My home for the last 12 years has been a 40-foot sailboat, Swell. Sailing south from Santa Barbara, Ca in 2005, I've spent much of those 12 years sailing and surfing in the South Pacific. Life onboard a boat requires constant vigilance. Provisions and comforts are modest, and hot showers are rare. It’s simple living and hard work, but this modest lifestyle awakens gratitude for even the smallest pleasures. My voyaging dream was partly born out of concern for our environment, and a reverence for our beautiful Earth and sea. In my desire to live simply and make a positive difference in the world, I focus on what I can do, examining my daily choices and actions. I spent the last couple of years writing my memoir, Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening.
Aboard Swell it’s easy to GO BLUE. I use a water filter for my drinking water which is water that gets hauled to the boat in jugs or is rainwater from my catchment system. Swell’s solar panel and wind generator produce most of her daily energy requirements, which include refrigeration, lights, computer, music, and the water pump. I cook most of my meals aboard, and there is rarely anywhere to buy take-out food or coffee. I eat lots of whole food provisions from open markets without packaging. But while sailing around the islands, it’s easy to see the widespread damage our plastic addiction is causing.
When I travel over land to work or visit my family, life on land can be a little overwhelming. I’m always taken aback at how much trash one person can produce from eating out and living on the go. So here are some lessons I’ve learned on my visits back to ‘civilization’ about how to GO BLUE and help respect our Mother Earth who supports provides for us everyday.
1) Purchase or designate your reusable items:
You really only need a few things to get started—a reusable water bottle, a cutlery set, a coffee/smoothie to go cup (if either are in your routine), a couple on the go shopping bags. A compact tupperware and a reusable straw can come in handy too. By using these items instead of those provided at restaurants and shops, you can reduce your use of single use plastic and minimize the amount of trash you create. I find more and more water refill stations in airports and public places, and love the ripple effect of awareness that I notice around me from bringing my own reusable items!
2) Keep your reusables in your purse/backpack/daybag.
It’s not always easy to be prepared, but I’ve found that if I keep these items in the same place that I keep my wallet, I always have them with me when I find myself out purchasing food or beverages to go. I love having an extra set of cutlery & straw for a friend who forgets theirs, too.
3) Be mindful of packaging.
We can obviously try to avoid single-use plastic, but recent studies have found that much of the new ‘Compostable’ to-go food packaging is not all that easy to compost. It often requires special facilities to be broken down, which aren’t always available or accessible, so it usually gets thrown away along with the other trash where it won’t quickly biodegrade. So although they can give us a sense of having minimal impact, using your own reusables is still a much better option!
4) Remind the seller that you brought your reusables.
There’s nothing worse than when I forget to say ‘no straw’ at the café, or have my utensils with me, but they shove a plastic fork in my salad. It took a while to get comfortable doing it, but I’m getting better at being proactive about letting restaurant employees know that I’ve come equipped and don’t need their single-use plastic items. I find that it helps to have my coffee cup or utensils in my hand when I order so it sticks in their mind and might even leave a positive impression. It can be awkward, but like every revolution, the reusable revolution can only advance by using kind but forthright words and actions to spread awareness and knowledge about plastic pollution.