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Issue # 6: Our oceans are in deep trouble, can technology save them?

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Hey, friends! If you have yet to freak out over the devastating UN report on climate change this week
 

Planet:tech

October 13 · Issue #6 · View online
Dedicated to curating tech products and startups solving the world's most pressing problems, including climate change, pollution, and sustainability.

Hey, friends!
If you have yet to freak out over the devastating UN report on climate change this week, we got you covered. The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages, wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the world population! Is that your anxiety level rising? Join the club!
But in times of despair, there is always hope; on a more positive note, this week has brought nations together in agreement to help clean up and preserve our marine life, a daunting task at hand, is there hope for our oceans? 

Andrea diving in the Mesoamerican Reef in Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras
Can technology save our oceans?
Following Monday’s news on a huge victory for Arctic marine ecosystems, nine nations along with the EU signed an international agreement that will prevent commercial fishing in the fragile region for at least 16 years. The agreement will protect nearly three million square kilometers of the Central Arctic Ocean from unregulated fishing while scientific research is conducted to learn more about its marine life and resources.
Overfishing is one of the three three major challenges that our oceans currently face. Plastic pollution is another major issue that technology can help solve. 

By 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight.

Technological innovation used on land has helped us immeasurably to clean up polluting industries and now it’s time to use it towards the preservation and healing of our oceans. So how can technology help clean up and prevent plastic pollution?
Rapid progress in the development of robotics, AI, low-cost sensors, satellite systems, and big-data are opening up whole new sectors of ocean use and research. Some of these disruptive marine technologies could mean a cleaner and safer future for our oceans. 
One of the most interesting companies working on this field is The Ocean Cleanup, developing advanced technologies that are expected to be able to remove 90% of ocean plastic by 2040
Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 2030 with and without cleanup
After 5 years of research, engineering and testing, in May 2018, the company launched its beta cleanup system, a 600-meter long floater that can collect about five tons of ocean plastic per month. Their floating boom system is estimated to clean up half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within the first five years.
The Ocean Cleanup Technology, Explained - YouTube
The Ocean Cleanup has raised $31 million since 2013, with Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel among its major investors.

 Although a cleanup will have a profound effect, it’s just part of the solution. We also need to close the tap, to prevent any more plastic from reaching the oceans in the first place.

We can’t put all our hopes on ‘silver bullets’ of new technology. With trillions of pieces of trash floating in our oceans, it is important for everyone to start making changes today in order to protect our oceans for generations to come. 

You don’t have to wait for major technology projects to save our oceans.
Hands on: The power for change lies in hands of the consumer
The increased awareness of our ocean dilemma among consumers means there’s tremendous commercial opportunity for those offering environmentally-friendly, fashion alternatives. Interest in recycled plastic as raw material has gained momentum in recent years and resulted in the formation of a number of companies that are turning ocean-waste into products
  • PET Lamps is a project that mixes the reuse of PET plastic bottles with selected traditional weaving techniques from different corners of the world in order to create unique handmade lampshades. 
These companies are also on a mission to educate customers, encouraging them to consider their own impact on the environment, and the difference their choices can make.
Life in plastic, it’s fantastic? Fashion meets recycling
These days, a number of brands are starting to incorporate post-consumer materials into their product lines. But some companies are going even further, looking to up-cycle harmful waste from the ocean.
One of the most famous examples is Adidas’ collaboration with the environmental initiative Parley for the Oceans. On World Oceans’ Day, back in 2016, the company released its first batch of running shoes with uppers made using recycled plastic recovered from the sea. 
Adidas and Parley for the Ocean design ocean plastic trainers
In 2017, Adidas teamed up with Parley again to create a collection of swimwear that is made from up-cycled fishing nets and debris. The ocean plastic was converted into a fibre named Econyl, which has the same properties as regular nylon which is used to make swimwear.
According to Adidas Director of Design, it’s possible to make over 1,000 swimsuits from a large fishing net.
Parley also worked with Stella McCartney on The Ocean Legends collection, where each piece in the collection was made from up-cycled marine plastic and is dedicated to pioneers of the ocean movement. The first product of the collection is a special limited edition Falabella GO backpack honoring Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd – an international non-profit ocean conservation organization. 
Ocean Legend | Honouring Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd - YouTube
Another great project created in collaboration with Parley is Clean Waves aimed at boosting the use of eco innovative materials in fashion and industrial design. Their first collection of limited-edition sunglasses looks pretty neat.
Each pair of eyewear carries individual geographical coordinates of a specific place impacted by marine plastic pollution.
If you’re feeling the trend, we recommend trying out these bikinis made from fishing nets or these yoga pants made from plastic bottles.
Another interesting brand in this space is Ecoalf, an urban minimalist brand from Spain aiming to create garments and accessories with the same properties and design as the best articles on the market. The company has been creating using recycled fabrics from decommissioned fishing nets, plastic bottles from the bottom of the ocean, cotton waste, and used tires. They went as far as to turn discarded coffee grounds into a high-quality raw material used in jackets, shoes, and bags. With this approach, ECOALF contributes to reducing environmental impact and creating low resource consumption.
Worth a watch
This week we rounded up a number of videos that are worth your time! 

  • Ocean Frontiers is an inspiring 4-part film series of people coming together to create a new era in ocean stewardship. 
  • Albatross is a beautiful and touching film explores issue of ocean plastic pollution, a stunning environmental tragedy taking place on a tiny atoll in the center of the vast North Pacific Ocean. A story that may change the way you see everything.
  • How can we help secure the future of our seas? A great talk from the last year’s WebSummit.
  • A list of TED Talks on Ocean wonders. Dive into the unexplored universe beneath the waves: the beautiful, fragile (and sometimes terrifying) world of the ocean.
  • The Last Ocean is a beautifully shot documentary about one of Earth’s last pristine Marine environments- the Ross Sea, off the coast of Antarctica. Largely untouched by humans, it is one of the last places where the delicate balance of nature prevails. But unless fishing is stopped the natural balance of the Ross Sea will be lost forever.
  • In this episode of Surfing For Change, Kyle takes a trip to the north shore of Oahu to see how our use of single-use disposable plastics is connected to Hawaiians, marine-life, and the environment as a whole, and what we can do to help solve plastic pollution. 
  •  Chasing Coral documentary focused on the problem of coral reefs vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.
  •  Stand by the Sea is an 18-minute footage on ocean plastic waste narrated from the point of view of Italian sailors who directly experienced the invasion of marine litter and microplastics in our seas. Let’s “Stand by the Sea”.
Before we go, let’s make a plan!
Does climate change-talk leave you feeling overwhelmed, uneasy, does it send you into an existential dread or on an endless loop of guilt an impotence? We hear ya! We can’t rely on technology, or a magic fix for our current, and very complex ocean problems. But you know what we CAN do? We CAN make a difference by changing our habits and routines in our daily life in favor of more sustainable, green and eco-friendly choices. 

Here are simple steps we can take right now to be a part of the solution:
  • Use paper straws instead of plastic ones, or try a reusable one
  • Avoid bottled water and bring your own reusable water bottle or mug with you. Same goes for coffee cups, most coffee shops nowadays offer discounts to those who bring their own mug/thermos! 
  • Before you place that take-out order, ask if it’s ok to bring in your own container to use instead. Avoid the doggie-bag dilemma by making conscious choices while you’re ordering dinner, Andrea’s tip is to order as you go, that way you ensure you are giving enough time for your brain to respond to those first bites as to prevent over ordering or over eating! It’s a double win!
  • Instead of wet wipes (which are typically made from polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene) you can use a traditional all-cotton flannel like this one
  • Refuse plastic bags and bring your own reusable bags wherever you go. Andrea’s been using her canvas tote-bag from a recent conference she attended as her grocery shopping bag, but for those who like to have groceries sorted out, check this out

We recommend this online shop for safe, high quality, and Earth-friendly alternatives to plastic products for everyday life.
What if you could contribute to sustainability even during vacation?
Soaking up rays in Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras.
If you’re looking for tropical paradise just in time for the holidays, consider Andrea’s natal country of Honduras, its home to the Bay Islands, located above the Mesoamerican reef, the second largest in the world! Their Reef Garden program, in partnership with Oceanus, is a program that educates and trains you to become a certified “reef protector”, you can also adopt a coral and become an agent for positive change all whilst vacationing in crystal clear waters, surrounding yourself with locals and visitors from around the world and having a good time! Feel free to reach out to her with questions about it anytime! (Disclosure, she cannot guarantee you will tan just as nicely as she will 😎)

Remember, everyone has the power to do something and collectively, these actions can lead to a big and positive change for our oceans. Let’s take control of what we can change, remove ourselves from a victim mentality and remind ourselves of our power to make a difference, even through small changes. 
In the words of Andrea, “Mi casa es su casa”, this world is OUR home, let’s take care of it together. 

With love,
Aleksandra, Andrea, and Jessica.
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