Our website has been up and running for roughly a month now and we are very excited that people are already finding us through our page and social media channels. So our next challenge is to keep the content lively and appealing. Time for a new blog posting! Here goes …
The summer has made its entry into this year with a bang! Following a mild winter many of us were taken by surprise by the sudden high temperatures and subsequently the fast warming up of the sea. Whilst beaches are being prepared and sun worshippers are liberating their swimming trunks and bikinis from the clutches of winter storage we have already enjoyed our first dives in shorties!
During this collective awakening from the winter slumber to the healthier mindset of summer, sand and sea various beach cleanups find their way to the public agenda. These initiatives almost always originate with individuals or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They are desperately needed. This year a Facebook post in April caught our eye; “New rule: every time you visit the beach, pick up three pieces of plastic”. Simple, comical, inspiring, necessary. This summer we challenge all of you to live by this simple rule … simply because it is the right thing to do!
Flashback. Twelve months ago various Greek media reported on a shameful disgrace and huge embarrassment. So what had happened? A teenage girl passing through Greece during a sailing trip had posted photos on Instagram of her and her family. The girl had taken note of the garbage scattered on some island beaches and had gotten her family involved in cleaning it up. In itself not incredibly unique. There are numerous examples around of individuals who have demonstrated awareness, interest and good citizenship by picking up somebody else’s garbage and disposing it in a garbage bin. But this was not just any girl. This was the daughter of the well-known Hollywood acting couple Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. The photo that she had posted went viral. Not the best marketing for a country that depends so strongly on summer tourism.
It is great that local initiatives like LIFE DEBAG, Plastic Free Greece and Let’s Do It Greece are gaining in popularity. Also the work of NGOs making an effort to safeguard the interests of the marine environment (Archelon, Mediterranean SOS, Medasset, Mom, WWF, Pelagos, Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, etc) is inspiring and effective. But their efforts do not give us the right to lean back and applaud them. We can and must take responsibility as individuals as well. A well-meant cheer or ‘LIKE’ on social media is all too easy and certainly not enough.
Just a few statistics:
- According to the website of Plastic Free Greece 8 million tons of plastic waste enter the world's oceans every year. In 2016 consumers in Greece used a total of 4.3 billion plastic bags. That averages to about 400 bags for every man, woman and child in the country. 270 of those 400 plastic bags are single-use from supermarkets. A very small percentage (1% or 4 bags) gets recycled.
- The website of The Ocean Cleanup (“One of the world’s best inventions of 2015” according to TIME Magazine) reports that at the present time five trillion pieces of plastic litter the world’s oceans.
- The International Coastal Cleanup 2017 Report of Ocean Conservancy presents a ranking of the types of garbage found and registered globally during beach cleanups.
Without a doubt the prevailing dominant preference for Freddos and other ‘portable forms’ of coffee will translate to an even higher ranking of the number of plastic cups and straws found on Greek beaches. For the record, we love our Freddos as much as any other person! We make damn sure, though, that the plastic cup and lid along with the straw end up in a blue bin or plastic recycling collection point.
A few guidelines with which any one of you can contribute to a cleaner shoreline:
- DON’T GIVE WIND A CHANCE. Do not allow a gust of wind to carry litter into the sea. Dispose of litter immediately.
- REFUSE EXTRAS. So often extras are added to your order ... plastic bags, carton trays, straws, napkins, salt and pepper, sauces, etc. Unless you intend to use them refuse them at the counter.
- REFILLABLE BOTTLES. Use refillable (sometimes even collapsible) bottles for water or other beverages.
- CHOOSE YOUR CREAMS WITH CARE. Some suntan lotions, after sun creams and moisturizers contain environmentally damaging ingredients. Be cautious and choose your preferred products with care.
- LEAVE ANY PLACE CLEANER THAN YOU FOUND IT. Even picking up and disposing of one piece of litter makes a difference.
[Photo credit: Ferdi Rizkiyanto, 2011]