World first paddle boarding adventures, building a life you love, environmental activism and Plastic Patrol. Dig in!
March 18, 2020
Editor credit: A big thank you to our editor Jakub Marzec (Kuba) for his work on this!
George Beesley 1:51
Cool. Okay. Hello, and welcome to the call to adventure podcast. Some of you may be wondering what happened to we need more heroes. Well call to adventure is the new, bigger, better incarnation, where we've expanded to creating other types of content, not just podcasts. So we've got some written stuff and some videos that you can check out how to guides, gear reviews and features. And we've also got loads of adventures for you guys to join us on. From quick trips in the UK to month long expeditions in the Himalaya. There's all sorts over there hiking, climbing, mountaineering, backpacking, wild swimming. So yeah, head over to calltoadventure.uk for more on that, but now on to today's episode. She's known in the adventure world for her love of paddleboarding, being the first person to paddleboard the entire length of England's waterways solo and unsupported in 2016. Then the next year being the first woman to paddleboard solo across the English Channel, and then triple whammy 2018 first person to paddleboard the entire length of the Hudson River. She's also the author of paddling Britain, the 50 best places to explore by SUP, kayak and canoe. But her passion now mainly lies with environmental activism. She started the plastic patrol movement, which has now expanded globally in over 80 countries and has logged more than 250,000 bits of litter in their initiative. So I think this blend of adventure and activism makes her the perfect guest for call to adventure. So Lizzie Carr. How's it going?
Lizze Carr 3:29
Hello, thanks for having me.
Thanks for coming on. Yeah, really good to have you on and looking forward to our chat. So now's a bit of a weird time in Corona lockdown how's things for you.
Lizzie Carr 3:44
And it's been quite surreal, just getting used to it. I generally work from home a lot anyway. So reality is not a great deal of change. But at the same time, it feels like everything has changed. But it's been a few weeks now. I feel like I'm just readjusting. And I'm getting into a bit of a rhythm again. And but yeah, for the first few weeks I was just completely unproductive just kind of staring at walls wondering what was going on?
Yeah, it's kind of weird, isn't it? I think I had a similar experience where I also work from home. So, day to day life is not that different. Just work at the laptop for a long time and then head out into the garden. The kind of little adventure breaks that normally really helped me deal with a lot of work though. Now we don't really have those anymore. So I'm certainly noticing that not being able to get out on a mountain bike ride or something. I'm sure it's the same for you because you're not paddling now, right?
No, not paddling. And typically, the weather has been incredible. The last couple of weeks, you look at everyday, like perfect paddling conditions, and I'll just stay at home and look out the window.
Yeah, always the way as soon as lockdowns lifted is just gonna be just tearing it down cats and dogs every day? Have you found it tough in lockdown then? Or is it not been too bad? Do you think that any of your past adventures or experiences have helped you with lockdown. I know, some people have found it really, really tough and other people haven't.
I've had ups and downs I have had, I spent about a month in isolation A few years ago, when I was ill with cancer. And during my treatment I had to be and then in sort of the confines of a leadlined room during radiotherapy for quite a while. And at that time, there was no Netflix there was no communicating with people in the way that we do. Now they FaceTime there wasn't anything like that. So it was really like you were on your own. So I think there was a lot that I've learned from that I could apply to this situation, and just kind of understanding how I work. And but it's still it really, it's still really throws you it's still been like a huge and situation for me to comprehend an ordeal like it has for anybody. And so yeah, I do think I have had sort of experiences in the past that have maybe helped me a little bit. But it doesn't mean I found it easy.
Yeah. Well, I think it'd be interesting just to quickly give a bit of context to your story. So yeah, you were working in the city in marketing. Is that right before you kind of made made the leap? Yeah, exactly.
I was working in London in a creative agency.
Yeah. So I thought that would be a really good guest because you have the kind of quintessential hero's story. And that's where the name call to adventure came from. Joseph Campbell stages of the hero's journey, there's like, life is normal, which is how every hero story or most stories kind of all have these key elements to them. They always start off with life as normal like in the Shire and Lord of the Rings or pretty much anything. Everything's great sun's out and then something turned the world upside down. And there's normally the main character the hero has their their call to adventure which is where they can either they get summoned or kind of presented with a big task and they can choose to go and see what's out there and transcend and become something more or they can just stay at home and not really learn anything about themselves and and shy away from it. So yeah, I think your your story kind of embodies that where you were living what's kind of a normal life to then wanted to go and live a different life and do something more. So now you're more focused on the environmental side, but can we just talk quickly about how you kind of left your your corporate job and then got into paddleboarding from there?
Oh, yeah. And so I sort of eco venturing around the world and sort of various remote locations and I knew that I had wasn't well, but I didn't really know what was wrong with me. And by the time I'd come back, I booked to go to the doctors and have this complete sort of unexpected diagnosis of cancer, as I mentioned earlier, and, and it just completely changed everything for me. And I did go back to work for the first year or so. And in that time, I just felt this huge sense of guilt and, and just this anxiety that I've gone through this really life affirming life changing experience. And a lot of people around me didn't have the same positive outcome that I had had. And I just felt really bad for it. I know now that that's a really common feeling of survivor's guilt, I didn't recognize and I didn't know what that was at the time. And so I decided to quit my job, and I didn't really have a plan of what I would do next. It was just, I didn't really care and I think I'd grown this quiet confidence from what I've been through that, you know, I've had cancer and I've survived it. So wherever life throws at me now. I'll just deal with it. And I'll make it okay. Because, because I because I just will. And it was not really that naive. And I think because I was young I was 26, I was in a position where I didn't have the responsibilities that maybe older people would have had. So I could make those more sort of, decisions. And I'd left my job and I really just took up paddleboarding as a low impact way of getting fitter and better during that process. It was really as simple as that. And then obviously, that just completely was the start of my life changing.
Hmm. I think it's a really powerful message for people who are going through whatever they're going through now, whether it's something as extreme as cancer or people who are finding it really tough to deal with locked down or everybody's kind of facing one child. And to see how positively you're able to rebound from that, I think is a really, really important story to tell. And but for people that aren't necessarily confronted by a something so drastic who has cancer in their life that makes them really reconsider what they're doing. What advice would you give to people or what do you think is a good way to look at it who aren't necessarily met with such a catalyst but feel a bit like they're just kind of each day is not really what they want to be doing with their life, but there's nothing that's really kicking them up the bum enough to make a change?
it I think it does often take a very life changing situation to give you that kick up the bum that I definitely felt unfulfilled before. I've gone on a sabbatical like that already. As an example of somebody that was probably craving to leave That job. And, you know, at all, I was already showing the signs of being a little bit frustrated and that gave me the encouragement that I needed to just make the jump. But I do think that like you say people aren't necessarily faced with those or confronted with those really challenging situations. There's, there's definitely changes you can make in your life that don't have to be as drastic as changing your job, or quitting your job or just completely overhauling how you live. They can be a lot smaller, you can just sort of do it incrementally so that you're you're just adding positive things in your life that reflect your values. And beyond just go into work every day and feeling totally fulfilled by what you do. You know, things like maybe volunteering after hours or at weekends or trying out new sports and hobbies. Like it really is that simple. And that does add so much more joy to your life that people maybe don't think about because I just stuck in a rut.
Hmm, yeah, and that's really important. I think it can seem like sometimes I am always campaigning for people to quit their jobs. And that's that's not what I'm saying at all. I think if people are very unhappy and they want to change and they want to do something completely different then absolutely go for it but it's certainly not for everyone and some people are very happy in their in their corporate jobs or whatever jobs they're doing. It's more just about putting the time and the effort and the thought into making sure that you're living your best life and maybe that's just adding a few extra activities like you say and becoming part of a community This seems like paddleboarding was definitely your your journey into that so, for people that haven't tried paddleboarding but think it looks it looks cool. It's low impact way to go out with on the water in nature. What are your top tips for people getting into paddleboarding?
Top tips would be Don't overthink it go and same with anything in life. Never overthink anything. But particularly paddle boarding. And the fear of falling in is much worse than the reality of falling in and often falling in is a really good thing because you realize it's not that bad at all and you can start to really enjoy it God there's so many parallels with life here I think
I thought that they would be my two top things. But Thirdly, I think there's loads of really accessible boards now that you can buy from retailers and that means that anybody can go out and, and paddle which is amazing, but I really do recommend that people go to their local clubs and have lessons one because I think it's really important that people understand the basics and properly and how to usable properly and the conditions around them because although it looks very easy and very gentle, and you get a lot of these like images of the Caribbean conjured up when you think of paddleboarding, Mother Nature can be very dangerous. I think people often really underestimate If they've not spent a lot of time on the water, but also it's a really great way to build a community and find like minded people that you can go and have adventures with and can let you know give you advice on routes or different types of kit to buy. So, I think for me paddleboarding, the part of the charm is the community around it and the community that's been built around it. So I really do think it's important that people try and tap into that as much as possible rather than just sort of going on board and going back buying a board and then just kind of going off and doing their own adventures independently all the time.
Yeah, so a quick Google I guess, you can just find your local paddleboarding club right just where you live and then paddleboarding. And that is that the best way to find it or if there are directory or Facebook groups,
there is I mean, there are directories but a lot of them are quite outdated. And but generally, I think just a quick Google or a quick search on Facebook groups or Instagram you'll find something in your local area and there's loads more that have popped up. And in the last few years that they've said to the last couple of years that paddle boarding is the fastest growing sport in the UK. And I still think it is I think it's still something that people see as being very accessible. And and there was there was such a charm to it. And obviously I'm a massive fan of it. And but I think it's something that everyone thinks they can do and everyone can do they just need to do it safely.
Yeah. Has Boris taken to the waters yet? I saw a picture of you with Boris and you offered you were trying to get him out there. And I want to know, I mean, obviously before lockdown, or maybe after lockdown. Is he going to be out there SUPing away?
I mean, it's a great recovery tool, isn't it? So obviously having had that and promoting a virus, and it could be a nice thing for him to try. He did tell me how to bad backs that he wasn't sure he'd be able to do it. But I would say that it's low impact and it's actually really, really great physiotherapy for backache. So I will keep trying
amazing. So Yeah, you've you've done a lot of paddle boarding and used to be into it just kind of for your, for your own physical and mental health, but also done these adventures and these first. So what was behind wanting to do those the length of Britain and the Hudson what what drove you to want to do first as opposed to just out there?
I suppose for me, I started paddle boarding because I wanted to get fitter. What I didn't expect was to one feel the like mental well being aspect of it that really I needed and I didn't realize how much I needed it. But also how it really unexpectedly drew me back to nature. And being on the water and seeing just how bad the problem was with at the time with plastic which plastic pollution particularly was just heartbreaking. I was using the water on the canals and rivers near where I lived to restore By health, and yet every time I went out there, I was just seeing.
just so much rubbish. And it was just, you know, bird's nest made up almost entirely of wrappers and straws, and swans kind of chewing bags. And just really not understanding why people weren't thinking about this, why people weren't questioning it, how we would just walk to work. And I was guilty of this myself, definitely when I was working in London, just in this environmental sleep walk, where I would walk past the canals and rivers, you know, every day on the weekends, and you're just blinded by all of the rubbish that's there. But when I was on the water, and I was paddling through it, and I've kind of became part of it. This problem was magnified. And I just remember thinking, How can I? How can I get people to see this problem the way that I'm seeing it? How can I get people To understand how bad this is, and I'd researched at the time, and it's quite a well known stat now. But back in 2015, when I started looking into this, it really wasn't that 80% of marine debris, including plastic starts from inland sources from our canals and from our rivers. And I was just staggered by that, you know, all of this rubbish is leaking out into our oceans. So much of it's coming from our inland waterways. So that's where the sort of the first idea for the challenge came from. Was that how can I use adventure and my love for paddleboarding to get people to think about the environment to make use of a vehicle to get people thinking about plastic pollution? Because I knew back then no one was interested in plastic pollution. Nobody understood it in the way that they do now. And it certainly wasn't like the mainstream issue that it's become now. So it was it was a much it was a very different challenge. And I felt that by going out on the water, and doing something quite novel like paddleboarding that wasn't that well known at the time either I could combine those two things just and create a bit of friction just to get people thinking about it.
Yeah, it's a it's a really great medium to bring attention to bigger issues. You can I think doing adventure just for itself is also great. But if you do want to bring attention to something kind of issue, like whether it's environmental or social, then people always love adventures. They always pay attention to them. And I think it's a great way to combine the two. So you you did the length of Britain, but then you went and did the Hudson. So why did you choose the Hudson?
So I’d done the length of England. And on that journey, I photographed every single piece of plastic that I saw on that route, and I plotted it in an interactive map. And that gave me a really good understanding of where the hotspots were around the UK. And then obviously, I launched plastic patrol, which I'm sure will come on to, and and developed an app that people could collect the same data that we could crowdsource from people all over the world and and Fast forward three years, as you mentioned, we've had maybe 300,000 uploads now from 82 countries around the world, we have this like amazing repository of data around brands and industry, and the types of better locations that we were finding. And America was always somewhere that was in that app and the data that we were finding as a problem area, coupled with the fact that it is one of the world's biggest consumers of single use plastics, but it is also a developed nation. And like the UK, there really is no excuse to be creating the level of waste that we are creating and not managing it properly. So going over there to America, and paddling the length of the Hudson was basically taking the model that I created in the UK, which was combining adventure with activism, environmental activism to get people thinking about the problem, because I really think in this country, we are further ahead than not everywhere in the US, but so To the most parts of the US when it comes to tackling plastic pollution, they stepped up a lot now like plastic bag bans and, and bans on like food trays, polystyrene futures, that kind of thing. But even back in 2018, this was still just the rumblings of it. So going out there and doing that challenge and inviting people on beach cleans giving people opportunities to pipe try paddleboarding completely free, which is another way to have those conversations to get people thinking to create that friction.
And what was the response like?
really positive, but it's it was it's a small community of people, but that's how it has to start. It always starts with a small community of people and then it grows and grows and grows. And I feel that that was the like I said, the early stages of where the issue was got to now that there has been legislative changes in their country. There is much more awareness out there like there's still a long, long way to go. And but I worked with a few charities along along the river. worked with one that was collecting micro plastic samples. So I was able to do some microplastic sampling, I had a smartphone on my board that be tested and water temperatures and motion characteristics in the reverse. So that could be compared with what we're finding in ocean environments because we don't have a great deal of data about riverine environments. And when it comes to temperature and movements of water, and what that then means in terms of like plastic movement and little movement in the water. So there were different and like scientific elements I bought into that journey. And I always try and bring them into any of my journey so that I could feed back to kind of bigger picture and research and data that was being collected on the stuff that I'm I'm also working on.
Hmm. So back in the UK, what what is the kind of state of the environment now I guess, probably most focusing on plastic. You gave us a few stats before but I'm wearing Where are we in? And yeah, How bad is it?
I think visibly,
I've seen a huge improvement over the last two to three years on the waterways because we go back to a lot of the same places to litter pick, and I can see a marked difference from the year we started to now in the amount of litter that we're finding. Now, whether that's because people are littering less, or people are going out and collecting more.
I don't know.
I would say probably the latter because I still there has been a lot of litter collection groups and communities that have popped up around this country that are actively going out and cleaning their communities which is amazing. And so it does make me hopeful that we are tackling this problem but and there's a really big butt here. litter picking alone will not solve this. Someone once said I think it was the comedian Sean lot that it was litter picking is like going to the site Have a have an earthquake with a dustpan and brush. And trying to kind of clean it up like it just is. It's not enough, it doesn't turn the tap off. What we need is data. Every time you're litter picking every time you're going out and you're seeing litter, it needs to be recorded in a centralized database like the plaster patrol app, so that we can understand exactly what is being found so that we can hold brands to account so we can talk to industry so that we can go to government, and we can make the changes the very top level needed legislative changes that are required to stop this problem from source.
And so with the app you're asking pit, as you said, it's much it's not just about litter picking which is helpful but doesn't address the root cause of the problem. You instead ask people too late to pick as well but but the the big driver for change Logging the trash that people find, right? So it's downloading the plastic patrol app and then taking a picture of whatever they see and logging. What people are finding out there. Is that is that right?
Exactly that so we run, obviously free cleanups in paddleboarding and and we've moved to other activities now like yoga parkour or hip fitness. So anybody who wants to try different activity completely free, they can come in and get involved to sign up on the website after the lockdowns finished obviously. And but what we asked them is their payment their nature tax is that they everything they collect at the end of each session, we took out our buckets, we took our bags, and we photograph everything in the app and and then just go through the process of logging exactly what we found by type brand amount and it's automatically geo located as well. And so they're the full key sort of data touch points that we record that are really, really helpful to us. And obviously it's a great way to give people a really good experience and get them connecting with nature. And I suppose for me, my journey started because as an environmentalist because I started paddleboarding. And because I paddle boarded, I saw a problem that like, and I needed to do something to tackle it. And I've always thought if I could just get a handful of people that come on these cleanups to kind of adopt the same mentality as me, that's, you know, that's a that's a ripple effect. And then they'll create a ripple effect around them, like I said earlier on, it's debate starts in the small community, and it grows and grows and grows. And I really, really believe that and I think that's what pastor patrol has proven. Like it started with me just going out with a handful of paddle boards that I borrowed in a van that I borrowed, just, you know, using social media to invite people to come and join me and around the country. And you know, five or six people at a time would come out and we litter pick and we'd record all of all of the stuff that we've found. And now we've got like 56 reps, I think around The UK that run cleanup sort of on the UK, so around the world that run cleanups, and people can use the app in their own time. It's not just our own app cleanups, you can do it wherever and whenever you want. If you're out walking the dog or having a picnic in the park, the idea is that we're collecting all of this data in real time, anywhere in the world. And then we work with the University of Nottingham, and the University of Glasgow, who help us analyze and understand trends and patterns and comparisons in different locations so that we get this really, really powerful insight.
And how so you're, we're logging what litter we see out and about, and then you find patterns and I guess it's looking at what different types of litter out there and brands but then how is that actually used to affect change after that, what's the next step?
So we released our first impact report at the beginning. of this year, which you can download on the website that gives a good indication of everything that we found all the most prolific things that we found. And then in that we made recommendations, government and recommendations based on our insight that we'd like to see. So it's a call for a ban on plastic bags. It's a call for and the bottle deposit system to be installed with haste. And, and one thing that we'd like to see is analysis of the circular economy to go beyond the bins. So at the moment, the circular economy that everybody's talking about in the movement, that the move everyone's making towards being fully circular, and finishes the end of life of that process is your household waste. But that's not the true end of life end of life is litter because we find it and that shows that it's escape to start you'd have economy because it's out in nature, and it's not the it's not going back into the economy. So we're developing A system within our app that allows us to track the litter and find ways to put that back into circular economy because that's a valuable material. It has economic value for the brand. But it also means that we need to stop this littering our planet and our natural environment and make sure that it's put back into the place that it needs to be that it can be then turned back into that product again.
Hmm, yeah. So I think you've done a good job of explaining it then. But for people that aren't familiar with the circular economy as opposed to linear production, what actually is the circular economy.
So linear production is sort of take make dispose, so you buy something, you use it and you throw it away, and often it has a lifespan of about 15 seconds. So the crisp packet or a chocolate bar wrapper would be part of a linear economy, whereas a circular economy and that effectively waste doesn't exist.
Everything that you consume, can go back into recycling And can be remade into a product so that no more raw materials are having to be and having to be taken out of the environment. To create more of that particular type of product, it can just be a continuous circle of what already exists in. So we already know there's like millions and millions of plastic bottles invading nature all over the world. The bottles that exist could just keep being reprocessed and reprocessed and reprocessed and made back into bottles rather than us, you know, using oil, to then make more plastic to produce more bottles and then just get thrown into nature. So we need to make sure that everything that's created everything that is designed from the outset, is done so in a way that by the time it's finished, it can get put back into that circle and made back into that product again.
And what are the biggest challenges to making that happen.
Ah, that's a really good point. question. I think it absolutely needs collaboration. It's a system. And that system needs to be supported by government, by industry. And by the end consumer. It doesn't work if the consumer is not willing to participate, industry is not willing to participate or government isn't willing to participate. And and I think the approach we take a plastic patrol is very much that it's not about naming and shaming. And it's not about being divisive. Yes, we will call out brands that aren't that aren't being progressive, but we know this is a journey. And we know that this takes time. And it has to be. It has to be we have to work together and to get the changes that we need, and they have to be based on solid evidence. And so I think this moment in time for us, it's kind of we've built evidence, we've proved that this kind of theory that we had around littering and how it should be track, we've created a blueprint for how you can monitor and measure litter effectively in nature. And we can feed that then into government policy, we can feed that into industry. And and we can understand what that means in those places. So for example, we might find loads of bottles in one location by a canal. Okay, well, does that mean that we need a better a better and local recycling system in that place? Is that is that particular material not being effectively recycled? Do we need to install a bottle deposit system in that place? And do we need higher legislation and to come in to make sure that this particular incident isn't something that is representative of what's happening all across the UK? And so there's lots of different things that we can do with the information that we're collecting. But it takes everyone to be involved in it.
Yeah, with a global challenge, it really needs so many different groups to all pull together. Yes, it makes me really think of climate change. There's not just really one group that can fix it, you need a lot of innovation and investment in technology, buy in from governments buy in from consumers, it really takes all pieces of the cog to fix a giant problem. But in some ways, I think that's a really good thing for a potentially good way to bind different parts of society together, right? Because nothing feels better than working on an important problem with other people. And I think what I really like about plastic patrol is that it's not really a sacrifice that you're asking people to make. You're saying come and do something fun that you'd normally pay to do anyway. You'll feel good at the end of it, and you know that you're doing something worthwhile and you're connecting with other people, which is why I think it's such a powerful organization and message.
That's exactly what it's about for us. You know, this isn't meant to feel like punishment for anybody. This is meant to be a fun experience. I think. If you want To change, you can't force them to change. And as with anything, you know, that's just human nature. But I think if we were to get and this is how we operate, and we get people out on the water, and, and they're seeing what this problem looks like, you can't ignore it. It's so awful. And it's so devastating to see the impact that it's having. It does make you question your own actions, it does make you look at your own habits, and reconsider how you're consuming and what you're consuming. And the feedback that we have from a lot of people is not only do they go out and buy their own paddle boards kind of go off and do their own adventures, which is one amazing aspect of it, because that's a really big part of it is helping grow this sport and all the benefits that adventure alone brings, but also getting people to think about what that means in their day to day lives in terms of their plastic consumption, because you realize this is an entirely man made material when everything you're seeing when you're out in nature is a product of your own actions. You know, there's brands in there that people will think They buy all the time. And then they see where it ends up. So I think it's incredibly powerful. This sort of the model of plastic patrol for the adventure aspect, the mental well being aspect, but also the environmental sort of legacy that it creates.
And what's it been like the experience working with government
positive and they're receptive to what we're doing, and they're interested to see how it progresses. But I think with any organization that is big, things take time. And we're very agile and very lean in the way plastic patrols set up. Like we're an incredibly small team, and we rely heavily on volunteers so we can make decisions and we can move really quickly. And I really love that about us because it means we can be more creative and we can be really reactive. Whereas when we're working with industry and with government, particularly, there's a lot of waiting and there's a lot of processes that need to go through and it's hard for me personally Cuz I don't work like that I might I'm a do I just want things to be done in action? What's next? What's the next tangible action? And I just want things done quickly. I want things to move quickly, and they need to move quickly. This is an urgent issue. And but unfortunately, that's not always the way things operate.
And can you describe the feeling of working on something meaningful? And how different That is to say your old job that you weren't kind of intrinsically interested in? What does it feel like for people that haven't got engaged or involved with something an important problem? Yeah, how does it How does it make you feel working on it?
Honestly, I wake up every day and I'm excited. I look forward to opening my laptop. I look forward to seeing where the day goes. And what happens and like I say, because we can be reactive because because we're a small organization and we can take opportunities But just happened to come our way and just see see where they lead us. I mean, we we can be more flexible with how we work. And I get really, really excited about what we're doing day to day and the ideas that we come up with. It's like, yeah, you know what, let's go for it. Let's just see, let's just see how this works. Let's just try it. And and the conversations that we're able to have. So I do feel incredibly fortunate. And I suppose with passive patrol, it is not, it's not my job, I don't get paid to do plastic patrol. It's a passion project. And the challenge I have is I put so much of my life and I have done for what, nearly five years now into plastic patrol that is basically my full time job.
But I also have a job. And
so it's really hard for me to find that balance. And I think when I when I quit my job originally, my idea was that I wanted to live with purpose and meaning and I wanted to do something that I really cared about and I was very lucky that I actually did manage to find that and But I think the place I've got to now I'm locked down has been very good for me is that I was putting so much into it that I was just always on the go, nothing, nothing stopped. I didn't stop.
and I don't think that's a very healthy sort of place to end up in. So I think lockdown has been really good for me because it's forced to reset because we can't go and do a cleanup because there's so much plastic patrol that can't operate at the moment. It's just made me sort of take a step back from it and look at it in a slightly different way, which is a really positive thing.
Hmm, yeah, I think working on something meaningful is really exciting. And it's, yeah, it's it's a great feeling. And it doesn't have to be your full time job. You're obviously putting a huge amount of time into this. But for people who still want to keep their full time job, they can just get involved for a couple of hours in something that is meaningful to them. But what advice would you give for people who want to start movements or working on a big project Maybe they're doing something alone. And it can feel quite intimidating. And it's rolling a stone up a giant Hill trying to enact change by yourself or with a small team.
I definitely have felt all of those things that when I first started, I really felt very alone, like I was on this one woman crusade to get people to think about plastic pollution and the environment more. And I suppose I was, I was kind of really angry about it. But that really fueled like my determination to keep going. So I think it's important not to underestimate the power of one person. If you really care about something, and you're really determined to see something through, you just have to keep going with it. And it can be an hour a day, it can be an hour a week, it doesn't matter. But you just you do have to put the time in, I think, and you want to because you care, and nothing feels like work. When you care about what you're doing. You just do it. So I think it's kind of saying to people not to feel demoralized, that you're not getting somewhere quickly, because I don't think you can expect that you have to accept that it is a journey and these things do take time. Time, and they should take time, but not to give up just to keep sowing the seeds every day. And eventually, you'll end up where you need to be.
So how can people get involved? They can obviously after lockdown, come in, join a cleanup and download the app doing a bit of citizen science. But is there anything else maybe for corporates or other ways that people can get involved?
Yeah, so people can join our cleanups, like you've mentioned after lockdown, and just sort of visit the website, which is plasticpatrol.co.uk and just have a look through our list of activities and locations and sign up. We do corporate cleanup. So companies come out and do sessions with us half day sessions. We do workshops and talks with companies and organizations. People can volunteer if they want to. We have a couple of volunteers that write blogs, and do other bits and pieces, which is really helpful for us. There's lots of ways that people can be involved. I think it's just if someone has a particular interest or a particular skill if they just literally want to get in touch by dropping as an email, and then if there's something we can do together, then we'll always try and do it.
Awesome. Yeah. So loads of way to get in touch that the blog is actually really good. I've had a little look through it. But let's switch gears and talk about greenwashing. So what's green washing Lizzy?
Green washing is the deliberate, maybe sometimes unintentional misleading information about the green credentials of a brand or product, I would say. So if a brand puts lots of nice green leaves and earthy colors on a piece of packaging, but actually it's a really environmentally damaging product inside. That is greenwashing. And there are examples of it. But I think consumers people have got so savvy to it in the last couple of years. It's almost funny now when brands try and green wash because the backlash is huge, because people have just really understood what it what it looks like and what it means and they question everything like you you don't you can't get around people now. I think
you're absolutely right. There's been some big scandals that have taken place where brands have tried to jump on the Eco wagon without actually walking the walk and it's really hurt them. Who are some of the brands who are leading the way people that you look to and just think they're they're doing a really good job.
Get plastic before we work with and a brand called Ren Clean Skincare and they have committed to being 100% zero waste by 2021 which means everything is recyclable, refillable or reusable. And and they've really challenged the beauty industry, particularly in the packaging where before they sort of made everybody question more luxury, beauty and skincare was about everyone looked at luxury as being something that was very heavily packaged, that the more sort of plastic there was the more packaging there was the more glitzy and glamorous the bottle the bag, whatever it comes in was, the better the actual credit would be. And they stripped that completely back and I just think that they are Being very progressive in the beauty world. And they're really challenging the norm. And they've taken the lead on all things sustainable in that space. So I find them a really interesting one. And I feel like we're I'm really proud to work with them because I truly believe in the journey that they're on. And I think what's important to say when it comes to things like green washing is every brand is on a journey, nobody is going to be perfect. Nobody will ever be perfect because it's a constantly evolving situation. But if brands are giving you clear actions and timelines, and then meeting those and what they're saying makes sense, and the journey they're on makes sense, then you can trust that I think it's really vague, and when you're not getting milestones set out just loose commitments. I think that's when you really have to question what's going on behind the scenes
to say somebody's listening to this, they run a brand and they're thinking, I definitely want to get on board with this but this is not my bread and butter. I don't really know that much about what I should be doing. What are the best steps for them to help make that brand more green.
That's really tricky because it could take any form, it could be that every, you know, depending on whatever they do, they could be looking to reduce their carbon footprint, they could be looking to reduce their packaging, just, you know, the waste that they produce at the end of it. I think it's really different for every type of brand, I think what could be looked at is the internal culture, and make sure that the culture of the company is sort of environment first, and everybody within that company has a voice. And they're adopting green processes internally. I think it all starts from within. And then by having those kind of internal consultations and discussions, I bet there's somebody in there that thinks that brown could be doing better in terms of being more green, and maybe they can lead some kind of internal group to help drive that. So I think it's very much about starting within organization first,
are there any good resources, websites, or books or articles or videos that people can take a look at today? learn a bit more about the kind of wider issues
Ethical Consumer (EthicalConsumer.org) is a good website to get a good idea of ratings on brands or issues. So if you'd like to set the Which of the environment, and that's always a good place to start, I think good books a lot of the books I read are around plastic. So there's one Turning the Tide on Plastic. There's another one called How to Save the World for Free by Natalie fee. These are all great just kind of action based books that give good tips and advice on how to just reduce your consumption. There's loads of really good podcasts at the moment, there's one called outrage and optimism. There's one called wardrobe crisis that's about fast fashion that I think is really interesting. And BBC does a really good one called the food chain, which looks at issues of our food waste and general food issues. BBC Radio afford another one called costing the US which again just explores a lot of topics around the environment. So there's loads of brilliant ones out there that you can learn a lot from and you educate yourself about the issue more broadly.
Yeah, you mentioned fast fashion then, which is another thing that I'm really interested in and kind of part one of the spokes of the big hub of environmentalism. So what's what's fast fashion,
fast fashion is effectively when catwalk looks are re created at high speed, and without any real consideration for the labor and the materials that go into it. And turned out and within our high street retailers to very low cost to turn significant profit,
basically. And so the quicker fashions change, the more quickly people want to buy new clothes, which means that they make more sales, so make more profits. So that's kind of where it's come from. But why does it matter that we're buying so many clothes? What are the environmental impacts of this like using synthetics or microfibers?
I think there's like different layers to that problem. So you've got that you've talked about that and the materials. So synthetic materials, when they're washed, they shed microfibers, which can't be captured by our washing machines, or waste treatment plants. So they end up just sort of filtering through into the oceans, and about 35% of microplastics in our oceans now are made up from fibers from our codes, which is an absolutely phenomenal amount. And that in itself is a problem because obviously, marine species are mistaking it for food and eating it and it's causing all kinds of impacts on their like reproductive systems on their growth. It's having all sorts of defects, but when we're now and we have obviously been for a while, but we're obviously catching this fish and it's being served up on our plates afterwards. It's food that spells big problems for human health as well because research into this and it is early research is showing that there is an Between the microplastics that we are eating in our, from our supply chain from our food chain, and from fish that we're eating on human health, and it's causing different kinds of respiratory issues, cancers. And this is all really, really early stage insight. But I think the fact that where the evidence is pointing that way is really quite terrifying. We are effectively human guinea pigs for this issue, because it's unprecedented. And it's only now this research is being done. So we're in a generation where we don't really know what impact plastic consumption is having on our bodies, but we do know that it's in the food that we're eating, it's in salt, it's in beer, it's in the air that we're breathing. It's absolutely everywhere. And we have to be so careful with that. So that's one of the problems with fast fashion that you don't really think about you don't associate your clothes with actually what's ending up on your dinner table, and what that means for your own health. And then you sort of take that further back through the supply chain. And you're looking at the processes involved. And I think it's one in six people around the world are employed by the fashion industry. Most of them are women in developing countries, and you are paid an absolute pittance for what they do working in substandard conditions, and then they're not paid a living wage and they're certainly not looked after. While the brands that are buying this stuff, the h&m’s of the world, like we said earlier returning huge profits at the expense of cheap labor in these countries. And it's it's really unacceptable. But the reason the industries move to these countries the reason productions move these countries because it's allowed so it's kind of down to the consumer really to question what we're buying where it's coming from, you know, who there's a campaign at the moment by a company or a charity called fashion revolution called who made my clothes and I think that's a that's a such an important question that we should be asking what is the supply chain of this product I'm buying Can I trust the brand that I'm buying it from? And just be like Really scrutinize know what, what we're buying. But if we even need it in the first place, I think clothing is such an easy thing to just go. And it's like that throwaway culture. But actually, it's so so damaging for the environment. And there's a huge social cost attached to it as well.
So the kind of hierarchy of things that we can do about fast fashion is starting with not buying stuff that you don't need. So kind of turning away from fast fashion to much slower fashion, just not keeping up with trends that go in and out very quickly. And then guess what are some other things like buying secondhand? Exactly, there's not the need for new materials. And then if you are going to buy something new, buy something that's responsibly made ethically made in terms of the production of the people involved, and then looking at the materials. So yeah, that that resource that you mentioned before, can you look at clothing on their response, the ethical consumer, there's a better resource for clothing. There's an app called good on you. And you type in a brand at the most random and then I was like a directory. And you can get a rating based on its environmental credentials. And it will say, you know what they're doing is not good enough. It's a good start. It's really brilliant. Yes, buy from these guys. They're totally legit, ethically and environmentally. So the good on you app is a great tool for people that just feel a little bit lost with how to understand you know, what they should be buying in the fast fashion world.
Awesome. So there's some really good resources out there to make it easy to spend your money a lot better and vote with your pound and just kind of take a few seconds before you buy something and make a major impact. But it's something very easy for us to do. There's obviously a depressing side to the message, which is things need to be done immediately. And we're not taking care of the environment. But I think in order to a bit on the theme of kind of outrageous optimism there needs to be the optimism element there as well. Otherwise, people fall into hopelessness and don't want to take action. We need to feel like there could be some upside if we do take action. So what's giving you the hope and the inspiration to keep up with your mission? And what are you seeing in the world that fills you with hope on this kind of environmental topic?
For me personally, the community that has been built around plastic patrol is what makes me most hopeful. Because when I started this journey, I felt I was completely on my own, to now having this global network of so far around 15,000 volunteers that have come out and given up their time to support a really important cause that I care about, but also for the planet. That makes me believe that humanity has got so much good in it, and that we can make the changes needed at every level to get out of this crisis. And I think every time I sort of feel a bit down to In a bit downbeat about it, I just look at the community and the movement of plastic patrol. And I'm sort of reminded, actually, there are people that care, we just have to keep going.
So for somebody listening to that he's never been involved in activism but keeps hearing these kind of alarming messages, what little nudge would you give them? And why would you say that it's a good idea for them to get involved. And what's really a small step that they can take one or two things that they can do that it easy to start the ball rolling,
they can tweet their MP or write to their MP about what they want to see change in their local constituency or sort of broader issues. They want to be taken to central government. And obviously, when knockdowns finished, there's protests that you can join for us. Obviously, shamelessly I'm going to plug past it patrol and say that people can come and get involved in that or download the app and support it. And but there's small actions. I think the government So outreach is, is really key people understanding that they can reach out to their local MPs who are obliged to respond and have that start that dialogue, put some pressure on them. And realize that as, as a consumer, as a voter, you have a lot of power in your hands, and, and use it wisely.
And do you think that actually makes a difference?
I think that a lot of the environmental change that we've seen over the last few years has come from pressure and from grassroots activism. So yeah, I absolutely do think it makes a difference. You can look at an individual tweet and an individual letter and think it's not going to touch the sides. But if everyone started doing that, people will start to listen. And we have seen that change. That's how we've managed to push through this legislation and the changes with plastic pollution. And the sort of the ripples that we're starting to see now with how climate change is being addressed. And I think what government has shown us over the last few weeks is that when they're forced to, they can act radically and they can act quickly and we need to apply that same model. To climate and the environmental crisis, as well as a pandemic that we're facing now.
Yeah, it was amazing to see when we really need to how quickly we can drastically change limiting people's freedom not letting them out. And it shows that when there is a will, there's just this giant amount of change that can happen. I mean, even now, there's been kind of probably short lived, but sizable changes and things in the environment, like the level of air quality in China like is one and then there's lots of things about nature reappearing in various different places. We've got an article on culture adventure and all of the changes that have happened since lockdown and whilst it's not going to be this extreme action, the kind of climate emergency is just as impactful as this. It's just happening on a slower timescale But yeah, I think it's amazing I'm really inspiring to see when there is a will we can just produce giant change.
Yeah, hundred percent and I think that should make it feel hopeful because the precedents been set now. So what can we expect from this point? Once climate does come up with the agenda again, because I do feel in a moment haslet like cop 26 has been postponed this year, which I think is absolutely tragic. But equally, no, we just need to make sure that we're still pushing through changes that we want to see in kids still keeping the pressure on and keeping you know, the fight going, because that is how we make the changes that we want.
Exactly. Lizzie, thanks so much for your time. It's been awesome to chat. Really, really enjoyed it. Where can people find out more about you and plastic patrol,
where you can find out more about me on Instagram, which is Lizzie, and as I said, ie underscore outside, and you can find out more about plastic patrol on Instagram at plastic underscore patrol. And from there you can find websites and other social media and other places that you can find out more about us to
Well, I'm really looking forward to coming along to one of your events. I have to bring the Long to one of you cleanups something that I've wanted to get involved in for a long time, I actually didn't realize that plastic patrol was this big movement. I just seen it as a hashtag some time ago. And we just used to go out and pick up litter and say, when we were kind of walking around hiking or whatever, and we'd always say plastic patrol, my girlfriend would always do that. And then I started researching for the show, and I found out that there's this giant movement that you're behind. So yeah, it's really really cool to see that so thanks for all the awesome work that you're doing.
Thank you so much and I will hold you to doing a cleanup. We've got it recorded so there's no excuse.
Bit of paddleboarding some Parkour sounds like an amazing day. Exactly. Well, yeah, Lizzy. Thanks again. And thanks, everybody, for tuning in. And we'll see you next time.
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