Diving into Kalk Bay: Exploring its past, present, future 

My earliest, enduring memory of the Ocean is a stretch of sea rolling away from a vibrant fishing harbour in Kalk Bay, Cape Town.  

The harbour’s position along the False Bay Coast, as well as its rich marine life, played a crucial role in the city’s early development and prosperity. Little this place would also play an important role in my own life. 

Kalk Bay: A link to my childhood and the last connection to my grandmother.

The colourful fishing boats in the harbour that frame the glorious, shimmering stretch of Ocean in my mind like a postcard, idealised to a point far from reality. Today, with names like Star of the Sea and Lucky Strike, those old wooden boats seem struck in a rapidly receding past.

Change has come in great variety and moved with incredible momentum. All aspects of the scene have been altered – from the oceanography and to the social structures and human dimension surrounding the harbour. 

I find it interesting and unsurprising, that when asked to think of a memory about the Ocean, the one I recall is so entangled with the influence of mankind. These two elements – human and Ocean – have been linked for centuries and seem unable to escape one another.

Wavemaker Story by Katie about Kalk Bay, Cape Town's past, present and future.

I feel this tension reflected in the complex and often contradictory nature of our social and ecological aims moving forwards as a society.

Progression too often comes at the high cost of our marine health, a lack of respect for our past and insufficient foresight for our future. All of this points to the difficulty in honouring and preserving our collective pasts whilst building future horizons in sustainable ways.

New strategies for managing the natural environment and its resources should include integrated approaches with new frameworks, stakeholders and communities. 

Kalk Bay as we see it today  

The Kalk Bay area may be reminiscent of the past, but the issues it faces are very much of the present. The harbour is one of the few still in operation, albeit a far cry from its thriving commercial days. Subsistence fishing (the practice of catching fish for personal consumption and not profit) is carried out with a handful of crayfish boats heading out each day. 

With reduced operation has come tourism and commercialisation. You will find restaurants, pop up stalls selling gimmicks, and seals, who emboldened and adjusted to the crowds, sunbathe on the jetty.     

Seal sunbathing on the jetty at Kalk Bay, Cape Town.

Just as the Ocean below has been altered by rising sea levels and an increased frequency of extreme temperature events, so too has the harbour. Unsurprisingly, the advancements and demands of modern life have been the indirect driving forces behind this change.

All the usual culprits – overfishing, climate change, overpopulation, and coastal development- are part of this problem.  Fish stocks caused by overfishing and the violations of size regulations have impacted marine biodiversity and the livelihoods of local fisherman. 

Coastal development have also contributed significantly to these detrimental changes by increasing pollutant runoff and nutrient loading.

This illustrates just how interrelated Ocean and coastal ecosystems are and how integral they are to both human and aquatic life.

Progression at Kalk Bay, Cape Town too often comes at the high cost of our marine health, a lack of respect for our past and insufficient foresight for our future. Article by Ocean Generation, leaders in Ocean education.

Not all hope is lost for Kalk Bay  

Thankfully, there’s been a growing awareness of and respect for some of these pressing human-made threats, which has led to the establishment of marine protected areas. Currently, 15 % of South Africa’s total marine areas are protected with 1.7 % of this area fully protected.

Evidently, the South African constitution recognises the need for these conservation efforts and acknowledges the responsibility that the fishing and tourism industries have.

Eco-tourism has emerged as a way of protecting and sustainably using the environment, without negatively impacting economic growth and job security.  

A growing awareness in South Africa has led to the establishment of marine protected areas.

We need solutions that engage local communities living in coastal areas. This would encourage the safeguarding of natural resources, improve the quality of people’s lives, and potentially assist in building bridges between sections of South African society that has historically been divided.

Approaches such as these work towards achieving a balance between developmental goals and environmental concerns; it’s of course an ongoing process. Therefore, it’s important to thoroughly research and address the priorities and gaps in this area with input from various stakeholders.

Katie, a Wavemaker tells us: My grandmother’s childhood saw the days when man could still outrun his actions without stopping to catch his breath and consider the implications.

My grandmother’s childhood saw the days when man could still outrun his actions without stopping to catch his breath and consider any of the implications. The harmony between human and Ocean that existed was only ever on a short-term loan, one with dangerously high interest.

The future seemed as it always does to those on the shores of the present: An island far away.

Katie, a Wavemaker shares this quote: My faith in the [...] next generation of changemakers gives me hope for the future of our marine and coastal ecosystems.

The generation of young people to which I belong to understand that preservation isn’t about merely respecting the present but also about securing the future. Therefore, my faith in the collective creativity and problem-solving abilities of the next generation of changemakers gives me hope for the future of our marine and coastal ecosystems.


Thank you for raising your voice for the Ocean, Katie!

Connect with Katie Birditt via LinkedIn or her Instagram page. Learn about how to submit your own Wavemaker Story here.

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The world was our oyster, when the oysters became our world

A seagrass meadow in Scotland part of the Seawilding marine conservation project. Image by Philip Price / Seawilding shared via Ocean Generation's Wavemaker Stories.

An experience paving the way for community-led marine conservation.  

Like many of us, until recently I had only ever associated oysters with gourmet restaurants and fine dining, an out of reach delicacy plucked from some distant, murky seabed.

After working with oysters, they are now a familiar part of the local marine wildlife, and a hugely important component in the global effort to restore and conserve our Ocean.  

I spent my summer interning with Seawilding, a community-led marine habitat restoration organisation in Scotland. Their mission is to restore seagrass meadows and native oyster reefs, through planting seagrass, growing oysters to form new reefs, and developing successful methods that others can follow, to enable coastal communities across the UK and further afield to take action.  

Woman diving into the Ocean shared by Ocean Generation in a Wavemaker Story. There's a quote that reads: I spent my summer [...] restoring seagrass meadows and native oyster reefs. Photo by Sophie Coxton.
Photo by Wavemaker Story writer Sophie Coxon.

The seascape of Loch Craignish  

Set on the gleaming shores of Loch Craignish, the first time I slipped under the surface was like entering a whole other world.

The salty water enveloped me with an icy embrace, and the seabed materialised below. Vast meadows of seagrass glistened green, with dappled sunlight sparkling through the water column and catching the tails of Goldsinny wrasse and the occasional lonely pipefish.

Snakelock anemones waved like flowers from the grass heads, and red feather stars snaked their arms towards me as I glided past.  

The fringes of the meadow gave way to soft mudflats, where sparring crabs and dancing prawns entertained passersby. Gobies and flatfish buried themselves in the sand, and large shoals of herring flicked like glassy shards in the distant blue.  

Ocean photo.

The oyster reef was by far my favourite; thick layers of oyster shells stacked haphazardly covered the seafloor, carpeted by algae, barnacles and clumps of bladderwrack.

Fish darted in and out of crevices, startled by my shadow, and starfish lay clustered on the rocks, arms splayed as if holding hands. The plethora of animals, and the richness of the life surrounding me was quite literally breathtaking, so much so that I almost choked on the seawater a number of times.

It was inspiring to see so much diversity thriving in Scotland’s waters.

The work Seawilding’s team has achieved is clearly doing wonders for the wildlife of Loch Craignish, however this is only the tip of the iceberg in the marine conservation and restoration work we need to undertake, not only here in Scotland but across the Ocean.  

Two images of marine conservation activities: Restoring oyster reefs in Scotland and helping restore sea grass meadows. Images taken by Sophie Coxton and shared by Ocean Generation.
Photos by Wavemaker Story writer Sophie Coxon.

The health of the Ocean is essential to us, not only as societies through its cultural significance, but also through its physical services.

Without healthy marine ecosystems, food stability will crumble, coastal erosion will rapidly creep up on communities, and the impacts of climate change will be less cushioned and more sorely felt.  

Scotland’s marine wildlife: Then and now 

Scotland’s coasts were once prolific with wildlife. Historic records speak of rivers “overflowing with salmon, onto the banks”, estuaries that had seemingly endless shellfish stocks, and open Ocean brimming with endless shoals of fish.

Oysters were once the food of the poor, and lobster was a common centerpiece at every dinner table. Lush seagrass meadows flanked the shorelines and wildlife flourished, everywhere. 

We must start taking Ocean action to prevent further losses. Quote shared by Ocean Generation in an article about marine conservation programmes in the UK.

Now, there are no natural oyster reefs left off Scotland’s coast, and more than half of the original seagrass meadows have disappeared.

Dredging (removing sediments from the seabed), overfishing, and pollution threaten our coastlines more than ever before, and with the pressures of climate change increasing with each day, we must start taking action to prevent further losses

Seawilding’s work, enthusiasm and passion for the marine environment is a sparkling example of how communities can come together to create real, positive change – something we should all strive towards.


Thank you for raising your voice for the Ocean, Sophie!

Connect with Sophie via LinkedIn or her Instagram page. Learn about how to submit your own Wavemaker Story here.

Disclaimer: Ocean Generation has no official affiliation with Seawildling. Mention of or reference to Seawildling is not an endorsement or sponsorship by Ocean Generation. The views, opinions, and activities of Seawildling are independent of Ocean Generation.

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Is it ‘green’ or greenwashing?

Fashionable women and men sitting on wooden chairs in a lush, healthy field. The people are dressed in sustainable neutrals. In this article, Ocean Generation and Lydia Dupree breakdown what greenwashing is and how to spot it.

How to tell the difference between sustainable fashion and false claims like greenwashing 

The fashion industry is swept up in buzzwords — especially when marketing sustainable fashion. “Eco-friendly”, “natural”, “green”—the list goes on. But what do they mean? Do they have substance, at all? 

Most of them are fluff, jargon to make a brand sound environmentally conscious without any true scientific backing as to their impact on our blue planet. Sustainability is easy to market, but hard to prove.  

Saying that, we can welcome our next buzzy term into the mix —greenwashing.

What is greenwashing?

No, greenwashing is not an expensive non-toxic clothing detergent or the latest dry cleaning method. 

Greenwashing is “the act or practice of making a product, policy, activity, etc. appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is”.  

Definition of greenwashing by Lydia Dupree and Ocean Generation. Greenwashing =
making a product, 
policy, activity, etc. 
appear to be more environmentally friendly
than it really is.

What is greenwashing in fashion?

Greenwashing in fashion can range from a fast fashion brand debuting a “sustainable” collection that lacks evidence supporting how it is environmentally conscious, to sprinkling eco-friendly terms into marketing without defining what they mean.  

In short, greenwashing is the use of false claims to hop on to the sustainability trend without evidence (if only Legally Blonde had come out now, Elle would be all over this one!). 

Greenwashing instructions including exaggerating positive contributions to ethical and sustainable fashion and distracting from the ongoing mass of fast fashion garment production. Shared by Ocean Generation and Lydia Dupree. Via Project Stopshop

How can you tell the difference between sustainable fashion and false claims? 

5 ways to identify greenwashing in fashion. 

If you see these red flags, run!

  1. The use of sustainability jargon, such as “green”, “eco-friendly”, “sustainable”, and “natural” in marketing without a definition explaining what the brand means when using the term.

  2. A fast fashion company that comes out with new items often (think: daily, weekly, monthly, even large numbers released seasonally) markets their new line as “sustainable”.

    Releasing large volumes of clothing indicates that the company as a whole is not following an earth-conscious business model and thereby cannot justify one of their lines truly being sustainable. 

  3. Claiming fabrics to be “organic” or “non-toxic” without certifications to support (see below for more information on certifications to look for).

  4. The lack of scientific reports exploring their sustainability impact . If a brand has the data to prove how they are sustainable, they will show it.

  5. Using the term “vegan” to make clothing sound like a healthier, cruelty-free alternative , when the fabric is derived from petrochemicals (meaning, they are fossil-fuel derived plastics).  

    However, some “vegan” fabrics are plant-based materials, which would be a sustainable alternative.  

    Watch: Lydia’s short video about how to avoid plastics in clothing. 
Women wearing three pairs of sunglasses on her head: One pink, blue and yellow. A tranisiton to slow fashion is needed to safegaurd our planet. This article explores greenwashing red flags.

5 signs of sustainable fashion

Look for these green flags!

  1. Look for transparency in fashion.

    The brand has sustainability reports backed up by data readily available.

    Sustainability reports can include their efforts towards lowering carbon footprint, reducing water usage and overall waste, treating and paying garment workers fairly, and outlining future sustainability goals.

  2. How traceable is your clothing?

    Clothing is fully traceable back to the source, such as the farm that grew the cotton or the alpaca whose wool you are wearing.

  3. Is your sustainable clothing certified by credible sources?

    Fabrics and processes can be certified by credible sources, such as: 

    ➡️ What does a GOTS certification mean?
    Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) ensures no pesticides or insecticides are used in farming and all chemistry used by the brand in the production of clothing is in alignment with being truly organic.

    GOTS-certified facilities also adhere to social criteria based on leading social sustainability standards.  

    ➡️ What is OEKO TEX in the fashion world?
    OEKO-TEX® is all about chemical safety. They have a variety of certifications, but the most popular one is the STANDARD 100 which ensures that the final product was tested to confirm that it is free from over 3,000 different toxic chemicals. 

    ➡️ What does bluesign credibility mean?
    bluesign® approved facilities look at the overall chemistry used by a brand from fiber to finished product to ensure safe chemistry practices are used. 

    ➡️ What is Fairtrade?
    Fairtrade International and Fair Trade USA follow criteria that support ethical working environments for farmers and garment workers, eco-friendly practices and prioritise fair pay. 

     
  4. Are the clothes you’re wearing part of circular fashion?

    “Circular” fashion stops the linear “take-make-waste” model of fast fashion and instead closes the loop on production, including responsible manufacturing, use, and recycling for every garment.

    Look for brands that have take-back programs to recycle and reuse garments when they are at the end of life.

  5. Is the clothing you’re wearing from small batch production?

    A brand launches only a few items at a time in a limited supply to combat waste from the fashion industry, such as increasing landfills. 
A sustainably made scarf rustles in the wind. It's being held up, by a set of hands. In the background is a blue sky. Shared by Ocean Generation: Experts in Ocean Health.

Now in the know.

Although greenwashing is an indicator that the industry is slowly becoming more conscious of their impact on the environment.

But the only way to truly make a positive difference is to be honest and straightforward in their environmental efforts.  

Every decision we make – from what we wear to what we eat and how we move – has an impact on the future health of our Ocean and planet.  

With these tips to spot greenwashing, you’re now equipped to decipher the sustainability cons from the true conservationists. Go forth with your newfound skill and tell a friend.  

Greenwashing is an indicator that the industry is becoming more conscious of their environmental impact. But to truly make a positive difference they must be honest about their environmental efforts. In this article by Lydia Dupree, Ocean Generation is unpacking what greenwashing is and what red flags to look out for.


Connect with Lydia via her website or Instagram page.

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How to Be a More Conscious Consumer 

Asian woman surrounded by neutral coloured clothing, emphasising our overconsumption mentality. Ocean Generation is sharing 5 strategies to become a more conscious consumer in this article.

5 Tips to become a more conscious consumer.

Overconsumption is one of the hallmarks of modern societies. We are quite literally sold the idea that consumption will boost our happiness. Clever marketing campaigns and the media champion this ‘more is better’ lifestyle.  

It can be easy to be caught up in this world of overconsumption. It’s easy to forget the impacts that our consumption habits have on both people and the planet.

We’re sharing a brief overview of these impacts below. Take a deeper dive into the impact of both appliances and textiles as part of our “What we Purchase” series. 

Man in a simple t-shirt and jeans handing off a bag to an extended hand while reaching for a new bag that looks exactly the same. The image symbolises how we over-consume fast fashion. To protect the planet, we need to address our more is best mindset. Ocean Generation is sharing tips to be a more conscious consumer.

The products that we consume impact the environment throughout their lifespans. From the sheer volume of water used in textile production to the generation of vast amounts of e-waste.

Waste from discarded products not only contaminates the environment, but also puts human health at risk. 

Globally, there is uneven distribution of these environmental and societal impacts of product consumption. Most impacts are felt in developing countries which receive exports of discarded products. This is despite developed countries being the primary product consumers.  

We need to start taking responsibility for our overconsumption.   

What we purchase directly impacts the use of natural resources, production practices, and the quantity of waste accumulated.

So, making more sustainable decisions about what we purchase has the power to reduce not only greenhouse gas emissions, but also wider environmental impacts.    

How to be a more environmentally conscious consumer:    

We’re all taught in school to reuse, reduce and recycle but there’s much more we can do to tackle overconsumption.

Our Plastic Intelligence Framework – which breaks down a hierarchy of actions; The 5 R’s: rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle – can be used to guide consumer decision making around plastics

Ocean Generation has developed a Plastic Intelligence Framework that outlines the most impactful ways individuals can make a positive impact and curb their waste generation. The 5 most impactful ways we can address plastic pollution in order of positive impact are: Rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle.

The order of these actions is deliberate, with the most impactful change being to rethink, followed by refuse, reduce, reuse, and finally recycle.  

Utilising the 5R framework, we can also address broader sustainable consumption. How? What do these steps actually involve? Let’s start from the top.  

How to be a more environmentally conscious consumer:    

1. Rethink your relationship with products 

To do this, we need to remember that our ‘needs’ may differ from our ‘wants’. Have a think about what items you consider to be essential for your well-being and happiness.  

Advertising and media influence the perception what we ‘need’. It is our responsibility to acknowledge this and form our own opinions about what items are necessary in our lives.  

If you decide that you do really need an item, then that’s okay! The focus of rethinking is to slow down consumption. This is achieved by taking a moment to consider our relationship with items. 

2. Refuse to purchase unnecessary items.  

Female hand trying to force and over-full closet closed. The image symbolises our overconsumption habits when it comes to fashion and shopping.

Is an item of clothing part of a fast fashion trend, destined to be worn once then live at the back of your wardrobe until it is discarded?  

Do you really need multiple devices, or will one do the job? 

Refusing to purchase unnecessary items minimises waste produced.  

3. Reduce your overall consumption. 

If you find yourself needing to buy something, then where possible, opt for quality over quantity.  

If a product is low-quality, it is likely to be less durable and have a shorter useful lifespan. Question if you need the low-quality item. Can you wait until you have the resources to buy a better-quality product; built to last longer?

The result? Less waste. 

4. Reuse products to extend their lifespan.  

Reuse can take many forms.  

In the world of textiles, renting, remaking, repairing, and reselling are all part of the transition to ‘slow’ fashion. Online resale and rental platforms are becoming increasingly popular, along with second-hand shops and upcycled items.  

Explore repairing your damaged items before discarding them. It is never too late to learn how to sew a button. For more complex repairs, such as of household appliances, try checking out a local repair workshop.  

Before buying new appliances, consider refurbished items (products that are repaired/restored to working condition) or remanufactured items (used products that get dismantled, their worn parts replaced, and reassembled to like-new condition).  

Ultimately, reusing items decreases demand for resource extraction and minimises waste. 

We can't recycle our way out of our waste problems. Reducing waste - at its source - is key. To achieve that, we need to rethink our consumer behaviour.

5. Recycle at designated points.  

Remember that while the rethinking, refusing, reducing, and reusing are more impactful, recycling is still a valuable process. This is because again it reduces the amount of waste generated.  

If an item is truly at the end of its lifespan, recycle it at a designated recycling point.  

We don’t have to be perfectly zero-waste or plastic-free consumers to make a positive difference   

However, what we all must do is start making changes. Here are 20 ways to address your daily plastic waste on a daily basis to get you started.

   

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The impact of fashion on people and planet: What we purchase

What's the impact of fast fashion on the environment? Ocean Generation is diving into fast fashion, textile production, where clothing actually goes when we recycle it and how we can all be sustainable fashion lovers. Image is of three ethnically diverse and fashionable women, looking off into the distance. They're each wearing a power suit.

What you need to know about the environmental impact of the textiles in fashion.

Textiles – including clothing and footwear – are an everyday essential across the world. Our clothes can not only keep us warm in the cold, dry in the rain, and protect us from the sun, but they can also be an invaluable way to express ourselves through fashion. 

Despite their prevalence in our lives, it can be easy to overlook where our textiles come from, and the impact that fashion items have on both people and the planet.  

In this article Ocean Generation is sharing the impact of fashion on the environment. In this image a woman in a bright, flowing yellow dress is at a skatepark. You cannot see her face but you can see her black sneaker resting on the skateboard.

Let’s look deeper into the textile industry by discussing the following key areas:  

  • Overconsumption 
  • Environmental Impacts of Textiles 
  • Societal Impacts of Textiles 

What are the origins of the textiles that we know and love? 

It is important to consider the behind-the-scenes processes involved in textile production and distribution. These are illustrated below. 

Infographic describing the behind-the-scenes processes in textile production: fron fibre production, spinning, knitting to wet processes, assembly and distribution. This article looks at the impact of fashion and textiles on the planet.

What’s the impact of overconsumption in fashion? 

With the rise of fast fashion and increasing connectivity in this digital world, getting swept up in fashion trends has never been easier.  

But let’s slow down for a minute to think about our changing consumption habits. Between 2000 and 2015, clothing production doubled from ~50 billion units to over 100 billion units. This trend is driven by an increasing middle-class population globally and rising per capita sales in mature economies.  

Why are sales rising? Fast fashion is the prime culprit here.  

The fast fashion phenomenon began in the 1990s, with low-priced and short-lived items being generated by cheap manufacturing. Today, influencers on various digital platforms often promote rapidly changing trends, driving frequent consumption.  

On top of this, we wear clothes significantly less during their lifespans. This is not without considerable economic loss, with US$ 460 billion of value lost globally each year from people throwing away clothes they could still wear.  

Hands working with a sewing machine. A piece of navy fabric is being transformed into a piece of sustainable fashion. Shared by Ocean Generation - experts in Ocean health since 2009.

How do textiles and the fashion industry impact the environment?  

It isn’t just the economic loss that is a problem, however, as textile production, use, and disposal have significant environmental impacts which we’ll explore next.  

In 2018, the fashion industry produced ~2.1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally. This weight is equivalent to that of 350 million adult male African Savanna elephants. GHG emissions are important to consider as they contribute to climate change.  

The textile value chain (the whole product lifecycle) is notoriously water intensive, consuming 215 trillion litres of water annually. This is equivalent to 86 million Olympic-size swimming pools.  

The fashion industry produced 2.1 billion tonnes of GHG in 2018; equivalent to the weight of 350 million adult male African elephants.

Overexploitation of our finite water sources can lead to major environmental disasters. An example of this is the Aral Sea Crisis, where water extraction for cotton irrigation desiccated what used to be the fourth largest lake in the world. 

Chemical contamination of textile wastewater is an environmental concern. The textile industry uses over 15,000 chemicals, many of which are harmful to the planet. Toxic substances such as reactive dyes and heavy metals often pollute local aquatic ecosystems.  

Did you know that washing textiles releases microfibres into the environment?   

All textiles are culprits, whether natural (such as cotton), semi-synthetic (including viscose) or synthetic (for example polyester).  

It was found that an average 6kg wash load of synthetic acrylic fabric releases over 700,000 fibres. These microfibres have been found in a range of environments, from the deep sea to Mount Everest, and can be ingested by aquatic organisms including sea cucumbers and hermit crabs.  

So far, we have investigated the impact of textile production and use on the environment.

What is the fate of discarded textiles?

In 2015, just 13% of total material input was recycled following clothing use. Most post-consumer waste is instead incinerated, landfilled, or exported to developing countries to be sold in second-hand markets.

Infographic from Ocean Generation sharing the fate of discarded clothing. Only 13% of clothing is actually recycled - the majority is exported to developing countries, incinerated or landfilled.

This is not to mention the pre-consumer waste comprised of new, unworn, or returned clothes that fail to be worn by consumers. The result? The accumulation of enormous quantities of textile waste.  

What are the societal impacts of textiles?  

While textiles are undeniably harmful to the planet, their production, use and disposal can have negative impacts on people too.  

The untreated textile wastewater that pollutes aquatic ecosystems also harms the communities using contaminated water systems for fishing, washing, and drinking.  

Breaking news: Plastic has been found in our lungs, blood, and even breast milk. Ocean Generation - experts in plastic pollution - share facts about plastic and the harms of plastic on human health.

Microfibres released into our waterways infiltrate human diets via tap water, beer, sea salt, and seafood, and have even been detected in human lungs.  

Textile waste exported to developing countries is sorted for sale in second-hand markets by low paid workers in unsafe conditions.  

The impacts of the textile industry are unevenly distributed, with the brunt being taken by developing countries where textile and garment manufacturing occurs. This is despite consumption primarily occurring in developed countries.  

Sounding familiar? The fate of textile waste mirrors that of both plastic and electronic waste.  

Global clothing production doubled from 50 billion units to over 100 billion units between 2000 and 2015. Fast fashion facts shared by Ocean Generation.

So, what is being done to repair the environmental impacts of the textile industry?  

There has been progress at reducing the environmental impact of the textile industry at various stages, from treating textile wastewater using plants to the degradation of textile waste by enzymes produced by bacteria and fungi.  

While these innovations are exciting, further development is needed before wider use.   

In the meantime, increasing awareness of the negative environmental and societal impacts of the textile industry has resulted in rising interest of new business models. Reselling, renting, repairing, and remaking increase product lifetimes, and this is a vital step in the move towards ‘slow’ fashion.

What is my role in the future of sustainable fashion – specifically, textiles?

You, as a textiles consumer, can drive change.

Here’s what action you can take:

  • Try to rethink your relationship with clothes. Some helpful tips on how to become a slower, more mindful consumer can be found here: How to take the fast out of fast fashion
  • Have a think about whether you need and will value that garment before making a purchase.  
  • Browse a second-hand shop before buying new.
       
  • Refuse to purchase unnecessary or low-quality, less durable clothes where possible.  
  • Think before putting your clothes in the wash. If possible, air out clothes or hand wash to remove specific stains. Try to avoid tumble drying too.  
  • Look into washing machine filters or washing bags designed to catch microfibres. 
  • Explore renting, leasing, updating, repairing, or reselling textiles to extend their lifespan. 
  • Try your hand at simple textile repairs, such as sewing buttons or patching up a hole, either by teaching yourself or attending a local repair workshop. 
  • If your garment is truly at the end of its lifespan, recycle it at a designated recycling point. 


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The rise of e-waste and what we can do about it: What we purchase.

Old TV set in a wheat-field. Ocean Generation is sharing facts about the rise of e-waste, the environmental impacts, and what we can do about it.

What you need to know about the environmental impact of e-waste.

Appliances are a marker of technological advancement and play a significant role in many of our lives. While they can be beneficial, it is important to consider the impact that these appliances, as e-waste, have on both people and the planet.  

Imagine your typical day, what appliances do you use? Do you work using a laptop or browse social media on a phone? Maybe you use a washing machine to do your laundry? Or perhaps you listen to music using headphones or use a refrigerator to keep your food fresh? 

Globally, the consumption of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) is rising by 2.5 million metric tons (Mt) each year (excluding solar electricity panels). This is due to higher disposable incomes, more people living in towns and cities, and further wide scale development of industries.  

In this article Ocean Generation is sharing facts about the rise of e-waste, the environmental impacts of e-waste, and what we can do about it.

What is e-waste

Despite increasing government influence over how discarded electronics (known as ‘e-waste’) is dealt with, and innovative e-waste recycling strategies, the sheer quantities and hazardous contents of e-waste remains a concern. 

We will discuss three main areas of interest when it comes to the impact of appliances:  

  • Use of Natural Resources 
  • Creation of E-waste  
  • Impact of E-waste 

What kind of materials can be found in appliances? 

Many materials are used to build the appliances that we know and love.  

From precious gold to hazardous mercury, up to 69 out of the 118 elements from the periodic table can be found in EEE.  

Depleting these limited natural resources is an issue in and of itself, not to mention the greenhouse gas emissions associated with resource extraction which contribute to climate change.  

The variety of materials in appliances also make it much more difficult to deal with e-waste, and we will return to this issue after discussing how e-waste is generated.  

How is e-waste created?

What happens when appliances are no longer used?  

Disposal of ‘obsolete’ appliances contribute to e-waste. This is one of the fastest growing solid waste streams in the world, with 53.6 Mt of e-waste generated globally in 2019 and expected growth to 74.7 Mt by 2030.  

To put this into perspective, the weight of e-waste that we produced in 2019 is equivalent to that of 53,600 blue whales, with an expected increase to the weight of 74,700 blue whales in 2030.  

Image of a blue whale in the the Ocean - Earth's biggest mammal. The text reads: The weight of e-waste produced in 2019 is equivalent to the weight of 53,600 blue whales. Facts shared by Ocean Generation.

What is causing growing quantities of e-waste?  

You may have heard of the term ‘planned obsolescence’.

This refers to goods being produced with intentionally short useful lifespans, encouraging consumers to buy a replacement sooner than they should have to.  

Planned obsolescence is one of the big contributors to the rise of e-waste, and examples can be found throughout the tech world, from the deliberate slowing down of smartphone processors to companies frequently creating new models to make old ones seem unfashionable.  

This new ‘normal’ perception of appliances having short lifespans fuels unnecessary consumption.  

What’s the environmental impact of e-waste? 

But why does it matter that e-waste is on the rise? In short, e-waste is problematic because of low recycling rates, export to developing countries, and the environmental and human health risks associated with improper e-waste management.  

Below is the fate of e-waste generation in numbers:  

Infographic from Ocean Generation. In 2019, 17.4% of e-waste generated was formally documented as collected and recycled. 82.6? of e-waste had an undocumented fate.

Many disposed appliances end up in landfill or incinerators in developed countries or are exported to developing countries.  

Ocean Generation shares an infographic asking what happens to the 82.6% of undocumented 
e-waste? In 2019, 8% was landfilled or incinerated and between 7-20% was exported to developing countries.

The lack of e-waste recycling means more raw materials are extracted to meet the growing demand for electronic products.  

Additionally, as seen with plastics and textiles, the export of e-waste to be dealt with by informal sectors (unregulated economic activities outside government control) in developing countries is a major issue. 

Out of sight, out of mind? No longer.  

Despite the efforts of the Basel Convention to restrict the transport of hazardous waste between countries, e-waste exporters often exploit loopholes, such as by labelling shipments as “charitable donations” or by claiming that the e-waste is “repairable”.  

The consequence?

Informal sectors in developing countries are dumped with large quantities of e-waste. Low paid workers in unsafe conditions process this e-waste using rudimentary techniques including manual disassembly, open incineration and acid dipping. Their aim is to tap into the literal gold mine of valuable resources hidden amongst this waste.  

Did you know: Up to 69 of the 118 elements in the periodic table can be found in electronic e-waste.
Infographic shared by Ocean Generation.

However, while there are valuable materials to be retrieved, e-waste also contains many hazardous substances which endanger the environment and humans alike.

Pollution of soil, air, and water with flame retardants and heavy metals (such as lead, copper, and cadmium) negatively impacts a variety of organisms, including reptiles, fish, crustaceans, and birds.  

Not only is wildlife impacted, but these dangerous substances also harm humans both through direct contact with workers and by making their way into the food and water that civilians consume.  

For example, the levels of lead and cadmium in polished rice from an e-waste recycling area in Southeast China were found to be 2-4 times higher than what is considered safe. Drinking water in this area was also contaminated, containing levels of lead up to 8 times higher than the local drinking water standard.  

So, what is being done to tackle the environmental impacts of e-waste?  

While 71% of the world’s population was guided by some form of national policy, legislation, or regulation to govern e-waste in 2019, this equates to less than half the countries in the world.  

This means that there is still much progress to be made until e-waste is sufficiently managed across the world.  

Interestingly, valuable materials can be extracted from e-waste using bacteria and fungi, but these recycling techniques still have some way to go before they can be scaled up.  

How can I become a conscious appliance consumer   

Having a responsible relationship with appliances is possible.  

  • Remember that a ‘want’ may differ from a ‘need’, so question whether you actually need that appliance before purchasing it.  
  • Refuse to purchase unnecessary or low-quality appliances where possible.  
  • When purchasing appliances, investigate refurbished items (products that are repaired/restored to working condition) or remanufactured items (used products that get dismantled, their worn parts replaced, and reassembled to like-new condition) before buying new.  
  • If your appliance breaks, consider repairing it yourself or booking a certified repair service.  
  • If your appliance is at the end of its lifespan, recycle it.


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What’s the environmental impact of travel?  

Image split in half horizontally. In the top image an aeroplane, headed towards the camera, is visible. In the lower image are wooden benches at a train or underground station. This article shares the environmental impact of the ways we travel.

Despite our increasingly sedentary and digitally bound lifestyles, we still need to travel from one place to another – for our basic needs, work, school, or leisure – and it all has an environmental impact.

Imagine your typical week, what kinds of transport do you use? Do you rely on your local bus to get to school? Or perhaps a tram or metro to commute to work? Do you drive or take a taxi to visit your friends and family on the weekend? 

Globally, over half of the world’s population live in urbanised areas and we primarily use motorised modes of transport. This makes the sector heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

The transport sector is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, with oil as the dominant fuel source. Ocean Generation shares what the environmental impact of our travel is in this article.

Even with increased electrification of road vehicles and innovative fuel sources, decarbonising this sector has remained challenging.  

Environmental impact of the transport sector (in numbers): 

The environmental impact of the transport sector: in numbers. 25% of energy is consumed globally by the transport sector. 40% of transport emissions come from end-use sectors  

We’re covering 3 areas of interest when it comes to the environmental impacts of travel:

  • Air Travel 
  • Active Travel (walking and cycling) 
  • Public Transportation  

To fly or not to fly? 

The short answer is no, where possible.  

Air travel, both domestic and international, is higher emitting than is indicated by CO2 emission figures alone.  

This is because there are non-CO2 pollutants like nitrous oxides, sulphates, soot particles, etc that are directly released into the upper atmosphere.  

Localised effects of these pollutants can be more damaging than the effects of CO2 alone. In fact, one study found that non-CO2 emissions are three times more polluting than just CO2 alone. 

Why is flying at night worse for the environment? 

Condensation trails, AKA contrails, are line-shaped clouds that form from the water vapour released when burning fuel. These clouds can have both a cooling and warming effect on our planet.  

They can cool the Earth’s surface by reflecting sunlight but are disproportionately capable of trapping heat. This means that night flights are more polluting since there is no sunlight to be reflected.  

Plane flying through a navy blue sky. Behind the plane are condensation trails, also known as contrails. Ocean Generation is sharing why flying at night is worse for the environment than catching a flight during the day.

Only a small proportion of the world’s population engage in air travel, but those of us who do can point to it being the largest slice of our personal carbon footprints.  

This is especially true for those who fly on private jets. Private jets are 5-14 times more polluting than commercial planes (per passenger) and about 50 times more polluting than trains.  

Many uncertainties remain with our understanding of the full impact of contrails and decarbonising air travel has proved to be difficult despite recent innovative advancements.  

  

Active travel is making a comeback

One of the best and most accessible ways of reducing our transport carbon footprint is by walking and cycling.

These two methods of transportation have low lifecycle CO2 emissions and are environmentally friendly alternatives to using a car or public transport. Electric bikes are also on the rise and can aid slightly longer distances.  

Image split in half horizontally. On the top half of the image is a close up of a bicycle wheel. On the bottom half, a pair of green sneakers on some lush grass. Image shared by Ocean Generation in an article discussing how the ways we travel impacts our planet's health.

Another benefit of walking and cycling is its positive impact on our health; it has been found to improve our physical health and reduce the risk of various diseases.

This could improve our mental health since it promotes social interactions and helps people feel more connected to both their communities and natural surroundings. 

But according to WHO, “More than half of all road traffic deaths and injuries involve vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists and their passengers”.  

We need to work on better road infrastructure and safer areas. Active travel needs to be accessible for disadvantaged groups so they too can reap the benefits.   

We need better public transportation networks.  

An effective public transport system can have significant effects on the reduction of transport related CO2 emissions. 

Trains, buses, trams, subways/metros, and more play a vital role decreasing emissions by directly reducing the need for car ownership which in turn minimises road congestion.

Here is a graph representing the carbon footprint of multiple transport modes:

Carbon footprint of travel per kilometer in 2018 from World in Data shared by Ocean generation.
The carbon footprint of travel is measured in grams of carbon dioxide-equivalents per passenger kilometer.
This includes the impact of increased warming from aviation emissions at altitude.

Some of the takeaways from Figure 1 are: 

  • Overall, the emissions discrepancy between air travel and public transport modes is highly evident.  
  • Light rail and trams are over 4 times less emitting than taking a taxi.  
  • Trains are always a better option than flying domestically.  
  • There is great potential in low-carbon international rail journeys, like in the case of Eurostar. 
  • Economy seats are more carbon friendly than business class which could be pointed to capacity difference (fewer and bigger seats in business class) and added amenities.  
Red train coming to a stop in Japan, shared by Ocean Generation in an article that addresses the environmental impact of how we travel.

In wealthy countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Germany where a lot of investment and development of public transportation has occurred, it is well used by its locals and, as a result, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation are relatively low.  

In comparison, we see the opposite in the US which has invested more in highways resulting in a drop in the use of public transit and transportation emits more greenhouse gases than any other sector of the economy.  

Ultimately, a person’s travel choices are deeply influenced by household income and transport prices. The IPCC suggests that increasing adoption of public transport modes will require making public transport more convenient, reliable, and less expensive than using a car. 

How can I become a responsible traveller?

Travelling with the environment in mind is possible:

  • Reducing the number of flights taken is always the best option.  
  • Avoid flights if alternatives exist (like rail, bus etc.).  
  • Choose direct flights where possible to maximise fuel efficiency and minimise emissions associated with take-offs. 
  • For short to medium distances, consider walking or cycling rather than individual vehicles or public transport.  
  • Trains, metros/subways, trams, and buses should be chosen over personal vehicles where possible. 
  • Voice your interest for better and/or more public transport options in your local area, if it doesn’t already exist. 
  • Write to your local authorities to invest in pedestrian footpaths, cycling lanes, and enhance road safety.  
  • Sharing is caring; carpooling is a neat way of lowering your individual carbon footprint.  

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15 Climate actions you can take to restore the Ocean’s health 

15 simple actions you can take to fight climate change and protect the Ocean, shared by Ocean Generation. Dark blue, foamy wave washing onto a beach.

What can I do about climate change?”

We’re regularly asked for practical climate actions. Thankfully, there’s a lot we can do to look after our blue planet.  

Every decision we make – from what we eat to how we move to the clothes we wear – has an environmental impact. But when faced with fear-mongering headlines and science-backed alarm bells that we’re reaching a climate tipping point, individual actions don’t feel like enough.  

Do individual climate actions actually make a difference?  

Yes. Think about it: Swapping out your plastic straw for a metal one may not feel like much, but if everyone in Europe did the same, 701 tonnes of plastic could be prevented from entering the environment every year.  

Collectively, individual actions are powerful propellers of positive change.  

The image is cut horizontally down the middle. The top image is four men and woman dressed for work in suits and coats, holding briefcases. The bottom image is of a bright yellow fish in an organge coral in the sea. Shared by Ocean Generation.

Why should the Ocean have a seat at climate conversations?  

The Ocean is a powerful climate change mitigator.

Here’s 3 ways our Ocean mitigates the impacts of climate change: 

  • The Ocean absorbs 90% of excess heat from our climate system, making it an impressive heat sink. In fact, the Ocean is the largest heat sink on Earth. 
  • 30% of human-made carbon emissions are absorbed by our Ocean.  
  • The Ocean plays a major role in climate adaption. (Said differently: the Ocean supports our planet’s adjustment to the effects of climate change, for example, through blue carbon ecosystems).  

But as much as our Ocean tackles climate change, it is also directly affected by it. (Read: Ways climate change impacts Ocean health.)

When we take climate action, we are simultaneously taking Ocean action and vice versa.  

From reducing your use of single-use plastics to addressing your carbon footprint, there are many effective ways to make a positive difference.

Here are 15 climate actions you can take to restore the Ocean’s health: 

1) Skip single-use coffee cups

Many of us start our day with a cup of coffee on the go. It’s a comforting routine that sets the tone for the rest of the day. 

If all of Europe made the switch from single-use plastic cups to eco-friendly alternatives, we’d prevent 1,500 tonnes of plastic waste a year.

Hand holding a reusable coffee cup, shared by Ocean Generation. The accompanying text says 'if all of Europe made the switch to eco-friendly cups, we'd prevent 1,500 tonnes of plastic waste a year.'

2) Understand the main 5 human-made threats the Ocean faces 

We can’t restore the health of the Ocean if we don’t understand what threatens it.

The UN released a 2,000-page document breaking down the various threats our Ocean faces. Understandably, most people don’t have the time (or desire) to read it. So, we transformed it into 5 easy-to-follow articles about Ocean threats. 

3) “What is my climate footprint?” 

Your carbon footprint is the measure of greenhouse gases produced by your daily activities.  

This includes things like driving a car, using electricity, the emissions linked to what you wear, and even eating food.  

When we understand our carbon footprint, we can shift our behaviours for the better. Here’s an online carbon footprint calculator (we can’t endorse any resource as ‘the most accurate measure of your CO2 footprint’ but this will give you a rough idea of your environmental impact).  

It’s important to remember that carbon emission world averages distort the unequal emissions in developed and developing countries. So, it’s helpful to compare your carbon footprint to your national average to assess where you stand. 

4) The food on your plate makes an environmental impact  

One third of carbon emissions comes from food production.  

What you eat tends to matter more than whether it’s produced locally or not, when it comes to decreasing your carbon footprint.  Read: Is locally sourced food better for the environment? 

General tips: Reduce your consumption of high-emission foods like meat and dairy in favour of seasonal fruits and vegetables and snacks that have negative emissions. 

5) Put your money where your heart is: Divest from fossil fuels 

Are your monetary investments benefiting the planet? Divesting from fossil fuels means taking your money out of the hands of the fossil fuel industry, which contributes significantly to carbon emissions and climate change.  

You can start by checking your bank and investment accounts and moving your money to institutions that don’t invest in fossil fuels. Even small divestments make a difference. 

Microplastics on a black background. Ocean Generation is sharing climate actions we can all take.

6) Avoid products with microbeads 

Microbeads are small plastic beads often found in beauty and personal care products. These tiny pieces of plastic easily slip down our drains, through water treatment plants and into the Ocean. 

Most of us purchase products – facial scrubs, toothpaste, nail polish, and abrasive household cleaning products – without realising they contain microbeads.  

Quick solution to the microbead problem: Check ingredient lists and front labels. Microbeads and polyethylene are often listed on packaging, making them easy to avoid. 

7) Think before you toss your clothes into the laundry 

Every time we do an average laundry load of 6kg, 700,000 fibres can be released into our waterways. Before you put something in the washing basket, consider if it can first be worn again.  

Take this a step further by investing in a bag built to capture micro-fibres and choosing sustainable clothing materials when it’s time to purchasing something.  

8) Conserve water  

Only 0.5% of water on Earth is useable and available as freshwater. So, we’re not joking when we say water is liquid gold.  

It’s a key prerequisite for human development and, already, a quarter of all cities are water stressed. Little actions add up: Cringe when you see a character in a movie running water for ages; make sure you turn your tap off while brushing your teeth; install a waster-wise shower-head; fix those leaks.  

You may feel that your climate action a drop in the Ocean – but the Ocean would be less without that drop.  

Every drop counts.

9) Understand the impact of fast fashion on the environment 

Fast fashion is responsible for 8 – 10% of global carbon emissions (which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping – combined).  

Outfit repeating, sustainable fabrics, shopping second-hand and only purchasing items you know you’ll re-wear over and over again are in fashion this season.  
Scroll: How to take the fast out of fast fashion

Car exhaust pipe with smoke coming out. Shared by Ocean Generation in a article about actions to reduce carbon emissions.

10) What’s the impact of how you travel

No one’s surprised to learn: Flying is one of the most carbon-intensive modes of transportation. But did you know that flying at night is actually worse for the planet than flying during the day? Now you do.

Walking and cycling are both climate-friendly and positively impact our health.  

Suggestions when it comes to catching flights:  

  • Where alternatives exist, don’t fly.  
  • When you need to fly, choose direct flights to maximise fuel efficiency and minimise emissions associated with take-offs.  

11) Plant a mangrove tree – with the click of a button – to take Ocean action 

Mangrove trees are incredible climate solutions.

We’ve written about their impressive carbon sequestering power extensively and have a Mangrove Mandate: A promise to plant a mangrove tree in Madagascar for every new follower on @OceanGeneration’s instagram.  

By planting a mangrove tree, you’re making a direct impact on the environment. Plant (follow).

12) Rethink your relationship with plastic 

You knew it was coming. It wouldn’t be a climate change actions list without mention of plastic.  

Plastic is everywhere – from the clothing you’re wearing to the spot you’re sitting right now and even in the food we eat. There’s no getting rid of a material designed to last forever, but reducing our consumption of single-use plastics is essential for a healthy Ocean and planet.  

Start by rethinking your relationship with plastic. Instead of leaning on recycling, start reusing, reducing, totally refusing plastic options where you can.  

Crashing Ocean wave, shared by Ocean Generation - experts in Ocean health since 2009.

13) Start saying ‘Ocean’ not oceans 

At school, we’re all taught about the Ocean having 5 regions, but our Ocean isn’t separated by borders. It’s one, connected system.  

What happens in one part of the Ocean impacts Ocean health as a whole. 

If we all understood this, we’d be more mindful of what we dump in the Ocean, what we take out of it, and how we use it daily. As you go about your life, start saying Ocean – big O, no s. Not only does it highlight the interconnectedness of the Ocean, but also how our daily actions impact it. 

14) Be a voice for our Ocean 

The Ocean is quite literally keeping us alive. It’s our planet’s life support system, but most people don’t realise that.  

By keeping yourself informed about the importance of the Ocean, the human-made threats it faces, and the various actions we can take to protect it – and then sharing that Ocean intelligence, you can propel a wave of positive change for our planet.

Sign up to our newsletter for monthly Ocean education. Submit a Wavemaker Story to let your voice for the Ocean be amplified on our channels. Share educational posts you come across. Be an Ocean advocate – not just on World Ocean Day but every day. 

15) Accept that you can’t do everything. Start where you are. 

It’s important to acknowledge that no one can do it all when it comes to tackling climate change and restoring the Ocean’s health.  

Striving to be a perfect environmentalist often leads to eco-anxiety and feelings of defeat about the amount of work to be done. The reality is: Imperfection is still helpful, and it’s a lot more inclusive than unrealistic demands for perfection. 

Our blue planet doesn’t need a handful of perfect environmentalists. Earth needs millions of imperfect people doing what they can to make a difference, and always trying to do better.  

Embrace imperfect environmentalism with us by starting where you are. Commit to one – or several – of these items right now. Collectively, we can make waves. 

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What we Eat: Is locally sourced food better for the planet? 

Is locally sourced food better for the planet? Ocean Generation weighs in. The top half of this image shows lush lettuce with water droplets and the bottom shows a sea turtle swimming in the Ocean among some seagrass.

Over 10,000 years ago, we planted our first seeds and domesticated animals – marking a major milestone for homo sapiens (humans).

Fast forward to the present and it’s easy to see that we’ve come a long way from founding agricultural practices to the complex globalised food system we’ve built today.  

Hands of a farmer picking fruit off of a plant, on a farm. Ocean Generation is sharing how what we eat impacts the health of our planet and Ocean.

Many of us are now able to purchase foods, in and out of season, throughout the year. Food systems tend to be high-yielding and complex: the low cost of the products could be argued to be offset by the hefty environmental cost.  

Is eating locally sourced food better for the planet? 

We are exploring the public discourse between local and non-local foods, through the lens of carbon emissions

But first, we need to understand the components of the food system.  

What’s the environmental cost of the food on my plate? 

The food on our plates often makes its way to us through a complex food system.  

What is a food system 

A food system refers to the entire process (aka lifecycle) of producing, processing, distributing and consuming food.

A strawberry on a fork along with the words: The food system accounts for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. Shared by Ocean Generation.

This system accounts for a third, or 18 GTCO2eq, of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions where: 

Agricultural production (farms and animal feed) is responsible for a whopping 39% of the emissions. 

Changes in land use (deforestation and fluctuations in carbon in soil) is responsible for 32% of the emissions and, 

Other supply chain activities (like processing, transport, retail, packaging, and consumption) are responsible for 29% of the emissions.  

Aside from emissions, food systems are also accountable for high water usage and being the primary driver of biodiversity loss.

Evidently, the systems we’ve built need transformative changes that minimise this environmental toll. It also means addressing the undeniable role of the meat and dairy industry in the rise of emissions. 

From a consumer perspective, many argue that buying local produce is the best way to minimise our emissions.

Although this is a popular policy recommendation, academia suggests a slightly different picture. 

Above and below: Half of the image shows a farm with yellow wheat and the bottom half of the image shows a scene of corals and fish; life in the Ocean. A sting ray is swimming with a remora on its back and some yellow fish.

What does “locally sourced” food mean? 

There is no widely accepted definition of ‘local’ food, but it broadly revolves around minimal distances between where the food is produced and where it is consumed.  

‘Local’ food can be interpreted in a few ways:

– Within a community, city, village, or county, 
– Within a State (like in US, India), or, 
– Within a small country (like Jamaica, Estonia, Lebanon) 

In the US, according to the 2008 Farm Act, to be classified as ‘local’, foods would have to come from 400 miles or less.

If we apply this to a person shopping in Slovenia, a small European country, they could, in theory, buy produce from all their neighbouring countries and consider that as ‘local’.

So, the different interpretations to ‘local’ food allows room for varying circumstances.  

Does the type of transport used for foods matter? 

Yes! It is worth noting the emission disparities between different modes of transport.

The most GHG-efficient option for transporting food is via cargo ships. This is followed by rail, cars, vans, and trucks.

Unintuitively, storing foods locally year-round tend to be more GHG intensive than having the same products shipped from another country.   

The transport method used to carry your food from farm to fork makes a huge environmental difference.

In general, air freighted foods are the least GHG-efficient. As a consumer, it can be difficult to assess what is air-freighted and what is not.

A useful guide is to assess whether the product has a limited shelf life (for example, mangoes and berries) and if it is from a country quite far away.  

Now, let’s dive into a common question encountered in the local vs non-local food debate.  

Don’t non-locally sourced foods mean higher travel emissions? 

Not necessarily.

Here are eight foods and their supply chain emissions visualised in two ways: 

Greenhouse gas emissions across the supply chain for 8 different types of food. [Credit: Our World in Data] 
Figure 1 GHG Emissions across the supply chain [Credit: Our World in Data] 
Greenhouse gas emissions across the supply chain for 8 types of food. [Credit: Our World in Data] 
Figure 2 Relative GHG Emissions across the supply chain [Credit: Our World in Data] 

In figure 1, we are able to see the overall emissions of certain foods, noting that some foods have high emissions (like meat) while some have low or negative emissions (like nuts). Therefore, we can make the biggest impact by swapping out high-emission foods where possible.  

Figure 2 allows for a deeper understanding of emissions from each step of the supply chain. Although there are exceptions, travel emissions for most foods are minimal compared to the emissions associated with land use, farming, and animal feed. 

If you’d like to learn more about this in the context of other foods, click here to use the graphing tool. 

What are the best practices to adopt when sourcing foods? 

From an environmental perspective, making decisions on how to source foods can be unclear.

Some of the best practices guided by growing evidence suggests the following:  

– In terms of emissions reduction, what you eat matters more than whether it is local or not.  

– In general, buy locally grown seasonal foods like vegetables and fruits.  

– Buy local especially if you know where you’re buying from, who you’re buying from and how they grow the food. The transparency of supply chains will enable you to consider wider environmental, economic, and social impacts to make well-informed decisions. 

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Mangroves: Underrated Climate Change Heroes 

Mangrove tree growing out of water. Mangroves are climate change heroes thanks to their ability to sequester 3 - 5 times more carbon than normal forests.

Everything you need to know about mangrove trees:

Mangroves are the only forests situated at the confluence of land and sea in the world’s subtropics and tropics. They have been variously described as “coastal woodland”, “mangal”, “tidal forest” and “mangrove forest.”  

There are roughly 70 species of mangrove trees occupying a total estimated area of 147,000 km2 worldwide. This is equivalent to the size of Bangladesh! Roughly 43% of the world’s mangrove forests are situated in just four countries: Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, and Nigeria.  

These forests are home to an abundance of life, protecting people from floods whilst storing carbon at an impressive capacity. 

Mangrove trees in Indonesia. The mangroves - a coastal ecosystem - are vital climate change heroes. Here, they are near a body of water. Uniquely, mangroves can be found in coastal and fresh water environments.

Biodiversity in mangrove forests 

In the right conditions, mangroves form extensive and productive forests.

These forests support animal populations both within the forest and in offshore areas. Densities of crabs are especially likely to be highest on unvegetated mudbanks adjacent to mangroves, feeding on propagules (buds of plants). 

Juvenile shrimps are important organisms near mangroves too, and a sought-after food for many communities. These shrimps obtain carbon (food) from plankton and algae living amongst the mangroves. 

There are also a few endemic mammal species in mangroves. For example, crab-eating rats in Australia, the leaf monkey in Malaysia, and the proboscis monkey in Borneo. 

Here is a diagram further highlighting the importance of mangroves to so many species for different reasons – 

What species live in mangrove forests? Animals use mangroves as a nursery, foraging and nesting habitat. Some species like tree crabs, spotted mangrove crabs and crocodiles spend their whole lives in mangrove forests.

Figure 1 Conceptual diagram illustrating the critical habitat that mangroves provide for a variety of animals [Credit: Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science] 

Why should we care about mangrove trees? 

– Mangrove forests are widely recognised as providing a wide variety of goods and services to people, including protection from floods, provision of a variety of plant and animal products, sediment trapping, and nutrient uptake and transformation.  

– Annually, mangroves are responsible for over $60 billion in avoided losses from coastal flooding, protecting more than 15 million people.  

– An impressive diversity of plant products is harvested from mangrove trees, including tannins, honey, medicinal products, and thatch. 

Aerial image of mangrove forests.

Mangroves are a blue carbon solution  

– Mangroves have gained a lot of attention in recent years over their ability to sequester carbon, storing between 3-5 times more carbon per hectare than terrestrial forests. 

– They have carbon-rich soil that’s been built-up for over hundreds or thousands of years. 

– 87% of carbon stocks in mangroves are just within the top meter of soil. According to one report, if this were released into the atmosphere, it would be equal to 7.5 years of emissions from the EU or burning 51 billion barrels of oil. 

What are the drivers of degradation and loss of mangroves?  

Up to 60% of mangrove tree losses are due to direct or indirect human impacts. These drivers are –

– Logging (for timber, charcoal) 
– Agriculture (oil palm cultivation)
– Aquaculture (ponds for shrimp and fish farming) 
– Pollution (from oil and gas extraction, and nutrient run-off) 
– Coastal infrastructure development  
– Climate change (sea level rise, hurricanes, drought) 

Mangroves Degradation in Timor-Leste shared by Ocean Generation.

Mangrove Restoration and Conservation Efforts 

Our knowledge of mangrove area dynamics at local to global scales has increased significantly since 2000 due to advances in remote sensing and data access.

Around 42% of remaining mangroves are now located in protected areas. But protected areas may not always provide strong protection. Many mangroves fall prey to erosion and storms, naturally occurring phenomena, while some don’t stand the test of time due to ineffective management.  

The front line of mangrove protection, management and sustainable use involves people—communities, indigenous groups, traditional users, and local governments.  

The Global Mangrove Alliance, is an important and ambitious initiative, seeking to halt loss caused by direct human impact, restore at least half of recent mangrove losses, and increase protection from over 40% to 80% by 2030. 

How coastal communities have helped mangrove forests thrive 

Around the world, there are countless examples of collaborations that have helped coastal communities and mangroves to thrive together.  

For example, in Pakistan, mangroves are concentrated mainly in the north along the Arabian Sea coastline where arid climate prevails. Under the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Project, 43.50 million plants will be planted in one of the world’s largest endeavours to restore mangroves.  

This ambitious project will not only provide a natural barrier against erosion, climate disasters but will also restore breeding grounds for finfish and shrimps. It has the potential to improve the livelihoods of fishing and herding communities living in the many coastal villages dotting the country’s northern shores.   

A man leaning into a body of water to plant a mangrove tree. Mangrove trees are incredible trees. They act as climate change heroes because of their incredible ability to sequester carbon.

Mangrove planting has been increasingly considered a Nature-based Solution (NbS)  

This enthusiasm, seen through national policy commitments and community-led initiatives, can now be assessed against a Global Standard for NbS, a criteria set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to ensure that these projects are credible and well-designed to maximise their full potential.  

Mangroves provide many benefits and their ability to store carbon cannot be ignored. It is a useful nature-based solution to help reduce our emissions but it’s not the only one! 

What can I do to further mangrove conservation? 

  1. Show your support for mangroves in native areas –
    Find out if mangroves are native to your surroundings. If they are, vocalise your support for them and educate your community on the importance of mangroves.

    If your local mangroves are subject to degradation, rally support for preservation and speak to your local authorities. You can also keep track of mangrove restoration through the Mangrove Restoration Tracker tool.  
     
  1. Be a considerate tourist –
    Mangrove tourism exists across 93 countries, with boating being the most popular activity. So next time you travel, appreciate mangroves and the diverse wildlife they host but don’t leave anything behind!

    You can also participate in mangrove planting, for example, in the Philippines, through the Planeterra Project.  
     
A bridge leading across water and into a mangrove forest.

Why is the Ocean so important?

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How can I tackle a problem as complex as climate change?

A ripple of water. Ocean Generation makes environmental science easy to understand and shares how each individual has a ripple effect on the environment and health of the Ocean.

The Ocean has never been this subjected to the level of intensity of climate change impacts caused by human activities. With every 0.1 degree C of warming, we make it more and more difficult for humans, flora, and fauna to adapt. 

A warming Ocean means that marine ecosystems like coral reefs and salt marshes are less able to host marine biodiversity and sustain many benefits for humans.

This also disrupts the Ocean’s ability to regulate the global climate system, water, and carbon cycle. 

It goes without saying that the climate crisis is now a defining issue of our lifetimes, and we have a slim window of opportunity to reduce our collective impact. 

Four images side by side: Rough blue Ocean waves and foam, a factory releasing carbon emissions behind a field of yellow floowers, a single green lead on a crusty dry piece of Earth, a bright pink and healthy coral in the Ocean. Ocean Generation makes climate science simple to understand.

Is there a way out of the climate crisis? 

The Ocean stores 20-30% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activities but this is unsustainable, resulting in an acidic, slow circulating, less oxygenated Ocean.

To put it simply, we need to rapidly reduce our emissions to give young people and future generations a chance to secure a sustainable future.  

According to the latest IPCC report, we need to cut global GHG emissions by nearly half by 2030. These emissions come from electricity production, food, agriculture, land use, industry, transportation etc. Cutting emissions requires global collaboration and cooperation – from governments to individuals.  

The challenge is immense, but the solutions could not be clearer.

A ripple of water. Ocean Generation makes environmental science easy to understand and shares how each individual has a ripple effect on the environment and health of the Ocean.

What do we need to do to limit global warming?  

Some of these solutions have already been set in motion: Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, increasing uptake of clean energies, restoring carbon sinks, and much more. The slow pace of adoption and funding associated with these solutions have been repeatedly questioned, given the world is currently at 1.1C.  

The effects of climate change are already being felt in different corners of the world, albeit disproportionately.  

In order for us to stay within any warming limit, we need to make the necessary changes needed to sustain humanity as a whole. And as individuals, each and every one of us have carbon footprints attached to our households and lifestyles.  

We must address the fact that
we do not emit emissions equally 

Globally, there are huge disparities between those who over-consume and those who consume less due to socioeconomic and geographic factors.  

In fact, the top 10% of high-income households contribute 34–45% of consumption-based household GHG emissions and the bottom 50% contribute 13–15%.  

These stark differences mean that individuals in the top 50% are the in the best position to reduce their emissions, giving the opportunity to raise living standards for those in the bottom 50%.  

When considering our lifestyles, the conclusions are quite similar. 

What impact do our lifestyle choices have on carbon emissions?  

According to 2022 UNEP report, “the lifestyles of the wealthiest 10% of the world’s population (broadly speaking, most middleclass persons living in industrialised countries), are responsible for almost half of the global emissions, while the lifestyles of the wealthiest 1% are responsible for about twice as many GHG emissions as the poorest 50%”.  

Lifestyles are not just about the things we consume, but also addresses the communities we live in, the values we foster and the choices we make.

Individuals that are socio-economically well-off are in an instrumental position for enabling change. One paper suggests that individuals in this category could reduce emissions as role models, citizens, organisational participants, investors, and consumers.  

Ultimately, environmental, and societal well-being go hand-in-hand; it is in humanity’s best interests to fairly consume within our means.  

Footprint made of sea shells on the sand at a beach. Each of us has carbon footprints attached to our households and lifestyles. We can minimise our impact with every decision we make.

What can people to do to lower their carbon emissions 

There are four key areas where individuals can have the most impact: Food, transport, housing, and the things we buy (like appliances, clothes etc).  

There is no denying that industry supply chains have a responsibility to reduce environmental impacts and provide sustainable choices. Small, and local businesses also tend to be more transparent, gaining consumer trust. Low-carbon alternatives exist in each of the aforementioned areas, and we can collectively vouch for further changes, whether that’s accessibility or affordability.  

At Ocean Generation, we will be covering climate change solutions under each of the above areas through 2023. Namely:

What we Eat food sources, diets, and food waste 
How we Move modes of mobility 
What we Purchase appliances, fashion 
How we Live energy sources and energy-saving behaviours 

Four areas where individuals have agency over their emissions: how we move, how we live, what we purchase and what we eat. Ocean Generation will be covering solutions related to climate change because climate solutions are Ocean solutions. We cannot have a healthy planet without a healthy Ocean.

Climate change solutions are Ocean solutions, and vice versa.

The finite resources on this planet need to be utilised efficiently and distributed equally while minimising our impact with each and every decision we make.  

The future of the Ocean is very much in our own hands.  

With every 0.1C degree warming avoided, biodiversity and humans are given another chance. Let’s make every choice count!  

The future of the Ocean is in our hands. To have a healthy planet, we need a healthy Ocean. Ocean Generation shares climate change solutions and Ocean solutions to safeguard our planet.

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What is the UN High Seas Treaty and why does it matter? 

After two decades, the open Ocean or ‘high seas’ are on its way to being protected.  

On 20th February 2023, the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) resumed negotiations in attempt to agree on a treaty to protect the high seas.

The last negotiations were held in August 2022 and ended without agreement.  

Our Ocean has been under pressure for decades and we cannot ignore the Ocean emergency,” said António Guterres, UN Secretary-General in a statement, reiterating the need for a treaty that paves the way for a sustainable Ocean. 

What are the “high seas”? 

High seas refer to the vast majority of the Ocean that lies beyond national jurisdictions. This open water is not governed by any one country and covers 64% of the Ocean’s surface. 

Global map showing the extent of exclusive economic zones (EEZ’s) and the high seas. [Extracted from Sumaila et al.]

What does the High Seas Treaty mean for our Ocean 

After an extra day of intense negotiations, IGC president, Rena Lee, Singapore, announced that the United Nations (UN) High Seas Treaty had been agreed.

This was a monumental milestone twenty years in the making.

“The ship has reached the shore!” – IGC President, Rena Lee, Singapore when the High Seas Treaty was accepted in 2023.
[Credit: Photo by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis] 

“The ship has reached the shore!”

IGC President, Rena Lee, Singapore.

5 main takeaways from the High Seas Treaty:

Strengthening 30 x 30

This agreement seeks to protect 30% of the Ocean by 2030. This was an outcome from COP 15 (the global biodiversity conference held in Dec, 2022) that will be strengthened with the help of this treaty.  

Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) –

This treaty will provide the legal framework necessary to set up MPA’s as no such framework currently exists.  

Conference of the Parties (COP) –

Establish a COP to ensure accountability on issues like biodiversity and governance.  

Marine Genetic Resources (MGR’s) –

Highlighting the need for processes to share genetic resources like plants and animals for pharmaceuticals, food, cosmetics, etc.  

Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s) –

Greater obligations to conduct EIA’s on activities relating to pollution or any potential effects on the marine environment that is unknown or not yet fully understood.  

 Ocean Generation’s Statement on the High Seas Treaty: 

“We are delighted to hear that the UN High Seas Treaty has finally become a reality.  

A healthy Ocean is vital for the survival of all living things, and this is the message we continue to deliver through our work at Ocean Generation. Protecting 30% by 2030 must, however, be seen as a minimum requirement.  

We view this agreement as a starting point. The Ocean is our ally in the fight against climate change and we must stop underestimating its role in our survival. The sooner this treaty is ratified by all countries, the better chance we have of a safe and healthy future for the generations that will follow us.” 


Jo Ruxton MBE 
Founder of Ocean Generation 

We intend to update this article once the final text of the treaty has been published. 

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