Inspiration for a life less plastic …

sunset surf beachIt’s easy to think that the sea will look after itself. That it’ll keep on doing what it does for millennia to come, just as it always has. And maybe we’d be forgiven for thinking that, seeing as on the surface, things look the same as ever. Big swell days, wild stormy days, sunlight bouncing off the water days. It gives, it takes and appears to be not in the least dependant on our actions, us humans that live and play by the sea, eating its fruits and taking in its beauty.

But how wrong we’d be to think that. To imagine that our actions are of no consequence and that this great body of water will cope with whatever we throw at it. The odd plastic coffee cup lid, the plastic bag, the fallen bottle top. Yet the sea is full of plastic. We see it along the tide lines – no longer the black and brown of bladderwrack and kelp, but full of the colours of every piece of plastic that has ever been made. Crisp wrappers found inside a dolphin, Epsom ink cartridges in the bellies of albatross chicks. These images are our siren calls to wake up, the ocean’s way of bringing our attention to something we’ve been doing that has to stop … now. Without this graphic visual evidence we’d carry on regardless – who doesn’t love the convenience of a tub of hummus or a smoothie on the go? It’s so easy to move with the ease and speed of ‘progress’. Being pulled along by the currents, doing what everyone else is doing, eating and buying whatever the supermarkets package up for us.

Going against the grain is hard, it takes effort to do something different. But as surfers we know what it’s like to do that. Some of us are still building up enough strength to paddle out, to get out back. And there are those of us already out there, calling us on, showing us how it can be done. Whilst I’m not one of those (yet!) when it comes to surfing, I am one of those living a life with less plastic. I heard the call of the seas and responded by doing everything I could to reduce my plastic consumption; travelling with refillable bottles and coffee cups, taking reusable bags to supermarkets, butchers and delis. I make bread and biscuits – despite being a single-mum with a busy job and a full life. I set up an organisation – City to Sea – that aims to make it easier and more fun for people to join in with this way of life – and I’d love you to come along for the ride. Even just for a month – you could start by doing ‘Plastic Free July‘ with me. It’s not easy, but the rewards are beyond what I could ever had imagined from ‘giving something up’.

A small group of people is all it takes to change the world; simple changes make waves.

good gym beach clean

 

Article first published in SURFGIRL Magazine, Summer 2016 Issue.

2015: people, planet and plastic!

On the TV:

2015 saw me presenting and producing half an hour of daily, prime time TV for Made in Bristol. From sewage to strictly, here are some of my highlights!

 

On the banks of the River Avon:

refill bristolIn Spring 2015, I formed City to Sea, a collective of local organisations, practitioners, scientists, marine biologists & campaigners addressing the problem of marine plastic at a city level. Our objectives are to reduce the amount of plastic litter flowing from Bristol into the Severn Estuary, by phasing out single-use plastics and creating a replicable model that can be shared with other coastal and river based cities. Have a look at the website for more info on our campaigns, Refill Bristol and Switch the Stick!

ITV West Country, BBC Radio Bristol and Made in Bristol TV have been supporting and following the journey.

 

On a raft made of plastic:

On World Oceans Day I launched the music video to my song, Burden, a year to the day after the crowdfunder that made it all happen. 15% of iTunes downloads and 100% of Bandcamp downloads go to Surfers Against Sewage Marine Litter Team. Hugest of thanks to everyone who backed it, especially Bristol 2015, The Wave, Bristol Water, Wessex Water, At Bristol, Bristol Aquarium, Reflex Marine and Bristol Port for their support!

 

Here’s to 2016! Thanks for your interest and please subscribe to my youtube channel for regular updates, interviews, plastic-free tips and more!

 

Seas Initiative: krilliant news!

For the month of June I ran a crowd-funding campaign to raise £5000 for the production of a song and music video to raise awareness about marine plastic pollution.

There were huge ups and downs; keeping the momentum going for a month, the perils of an ‘all or nothing’ platform, the uncertainty, the joys of incoming pledges!

However what I hadn’t anticipated were the conversations, dreams and relationships that would unfold throughout the campaign. It’s as if the world I live in has gone from being land-based to encompassing the ocean; both life in and on the sea has opened up to me in response to me campaigning for its health.

albatross

You see I’m a total landlubber; I get seasick on barges, am a terrible swimmer and am afraid of being on the water. Or at least I was. But it wasn’t the sea that first spoke to me. It was the decline of the Laysan Albatross on the Midway Islands, portrayed so powerfully by Chris Jordan, that moved me. I had to do something.

Some months later, during a meditation, I realised a recent song I’d written would fit perfectly over a music video about marine plastic pollution. And so I set about looking at ways to fund it. Initially I tried approaching companies, one at a time, asking if they’d sponsor it. But £5000 was a lot for one company to risk on a girl with good intentions but no proven track record in smash hit singles!

Through one of my many calls to multinational companies, I struck up a rapport with a head of sustainability. We shared many of the same values and passions and whilst he couldn’t support me through the company, he encouraged me to try crowdfunding.

Initially I didn’t like the idea. Asking my friends and family for money. Times are hard, and we’ve all got our favourite charities and projects to support. So I let it go, feeling like I’d given it a good shot and just wasn’t able to do it.

Some months later, I saw World Oceans Day was approaching and with it, a gnawing sense of failure. I wanted this to happen! I didn’t want to give up! So I got in touch with Crowdfunder and spent the next two weeks getting ready to launch the campaign.seas-initiative-thank-you

Seas Initiative: the crowdfunder.

The month of the campaign was a rollercoaster however I had the support of a great friend and project manager, Ali Rowe, who kept reminding me to keep the faith, to wipe the frown from my forehead and keep plugging away! And I had the online support of Bristol Pound as I was the first Crowdfunder campaign to accept my city’s local currency via their Txt2Pay system!

The middle two weeks were the hardest, pledges dropped off almost altogether and I had regular freak outs, melt downs and wobbles. Then it all kicked back in and I got the buy-in of an amazing array of Bristol businesses; one after the other came on board and before I knew it, I’d reached the target with a few days left to overfund.

In total, Seas Initiative raised around £2000 in personal pledges, and £4500 in business pledges – smashing the £5000 target!  

The support I received means that I can now go forth and produce the song, music video, website and outreach programme to help switch hundreds of thousands of people on to restoring and protecting our oceans from plastic pollution. Which makes me very happy indeed.

Back to the ocean. A week before the end of the project I spent a weekend with Ali by the sea. We played, rested and prayed … knowing that we’d done all we could do and the rest was in the hands of the gods. In typical ‘the ocean is a scary place’ style I got stung by something unidentifiable during the one time I went in for a swim; happily I lived to tell the tale. Since then I’ve dreamed of the sea every night for ten days; boats, ocean journeys, whales, dolphins and last night … sharks. Nice dreams, bold dreams, facing my fear dreams.

exxpedition-natalie-fee

And, as a result of my campaigning, I’ve been offered a place on board eXXpedition: an all women’s voyage to make the unseen seen, from the toxics in our bodies to the toxics in our seas. To me this is perhaps the ultimate reward from putting my heart and soul into a project I’m passionate about – the gift of expanding my comfort zone! Of course I’ll have to raise my passage first, for which I’ll be approaching some of the bigger companies who support this kind of research and mission. If you’re reading this with business investment eyes then you can read more here – and of course I’d be happy to hear from you!

For now though, the focus is on the production of the song, the film and the website. Watch this space for more news and …

THANK-YOU FOR SUPPORTING SEAS INITIATIVE!

natalie-dave

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