• PLASTIC:Unwrapped

Our final hurrah with Salty Warriors

When we said that our project would start and finish in St Andrews, we weren't expecting to be over 4500 miles apart at the time of tying up loose ends and bringing everything to a close. Despite the current challenges, we have succeeded in sharing the aims of several initiatives we had planned on meeting by chatting virtually where possible. For the most part our itinerary had been set out for the remaining 10 weeks of the project but when it came to Scotland, we had somewhat of a blank canvas.

Usually what happens is that we get a contact from an existing contact as we go and our itinerary becomes jam-packed in just a matter of days, but as the European leg of the journey was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, we hadn't quite got a list of contacts for Scotland and certainly not St Andrews, which is why we were so happy when Salty Warriors reached out to us the other week.

Juan and Alvaro, co-founders of Salty Warriors

Whilst we were already aware of the Salty Warriors movement, we were thrilled to be able to chat to one of their co-founders, Juan, and fellow Warrior and MCS Sea Champion, Lauren (both of whom are fellow St Andrews alumni) at the end of May in order to find out more. After another call and more awesome chat this week, we are ready to share the best bits with you, and we'll kick off with Juan explaining what Salty Warriors is all about:

The beautifully unique thing about Salty Warriors is that everybody on board has a genuine passion for the environment. We're not saying here that other organisations are run on false passion, it is simply that due to the small size of Salty Warriors, it is a movement that has not lent itself to quantity over quality. The team is passionate about invoking change rather than gaining likes and follows (which, of course, have a purpose but can occasionally detract from the cause at stake when counting numbers becomes a priority). They are also not trying to reinvent the wheel, rather aid those who have already got said wheel rolling, and need some assistance when it comes to making it roll a little faster, if you see what we mean. They are also striving to connect people around the globe, with Warriors in several different countries, which is why we are especially enjoying working with the SW team, as this has been one of our primary aims since day 1.

Speaking of Team Members, we asked Lauren, a recently appointed Warrior, to explain what it means to be a Warrior and why she wanted to get involved:

We would argue that mobilising small ideas and initiatives is now one of the most important sectors that we must focus on due to environmental awareness having increased so much over the last 5 years. There are now many organisations and start-ups, or even individuals with a passion, who need help to reach the next stage of their work. Often a mere list of relevant contacts can really boost a cause which is another reason why the international nature of Salty Warriors will benefit all involved. We too have found this over the course of our journey and feel grateful beyond words for the contacts we've been given, without which many of our visits would have been far less successful. At the end of the day, it comes down to collaboration and sharing. Competition won't get us anywhere in the world of environmental action and it is by sharing that we learn, and by learning that we can create change.

This message is especially powerful at the moment as we begin understand what is required of us when it comes to tackling social injustice and racism. Agreeing with a cause is not enough, action is required to make a difference.

What was the inspiration behind Salty Warriors?

Now one thing that we have really noticed over the last 12 months is that founders of environmental causes tend to be able to pinpoint a moment that led them to speak up and create change through their idea, organisation or initiative. We wanted to know what the inspiration was behind Salty Warriors so that we could further understand its vision and share it with you, so here Juan explains how it all began:

"I think when you see marine mammals injured by plastic, that changes everything"

But what about COVID-19?

Since returning to our respective homes due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we have been really keen to discuss the work of our initiatives during these uncertain times and it usually results in a really interesting and reassuring conversation regarding our individual efforts under lockdown restrictions/given infection control measures.

As with previous conversations, the four of us concluded that it is important to strike a balance, ensuring that environmental action is coupled with awareness surrounding hygiene measures and infection control. Beach cleans, for example, must be undertaken especially carefully, respecting hand washing and hygiene measures even more than usual, but we also agreed that if COVID-induced anxiety is limiting your actions, then that is OK too. There are ways we can all protect the planet without going outside and bagging up litter every day! Remember to think about your consumption, food miles, recycling habits and diet as ways to protect our oceans and care for our environment.

Salty Warriors are continuing their work and making use out of the unique time we currently have to reflect on our personal actions and find the best ways of communicating with others to share messages that to scientists and environmentalists may seem very simple, but remain unknown to many. Lauren also pointed out that even we as like-minded individuals have so much more to learn as research continues to be undertaken and published. Whilst COVID-19 has undoubtedly had a multitude of challenging and hard-hitting impacts, Lauren and Juan reminded us today of the silver linings that can take away from the time we've had to slow down the pace of our everyday lives.

Some wise words from Lauren and Juan that we'd like to share:

(If you got to the end of Lauren's video and wondered what she watched (and that we would 100% recommend that you watch too) it's called Chasing Coral)

Where now?

After an incredibly inspiring couple of meetings with Lauren and Juan we are thrilled to be able to announce a collaboration with them that will allow us to continue the journey of PLASTIC: Unwrapped remotely, to share as many of our findings with as wide an audience as possible, and to help connect our contacts with theirs in order to inform and raise awareness in the global #waronplastic. All will be revealed in good time but we will give you a hint by telling you to get ready for #PlasticFreeJuly next month, and to prepare yourselves for the next chapter of our journey.

You haven't seen the last of us yet!

Find our more about the awesome work of Salty Warriors by heading to their social media pages here!