Covid19 may have stopped many travel adventures, yet, Kay Newton found a way. A two-week virtual voyage with eXXpedition. An all-women crew created to explore the causes of and solutions to plastic pollution, including scientific discovery, problem-solving techniques and leadership development.
Kay starts. “In an ideal world, our adventure would have been an actual sea voyage around the coast of South Africa. Yet, Emily Penn and Sally Earthrowl successfully led nine newbie crew members via Zoom.
The crew came from different countries. Collectively we had many skills, too numerous to mention. Our professions read – coach, teacher, doctor, artist, graphic designer, coral specialists, divers, architects and the world specialist in sperm storage in deep-sea sharks (Yes, you read that correctly!)
The voyage took part in four watches, each with a specific task in mind. We got to know each other, enhance our super skills and knowledge about plastic, the importance of measurement and what our next steps will be. We even got to experiment using the Marine Debris Tracker app, collecting just under 2,000 pieces as a team. When we measure, we can manage.
On Watch Four, we had an opportunity to interact with some diverse projects cleaning up SA rivers. Rivers are the source of 80% of the seas plastic pollution. South Africa has many other underlying issues such as poverty, unemployment, poor waste management and lack of education. None of this has stopped the sterling work taking place. The conversation led to many new ideas and simple solutions to the worldwide issue.”
In what felt like a throwaway comment, one SA speaker mentioned how targeting chefs onboard vessels could make all the difference to world plastic education. His reasoning was pretty simple, chefs are at the heart of the ship – the central point for provisioning plastic. When a chef converts to sustainability, the crew either goes hungry or join in!
Kay continues. “It led me to think about my time as a yacht chef, in the 1980s, before regulation of the yachting industry. Also, my Son, and his career as a superyacht chef today. Life has moved on, yet the fundamentals are the same.
Plastic toxicity is a cause for concern. We are uncertain how plastic and its toxic chemicals create personal body burdens and disrupt our oceans. We can only wait to see the full effects. Yet we do know it is serious, and time is not on our side.
So much information creates overwhelm, to the point where you ask – What is the point! Yet, one thing I learned on the eXXpedition voyage is that we can all do our part. No matter how small, over time, it will make a difference.”
Here are ten possible areas where chefs can make an impact.
- Shop Locally
Whenever possible, use local sources for produce. Each port of call will have something new to offer. Fresh is always best. Firstly head for the markets with your reusable baskets/boxes and crates. Not only will it save plastic use, but you can also store goods without having to change to another container. If you do not have the luxury of choosing your own and rely on a supplier, speak to them and refuse products unless plastic-free.
- Buy in Bulk
Storage space can be an issue at sea, yet if possible, buy dried goods in bulk. Bulk often means material sacks. Decant the contents into storage boxes. Watch out for bulk goods wrapped in plastic, and avoid if possible. Feel free to ask for the store manager and leave your unwanted plastic at the checkout explaining why it is time to buck the trend worldwide.
- Avoid Single-use Plastics
The biggest offenders include; straws, water bottles, coffee cup lids, plastic bags, take out containers, cling film, party plates cups and cutlery, six-pack rings. As the chef, lead your crew by example, find alternatives and keep persevering. For example, take your coffee keep cup wherever you go. Your habits will transfer to everyone on board.
4.Do Not Get Fooled by Bioplastic
This one caught me by surprise! It is advertised as the perfect solution because it supposedly breaks down in the environment. It does not. Biodegradable plastic (yes, it is still plastic and toxic) requires high temperatures and long exposures to decompose, not found in ocean environments.
- Clean Simply
When in closed confined spaces, there can be nothing worse than dealing with intoxicating chemical fumes. For everyday cleaning, Castille soap, white vinegar/lemon juice and baking soda or a mix of, will do the trick. Add a few drops of essential oils if you need a natural smell. Not only does it work, but it will also save space.
Left-overs is a biggie for some crew and chefs alike. Food wastage’s carbon footprint is estimated at 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of GHG released into the atmosphere per year.
If your mum served you left-overs at home, there is no reason why you cannot eat them on board. Most food will remain good to eat when stored in refrigeration for 3-5 days. Using leftovers is common sense, good for the planet, storage and the boat budget. Simples.
- Go Vegetarian and Stop Smoking
Apart from being good for your health, going vegetarian and stopping smoking makes sense. Are you 100% sure your meat has been reared organically, ethically and not transported around the globe? If not, it is unlikely to be healthy or environmentally friendly.
Most fish, even fresh, is contaminated with microplastics. Carnivores such as Tuna, shark and swordfish contain the most – they eat other fish. If you still decide to be a pescatarian, avoid the top predators.
5.6 trillion cigarettes are estimated, smoked per year. 4.5 trillion of the plastic butts, left on the last drag, are then flicked away. On the local beach clean up, there were more butts than bums on the beach!
- Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle
We often think recycling is the first and only answer, yet it is the final part of the equation. First, ask can I refuse this plastic? If not, can I reduce the amount? If not, can I reuse or repurpose it? Then finally ask, can it be recycled? Keep in mind that only 9% of world plastic is ever recycled. Remember the five Rs as a starting point for purchasing.
- Tell Others Why
This step is probably the best step of all. No matter where you are in the world, you have the opportunity for a conversation. When you explain from the heart your reason to avoid plastic, you plant the seed of change in another. Whether you share plastic photos with a small child in the Caribbean, chat with a vendor in Seychelles or converse in your local bar, the ripple effect you create is priceless.
- Find Help and Help
Whilst in port, Google the conservation work taking place in the local area and join in where you can. Here in Mallorca, check out Save The Med and the work they are doing in the Baleares.
You can also download the Marine Debris Tracker app and log your boats beach/sea cleaning efforts. Why not challenge other vessels to join in and see how much you collect by the end of the season?
If nothing above rocks your boat, check out eXXpedition’s resource at Shift.how. You can scroll through the ideas, take one and run with it until it becomes a habit for everyone at sea. Good luck.
About Kay Newton
Kay is the author of ‘How to Clean You Home Organically’ and writes monthly columns for magazines in the US and India. When she is not at her desk, you can find her beachcombing for trash in Colonia de San Pere, Mallorca.
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