older, despite considering myself "aware" and "environmentally conscious" I continued to do fuck all.
I mean, I used reusable bags for my shopping and I separated my recycling but I consumed as much as the next person and made as much trash as the next person because everything comes wrapped in plastic and you need a car to do all the things and fixing something is more expensive than replacing it these days and besides who has the time and, you know, coffee is life.
But then I moved to Raja Ampat. Beautiful, beautiful Raja Ampat.
We live on a teeny tiny island in West Waigeo. We are 2 hours by speed boat from the nearest town. That's 5-6 hours by local boat. We really are in the middle of nowhere. The environment out here in remote reaches of the world, as untouched as it is, should be pristine. But, as you can see, it isn't.
It is impossible not to be struck by the devastating volume of plastic waste.
And worse? There is nowhere for it to go. Even if cleaning up all the plastic on all the beaches was possible, what would I do with it? We are hours away from the closest town - a town which doesn't even have a sustainable waste management system - a town where there is no recycling, and a landfill that blows its contents straight back into the sea.
The problem is overwhelming and after moving here, more than a year ago, I became hyper aware of the fact that everything I bring here to the island has to be taken off, that everything I consume has an effect on the environment and that when I put my rubbish in the bin it doesn't just "go away".
In the developed world we've been recycling for years. We all know that responsibly disposing of our trash is important. But here, the sheer volume of waste I see on beaches has made it abundantly clear that disposing of our waste responsibly simply isn't enough. What we need to do is make less waste.
We need to start saying no to plastic.
The #plasticTIDEproject is evolving and I'm not sure yet what it will become.
For now, it's part documenting my journey towards a zero waste lifestyle, part organising and participating in beach cleans, and part creative mission to build awareness of the plastic in our oceans.
Oh, and I wrote a book for Friendly Drifter Foundation - the proceeds of which will be used for their various missions including education + awareness and building a sustainable waste management system in Raja Ampat.