Dienstag, 31. Mai 2011

The Clean Ocean Project. Giving beaches a helping hand since 2002.

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„Oceans, rivers, lakes and streams
Have all been touched by man
The poison floating out to sea
Now threatens life on land“
(The Beach Boys)


In 1971 the Beach Boys sang about saving the oceans on their LP “Surf’s up”. 31 years later local Wim Geirnaert founded the Clean Ocean Project on Fuerteventura. An interview.


Hi Wim! My stereotype of a surfer is a tanned guy with blond hair and a shark tooth necklace, a guy that chooses a beach over a bed. Your Clean Ocean Project organizes cleanings on the shores of Fuerteventura. Some of them bear more resemblance to dustbins than to beaches. What happened to surfers’ love for nature?


(Wim:) I didn’t know about the shark tooth, but tanned and blond is just because of the combination of salt, sun and sea. But hey, ask the guys surfing in Scotland or Ireland, there is no glossy, tanned magazine surf life. And I do not know whether surfers in general are more in love with nature, taking more care of it. I think they behave sometimes thoughtless like others, but also some surfers really stand out and do care about their environment, starting with organizations like ours. The Clean Ocean Project is a surfer’s initiative that started back in 2002 because our local beaches, our playground, looked like a dump and nobody would do something about it. So I started to organize beach cleanings on Sundays to see it at least a while clean and to show the local government that the people do care about the environment. Especially those not so frequently visited beaches and reefs were in a poor condition.


Please tell us more about the Clean Ocean Project. What obstacles did you encounter, what were your biggest achievements?


(Wim:) Our biggest achievement is cleaner beaches on the islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. This is where it all started and where we are the most active with all kind of events. From beach cleanings, environmental campaigns for e.g. making aware of the amount of cigarette butts being thrown on the beaches. And to indicate that the use of plastic bags is a huge problem. The ocean is full of plastic. It is the biggest challenge for the future. Step by step the beaches are much cleaner now, because the local government is looking after it and the people understand how important the environment is, what a wealth it is, especially on an island. Over the years the Clean Ocean Project has pushed little by little, but of course there is still a long way to go.

We haven’t encountered any big obstacles, except from heavy stuff like huge tires and tons of litter we removed from the beaches. To be honest, the biggest adventure is to put our ideas into action, to start new projects. There is a bunch of friends and people supporting us, without them we could not do anything. But as you can imagine, at a certain point the Clean Ocean Project depends on money as any other venture. So, little by little we keep on working. And in a way I think growing slow is a sustainable tempo. And the positive response, the support from all kinds of people is what keeps me going. It just feels good to me.


Recently you developed the GREEN LABEL – a badge given to surf schools that minimize their impact on the environment. What was the response like so far and what exactly are the rules that must be obtained?


(Wim:) We – that are my friend Jo Grimm - who is part of the Clean Ocean Project since the beginning - and myself – try to find ways to motivate people to take action into their own hands. So we came up with the GREEN LABEL, which is mainly for surf schools and other ocean related companies. So far we have got good response, like the German owned surf business OTRO MODO SURF SHOOL AND CAMP on Fuerteventura, who started to organize beach cleanings and environment lessons at their camp. Or the Belgian based travel agency XBOARDS, who let their clients choose to donate some of their travel money to organizations like the Clean Ocean Project. For 2011 they send us a part of their donation for our project. There is now a small list of companies we awarded with the
GREEN LABEL for 2011.

We didn’t want to make it to ‘ruly’ so any business who is interested, who shares our idea of changing our attitude regarding the use of resources, can get in touch with us. We will then have a look at each one of them and decide to give it or not. This way we can reach small initiatives but also bigger ones. It
s not only about changing your camper van into an electric one, but it is about taking action into your own hands by removing litter from beaches where you work or to reduce the use of plastic. On the other hand we invite people to organize their own beach cleaning with our feature “Clean your beloved Beach on our website cleanoceanproject.org, an easy 3-step way to organize a beach cleaning with your friends on your local beach.

Speaking of your website, you have a little COP-online-shop that offers clothes in ‘organic’ and ‘fair trade’ quality. Are they good to wear for guys like me who can barely swim?


(Wim:) We have some quality organic materials with a clear message, which helps us finance our project and to spread our idea. To order a t-shirt you don’t have to show your swim license. If you love nature and the blue ocean, these t-shirts will fit you perfectly!


Wim, thanks for your time and the fantastic pictures and good luck with your future projects!


Sky of blue | and sea of green | but the beach | is not so clean

Surfin' Safari with 4WD

Who’s down with C.O.P.? Every last homie!

1 Kommentar:

  1. Thanks. I'm sure this campaign would be a success. Hope you get a lot of volunteers and participants not just locally but from the world over. Something else that's related to your campaign is a video I saw on the GreenopolisTV YouTube channel. You should see it. http://youtu.be/xyH957EEXWE

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