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Cheryl
Martin

Working with amazing partners and organisations ethically aligned with GVI’s missions and values through our Virtual Internships  Program has been a totally unforgettable experience, for both GVI staff and participants.

One of our collaborative partners, Ocean Pledge, is based in Cape Town, South Africa.  It is headed by the inspiring and passionate Diony. She has not only had a huge impact on our interns who have been working on educational and awareness projects over the last few months. But she has also inspired the VI Supervisor and Program Manager of the Limpopo hub, Zoe, to take on their 28 Day Ocean Pledge Challenge in partnership with the Two Oceans Aquarium

Each day a new challenge is sent out via email,  jam-packed with useful tips, tricks, guides, and information including “why is it important” for the reader to engage with and follow.  The aim is to inspire people to be more environmentally sustainable.

This challenge is about education and awareness of your everyday decisions.  The more people reached, the greater the positive impact!   It costs nothing to start scrutinizing your product choices and how you deal with waste, so why not share with you all what we’ve learned from Ocean Pledge over the last 28 days so that you too can start making a difference, no matter where you are!

DAY 1 – I PLEDGE TO MAKE A START

You have to start somewhere! So why not start at the beginning? For some, diving headfirst into a completely sustainable lifestyle just isn’t viable, but that’s not what this challenge is about! Just making the conscious decision to start making choices within your capacity is what this whole thing is about.

DAY 2 – I PLEDGE TO BUY LESS STUFF

The golden questions to ask yourself before you purchase anything:

  • Do I actually need this new item?
  • If I’m replacing something, what was really wrong with it?
  • If I’m upgrading something, could it wait a while longer?
  • Could I borrow it instead?
  • Do I need a brand new full-price item, or could I buy a second-hand item for less?
  • How will I dispose of this item when the time comes, and how will I dispose of the old one I am replacing?

DAY 3 – I PLEDGE TO STEP AWAY FROM THE THROW-AWAY CULTURE

  • REFUSE what you do not need, especially disposable and single-use items. 
  • REDUCE what you do need – use fewer resources.
  • REUSE by buying second hand and swapping.
  • RECYCLE what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse.
  • ROT (compost) – return what you can to the earth.

“At the current rate, there will be 12 billion tons of plastic in landfills by 2050. Our throw-away culture has resulted in more waste than we, and the planet can handle. Every year, as much as 12.7 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans – that’s such a waste! 

DAY 4 – I PLEDGE TO BIN IT RIGHT

Waste separation should start at the source! Lots of helpful guides at the base in Limpopo do help!

“Recycling is not purely for the good of our environment – it is currently an R25 billion industry in South Africa, so it’s good for jobs too. When you sort out your trash and properly dispose of it in the correct bins, you’re increasing the “grade” of your rubbish, which actually makes it more valuable to collectors and recyclers. Your behaviour change at home thus incentivises the industry to grow!”

DAY 5 – I PLEDGE TO CHOOSE SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD

“Unsustainable fishing practices have left 89% of the ocean’s fish stocks thoroughly exploited, some even dangerously depleted. Not only does overfishing kill off entire ecosystems, but fishing methods are often highly destructive, damaging reefs and resulting in massive by-catch.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification is an eco-certification that certifies fisheries that have adopted sustainable fishing methods and have fully traceable supply chains.”

DAY 6 – I PLEDGE TO RETHINK THE BAG

“Every year about 1 trillion plastic bags are made around the globe – that’s 2 million bags a minute! Like with all single-use plastic products, the less we use, the less there will be available to pollute the environment. Also, the less we use, the less will be produced, saving vital natural resources.” 

DAY 7 – I PLEDGE TO GIVE UP CLING WRAP

Handy ideas on how to get out of the habit of using cling wrap:

  • Reuse the container your food came in. Inevitably, some of the products you buy are going to come in plastic packaging, so why not reseal the bag with a twist and a peg instead of using a new container?
  • Reusable beeswax wraps are available at health shops, and are also easy to make at home!
  • Reusable storage containers – glass is great for use around the home, and metal lunch boxes are ideal for travel. Good quality plastic containers are also better than single-use options – but check that they are recyclable.
  • Glass jars – these last forever, and are essentially free.
  • A normal bowl with a plate over.
  • If traveling, consider a good quality luggage lock, rather than plastic wrap

DAY 8 – I PLEDGE TO BECOME A MICROBEAD DETECTOR

“The smaller the plastic particles, the harder it is to remove them from the environment. Microbeads are just that – micro! So, once they are in our waterways there is a very slim chance that we will be able to filter them out. And remember, all drains lead to the ocean, including those from your house.”

DAY 9 – I PLEDGE TO SAY NO TO PLASTIC BOTTLES

Not always possible here on base – so instead we create eco-bricks with our plastic bottles and soft plastics!

“While we first advocate using what you already have at home before rushing out to buy anything new, if you are going to step out to purchase a reusable bottle, think about the quality and its lifespan. There is a myriad of reusable bottles on the market to choose from.”

DAY 10 – I PLEDGE TO EAT LESS MEAT

“Of all the ways of combating climate change in your personal capacity, consuming less meat and dairy is probably the easiest and most effective. Livestock farming puts a tremendous strain on the environment – it is one of the leading causes of climate change. It is also one of the largest contributors to habitat destruction, deforestation, and uses enormous amounts of water.” You don’t have to go full vegan/vegetarian – even reducing your meat intake by a third or having a meat-free day can have a serious impact!

DAY 11 – I PLEDGE TO MINIMISE PLASTIC PACKAGING

“Twenty years of longitudinal beach studies in South Africa have shown that 94% of all litter found on beaches is plastic, of which a staggering 77% is packaging. That, along with poor waste management systems, results in much of the plastic ending up in the environment and overflowing landfills. And 8 million tonnes of it annually ends up in our ocean.”

DAY 12 – I PLEDGE TO GIVE UP PLASTIC STRAWS

“If you’re a lover of smoothies or other beverages that absolutely require a straw, consider bringing your own reusable one (glass and metal options are great) or support establishments that make use of truly biodegradable ones, like paper, pasta or reeds (not “biodegradable” plastic).”

DAY 13 – I PLEDGE TO DITCH STYROFOAM

Also known as expanded polystyrene, styrofoam is very popular in the food and take-away business for its low cost and insulation properties, which makes it a highly problematic type of plastic pollution.

DAY 14 – I PLEDGE TO SAY NO TO BALLOONS AND PLASTIC PARTY DECOR

“Don’t believe the marketing ploy of “biodegradable” or compostable balloons – they create as much damage as any other balloons. If you truly want something balloon-shaped, how about some paper lanterns (please just don’t release burning ones over land or sea).”

Here on the Limpopo base, we are completely off-grid – solar power is used for our electricity and to pump the water from our borehole.

DAY 15 – I PLEDGE TO BE ENERGY CONSCIOUS

Turn off the lights, replace bulbs with LED, unplug devices/office equipment when not in use, try regulating temperatures first before resorting to heaters or air conditioning, defrost your freezer, full loads in the dishwasher or washing machine (on a cold wash), use pressure cookers, try to avoid preheating your oven for long periods of time, defrost your food in the fridge overnight rather than the microwave, and try setting your geyser to 55°C (the sweet spot) to avoid the need for adding cold water!

DAY 16 – I PLEDGE TO BRING MY OWN CUP

Coffee cup, water bottle, reusable cold drink cup – tick, tick, and tick!

DAY 17 – I PLEDGE TO WASH MY CLOTHES COOLER, SLOWER, AND LESS FREQUENTLY

“You might not even be aware that your clothing is shedding hundreds of thousands of microscopic plastic strands into the water every time you wash them – and they are not filtered out before reaching the sea. Every time you do a load of washing, as many as 700 000 plastic microfibres, are released into the wastewater system which ultimately ends up in our rivers and seas.”

DAY 18 – I PLEDGE TO COMPOST

“Did you know that almost one-third of all food produced in the world goes to waste? Apart from the social and humanitarian consequences of such food wastage, spoiled food is a top environmental hazard – about 6% of all methane that contributes to climate change is generated by the incorrect disposal of food waste.”

DAY 19 – I PLEDGE TO MAKE MY EXISTING PLASTIC LAST LONGER

“What’s the fastest way to immediately half the use of ANY single-use plastic item? Reuse it one more time!”

DAY 20 – I PLEDGE TO BUY SECOND-HAND ITEMS 

“Furniture, tools, décor, books, small appliances – there are many bargains out there! Let your creativity shine – give a second-hand item a new lease on life with a  coat of paint!”

DAY 21 – I PLEDGE TO WRAP GIFTS RESPONSIBLY

Handy tips:

  • Use brown paper to wrap gifts instead of overpriced colourful wrappings 
  • Reuse the paper bags from retail or grocery stores or reuse gift bags and boxes 
  • Reuse newspaper, old maps, magazine cut-outs, or colourful fabric off-cuts
  • Wrap your gift in a pretty tea towel, scarf, or reusable shopping or tote bag
  • Use hemp or twine instead of nasty plastic tape or ribbons – avoid strings that have been chemically treated as these take longer to biodegrade.
  • Use a sprig of something natural instead of a ribbon for décor.

DAY 22 – I PLEDGE TO GREEN MY COMMUTE

Plan your trips (shopping, work, etc.) together, carpool, walk/cycle, use public transportation when possible, consider offsetting your carbon footprint, keep your car well serviced & efficient.

DAY 23 – I PLEDGE TO CUT A LOOP

“Snip open any plastic “loops” like the handles of a shopping packet or the plastic rings from the lids of milk bottles and mayonnaise jars and cut long lengths of material like box bands, ear loops on disposable masks, the elastics of old underwear, synthetic cord, ribbons, and even the packaging tape into smaller pieces before discarding of them.”

DAY 24 – I PLEDGE TO MAKE MY WARDROBE OCEAN FRIENDLY

“After oil, and agriculture, the fashion industry is the world’s most polluting industry. Did you know that most “fast fashion” clothing items are designed to be worn no more than seven times?”

DAY 25 – I PLEDGE TO JOIN AN ENVIRONMENTAL CLEAN-UP

GVI Limpopo organise rubbish pick-ups along the fenceline as often as possible.

“Support any local beach, river, waterway, or other environmental cleanups in your area. Even if nothing is formally organised, simply picking up a few pieces of litter when you’re out and about makes a big difference!”

DAY 26 – I PLEDGE TO BE ALERT ABOUT GREENWASHING

“Greenwashing is a marketing trick used by many companies to portray themselves as environmentally friendly or to hide knowledge of the harm their products can cause. It’s an intentional deception, and unfortunately, it’s more common than ever. There is no easy way to avoid greenwashing – you are going to have to look a little deeper into your product choices.”

DAY 27 – I PLEDGE TO SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES

“Supporting local brands and businesses means bringing goodness back into your own community. Buying local means that you get to use your pocket power to have a direct say in who you want to support, and this in turn affects our oceans and environment! And now, during the uncertainty of the global pandemic, this is a great way to help our neighbours too.”

DAY 28 – I PLEDGE TO MAKE A LIFELONG COMMITMENT

“In the end, our choices are what makes the change. If you choose to live a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle, you are choosing to have a positive impact on the environment. And that matters. You are not just one person, you are a member of the largest team on Earth. Your small actions can and do inspire others in small ways, so never think that you aren’t making a difference.”

“Ocean Pledge is committed to turning awareness into action. We believe that each individual has the power to save the world by committing to make one, small realistic, and meaningful change at a time. It is through the collective of individual actions we will co-create the groundswell of positive change, shifting paradigms, and turning the tide on single-use plastic and our throw away culture for good. Every drop counts!” – Diony Lalieu, Ocean Pledge.

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