If someone were to ask me one critical thing they could do right now to help the environment, apart from dropping single-use plastics, I would suggest to them to be more aware of the food on their plates. You know, to eat like you give a f***. Like, where the heck did your food come from? Who grew it? How did they grow it? And...how does its production impact the environment?
Week number 2 brings a bit of a different challenge, and one that became more and more relevant for me after I became hyper-aware of plastic waste and poor environmental practices in restaurants and other businesses. The challenge: speak up about a possible improvement that you think one of your favorite restaurants can make in terms of its plastic use. You know those places you go to eat, the ones you adore with delicious food that you can’t get anywhere else and that give you the warm fuzzies because it’s familiar and it’s the bestest…but that also produce horrendous amounts of waste? I experienced that in Coeur d’Alene this past week at the Fish Market. My family loves this place. AMAZING fish tacos. But EVERYTHING served with single-use plastic sauce tubs, plastic cutlery, and beers on tap are even served in plastic pint cups. WHAT. WHY. GET A DISHWASHER. Give someone a job in the community and stop producing so much waste!
So a little while ago I made a promise to start posting some simple, easy steps you can take to living a more eco-friendly lifestyle. I'm calling this blog series 8 Weeks to a Greener Life and a Bluer Sea, and I'm excited to kick it off with one of my favorite summertime activities: farmer's market shopping! I'm going to keep these posts brief, so you can read them over your morning coffee, absorb what you want from them, and hopefully feel inspired to get out and implement these strategies in your own life.
One of the most powerful driving forces in nurturing my zest for ocean conservation is connecting with like-minded, creative individuals who are working towards the same mission - but usually from a slightly different angle! I had the pleasure of connecting with Janell, the founder and creator of Clam & Clasp, and instantly fell in love with her beautiful pieces of jewelry. Each features a sustainably collected seashell and a promise to speak for the sea.
Green Mind: The Challenging Shift from a Cheapest-is-Best Mentality to a Do-It-for-the-Earth Mentality
To the millennials out there: we were raised in a different time with different priorities, and we don’t exactly have a blueprint to look to as we navigate these new and constant environmental challenges. It's a huge task, managing and instigating all of this change. But for those of us who care about the environment to any degree at all, which I truly do believe is most of us, we can start shifting our habits to live a greener lifestyle. We might have to start small; everyone's personal and financial situation is different. But when we continue to demand green alternatives and use our purchasing power to support what we believe in, we are going to keep seeing changes. So start where you can. Do what you can. And at the very least, keep up-to-date on environmental issues and talk about them with your family and friends.
I wrote a post not too long ago about the challenges of being an optimistic environmentalist. The struggle is real. Very, very real. I’m sure many of you have seen National Geographic’s latest magazine cover depicting a plastic bag looming up from the ocean like an iceberg with the title “Planet or Plastic?” This particular issue is just the start of the magazine’s multiyear plan to bring awareness to our planet’s plastic overload crisis. At first glance, it’s heart wrenching - another reminder of the doom and gloom and challenges ahead of us. But once I read the article and absorbed the painful facts, the scary stats, and the troubling photographs, I felt a little rush of excitement. Do we even know how many people are going to be exposed to this crisis as a result of this publication, people that may never even have thought about it seriously and now would? National Geographic has always been a magazine that has sparked controversial conversations, and this particular cover has been dubbed “one for the ages.” People are going to be talking. People are going to be freaked out. And that’s good.
A couple of crazy (amazing) ladies and I tackled the Milford Track in early May - a few weeks ago. It was one of the most incredible things I've ever done. We had some wet, wild, windy weather, and I wouldn't have traded it for the world. There were waterfalls cascading in every direction you looked - best not to hike with a full bladder here or you'll wee yourself. Thinking of hiking the Milford? The Great Walks season runs October 24th - April 30th and the track requires bookings. It books out MONTHS in advance, as it's crazy popular. But it DOES live up to the hype, even in the rain. In fact, I reckon the rain makes it better! The hike is about 54 km long and takes four days. There are three huts along the way that will give you the shelter you need and the amazing views you crave.
We've most likely all been acquainted with the concept of minimalism at some point in the last decade. In a society where anything we could possibly want is available with the scroll of a finger on a trackpad, minimalism provides us with a way of combating this mine mine mine mentality and instead reducing the things in our life. It's a way for us to trim down our excess baggage and critically think about what we own. It might just start as a physical reduction of excess things, but in a very real way, downsizing can also positively impact our mental health. There are so many benefits of minimalism, and a large spectrum of extremes we can take it to, but as a self-proclaimed conservationist and travel-lover, it's a concept that I've been struggling heartily with over the past three years. In this post, I'll be focusing on how I keep a minimalistic mindset while packing for trips, and also how I try to minimize the waste I create with the food I purchase, particularly while traveling.
After six months down in the land of the Kiwi working as a dolphin swim guide, I've been exposed to more beautiful marine creatures than I can even comprehend. I have had so many "first" sightings this season! Sperm whales...blue whales...dusky dolphins...common dolphins...Hector's dolphins...South Pacific humpback whales...it gets my head spinning. But the most common cetacean species I hang out with is the dusky dolphin, and they're one of my favorites. They're out here frolicking every single day in the hundreds, living the dream life, backflipping and leaping out of the water anywhere you turn your head. Every single day I get to visit them in their beautiful world and introduce them to travelers from all over the world.
And although they're here in crazy numbers, there are a few dolphins that we can recognize based on their quirky dorsal fins or distinct scars. One of my best dolphin friends out here is Bento, the frisky little dusky with a big heart and a dramatically bent dorsal fin. He's been an occasional visitor over the summer, seen three or four times each month. My fellow guides and I are intrigued by his fin and curious about what might have caused this odd, yet beautiful, deformation. It doesn't appear to be hurting him or harming his swimming abilities in any way, shape, or form. In fact, I've noticed he's one of the most playful dolphins I've been able to swim with! Whenever we see Bento on the boat, we always get way too excited and joyfully point him out to any passenger on board who will listen. Most are just as excited to see him as we are!
On an afternoon off, which also happened to be my 26th birthday, I decided to go for a swim. I wanted to spend the kick-off of my 27th orbit around the sun with saltwater in my suit, so I hopped on board Lissodelphis with some friends and we journeyed out to Goose Bay to play with some duskies. And I was SO EXCITED that Bento decided to pay me a visit in the water! I managed to snag some footage - check it out below. He's a cutie.
I haven't been blogging much lately, and I'm hoping to turn that around soon. In the meantime, I'm going to start using my Instagram story as a way to post little quirky videos of conservation inspiration - small choices and actions we can take on a day-to-day basis to live a more eco-friendly life. Connect with me, mates!
Thanks for an awesome swim, Bento. May your bent dorsal fin take you places you've never dreamed of in your beautiful underwater life.
An Ode to Bento
A little bit quirky
Our ocean is turning into a plastic soup. All of that natural marine beauty – the rainbow coral reefs, the frolicking dolphins, the meandering whales, the lurking sharks and mysterious sea creatures of the deep sea – it's all in trouble. Plastic is a relatively new invention (1907) that has wasted no time in simultaneously poisoning our world and "simplifying" many aspects of our lives. It's become integrated into our daily lives; the convenience of plastic and human society are inseparable at this point. There's some truly scary statistics out there. Over 77% of the rubbish in the sea is plastic. By the year 2050, there will be more plastic in our seas than fish by mass. Shoppers use approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year, which translates to approximately 1 million bags per minute across the globe. Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean's surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile. 100,000 marine creatures die each year from plastic entanglement - and these are just the ones that are found.
It is scary, all of this talk of pollution and plastic. But it's also a perfect launching point for motivating others to get involved in conservation. The question to ask is what can we do about it? The first step of involvement is often the most simple, and always the most important. Start small. Think: a team beach clean up. My team at Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura recently partnered with Raglan Coconut Yoghurt to tackle the very global problem of plastic pollution in a very local way. We conducted a beach clean-up at two of our most popular beaches, South Bay and Jimmy Armer's. After the clean-up, we made sure to sort through the mounds of rubbish, recycling when appropriate, and got a sense of which items and materials were the biggest culprits. You guessed it: plastic was the biggest bad guy.
The beach clean was a really simple way to get my work community involved in environmental conservation. The amount of stuff, and the variety, we found was pretty eye-opening and it was so satisfying to snatch those bags/bottles/nappies/cans/hooks/plastic bits off the beach and dispose of them properly. I can't wait to hold more beach cleans and recruit involvement from the local schools and community members. You'd be surprised how many people are keen to get involved once someone takes the reins of the project and runs with it.
I really wanted this post to empower anyone, anywhere, to get involved in this ocean conservation movement. How can you help? No matter where you are in the world, land-locked or coastal, you can organize your own beach/park/road clean-up. Start small. Get your friends together. Grab some biodegradable bags and gloves. Pick a time and place. And go for it. Make it fun! Is there anything better than enabling yourselves and your friends to take care of the waterways and coastlines that you love?
Do it for the big blue.
Raglan Coconut Yoghurt is an amazing small business that makes delicious dairy-free yoghurts and supports a variety of environmental causes; they certainly use their business as "a tool for good." They offered to support our beach clean by sending along some biodegradable bags and gloves, and a variety of coconut yoghurts for the whole team to enjoy. If you haven't tried their product, head to the supermarket and get your hands on some now. You won't regret it. It's absolutely the best yoghurt I've ever tasted, dairy-free or not.
For more ideas on how to help with the plastic-free oceans movement, check out my post on how to reduce single-use plastics in your life.
All photos courtesy of Fiona Wardle Photography.
I've been really struggling and trying to be extra mindful of these plastic "conveniences" in my day-to-day life. Plastic has fundamentally changed the way we eat, travel, and live our day-to-day lives. But we lived without it not so long ago - can we reach that stage again? We don't want a plastic ocean.
Fi came to Kaikoura about four years ago. She's originally from the U.K. but moved to Oceania to research common dolphins in Auckland and humpbacks in Australia after completing her undergraduate degree in wildlife photography. As fate would have it, a friend connected Fi with Dolphin Encounter and she found herself in Kaikoura working as a dolphin swim guide and photographer.
"Your life looks so cool, do you just travel all the time? How do you fund this? I'm so jealous!"
My life might look glamorous to those from the outside. Many people use social media to paint the best and most exciting version of themselves. I try and use it to highlight beautiful things I've seen, the positive feelings I'm having, or the people I'm meeting, and naturally skim over the lows and challenges I face internally. It's easy to overlook the day-to-day struggles when you're living in some of the most beautiful parts of the world.
Everyone loves a little bit of reflection at the start of a new year - it gives us time to feel good about the places we've been, cringe a bit at the mistakes we've made, and laugh because of all the lessons we've learned from them. It's been good for me to ponder over you and all of the adventures you've provided for me.
What does the holiday season in New Zealand look like? Summer breezes blowing along the peninsula. Long evenings under pastel skies. Lingering sunsets painting the skies past 9 p.m. Skin bare and basking in the warmth of the sun. Rosé taking the place of my favorite pinot noir. And for me, the busiest time at work. Ah, tourism.
It seems like you hear all sorts of negative, terrifying, inside-squeezing statistics and study results about the dying marine ecosystems around the world these days and how humans are just destroying all things beautiful in the natural world. It's like someone has gone and painted black streaks over the vibrant blues and greens of the sea of my mind. Sometimes it gets to be too much. There are days when it causes me to panic, and fret, and feel depressed about why I am living in this time period and not one hundred, or even fifty, years ago, when the marine world might have been a lot more pristine. Or at the very least, why couldn't I have paid more attention when I was snorkeling in Cabo and Hawai'i fifteen years ago, or the Great Barrier Reef five years ago, before the bleaching epidemics stripped so many of the reefs of their vitality? Why did I have to start falling in love with the underwater world right as we realize how badly it's hurting?
It's no secret that this country is a wonderland for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. Every turn in the road reveals jaw-dropping coastal or alpine vistas (sometimes both!), a chance to hike up to a summit or jump in a frigid glacially-fed waterfall, or a cute little country town with little roadside cafes and plenty of charm. The Southern Scenic Route is an absolute must-do if you have three or four days in your itinerary to fill time on your way from the Te Anau/Queenstown area to Dunedin (or vice versa). It's a bit off of the beaten path, which in my opinion simply adds to the magic. The Catlins Coast was honestly one of my favorite detours on my three-week South Island expedition. It's rugged and wild and unexpected, and somehow managed to be relaxing while simultaneously stimulating my adventurous side.
Located in Riccarton, a leafy green district in west Christchurch, this Saturday market is a hub for foodies, music lovers, caffeine addicts, organic produce enthusiasts, families, young couples, and wanderlusting travelers alike. You'll be able to chat with producers of artisan cheeses, breads, and nut butters, as well as the farmers who grow the most incredible array of fresh fruits and vegetables. You'll see happy market goers sprawled out under leafy trees nomming on their gourmet local burgers or posh breakfast porridge, listening to talented musical acts from around the city. You'll hear a stream babble alongside the market path, adding to the pleasant hum of noise that resonates throughout the air. And the smells! My nose couldn't stop investigating each and every one. Fresh Irish soda bread. Bacon being fried. Crepes getting stuffed full of fruits and savory delights.
Since I was driving south from Kaikoura, there was no better place to start the adventure than the small town of Akaroa on the beautiful Banks Peninsula. Just 75 km's from Christchurch, this historic French and British settlement is nestled right in the heart of a beautiful volcano. With only a day to spend exploring here, I made sure to get out on the water with Black Cat Cruises to see as much of the peninsula as I could - and I really can't recommend them highly enough! I did a harbor tour with them and could barely control my excitement over the stunning vistas we were able to see. The geological history of the Banks Peninsula and the Akaroa Harbour truly shows itself in the dramatic coastlines and beautiful cliff and rock formations. There was something new to ogle at around every turn.
Working with "Charismatic Megafauna" to Raise Awareness for Conservation Goals — Can a Naturalist Make a Difference?
The ocean is full of incredible creatures, many of which the average person will never lay eyes on in their lifetime. Although about 40% of humans live within 100 km of the coast, there's still plenty of us who spend our days without seeing, or thinking about, the big blue. It's easy to feel disconnected from something that we simply don't see every day. Is this why the ocean's health often slips from the list of factors that affect our day-to-day lifestyle choices? In my perfect world, the health of the sea would be at the forefront of everyone's mind when they make any decision that involves sustainability and conservation. But it's not always so. Not everyone can live by the ocean. Not everyone wants to live by the ocean. Not everyone realizes that our health and wellbeing is intimately tied to the wellbeing of the sea. This is why it is important to give reminders of why the ocean is an incredible gift — not to mention essential for our survival as a species — and why it deserves respect and protection.