Mobility

How to act against ocean pollution in a fun way

In conjunction with World Cleanup Day, we highlight GreenKayak, on the verge of creating a global movement.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
September 21, 2020

The event, coordinated by the Estonian organization Let’s Do It! World, gathered 21 million people across 180 countries last year with over 100 000 tons of waste collected. While numbers from last Saturday’s event, where also The King of Sweden participated, are yet to be revealed, GreenKayak may conclude another successful summer season.

The Danish startup’s idea is simple: use our kayaks for free for two hours while collecting waste from the water, before sharing it on social media using #GreenKayak. The founder, professional sea kayaking instructor Tobias Weber-Andersen, started to collect plastics and other trash while paddling around Copenhagen’s canals with his groups. The first kayak was introduced in the Danish capital in April 2017 and became well perceived and pre-booked for months in advance. Since then, thousands of volunteers have paddled in the harbors, rivers, and lakes of five European countries, and collected more than 38 tons of trash.

— After the first two seasons, we realized that there was an opportunity to do something not only for the environment in Denmark’s biggest cities. A lot of local aquatic environments around Europe and the world are polluted and people in Denmark saw this as a fun way of helping. This is when we realized that we can make a change globally working together with local communities around other cities and countries, says Co-founder Oke Carstensen, continuing,

We engage people at eye-level, connect them across generations and give them the feeling of being in the same boat around a good cause

— We engage people at eye-level, connect them across generations and give them the feeling of being in the same boat around a good cause. We’re building a global network of kayaks to engage as many people as possible.

The kayaks hold two people and they’re stable and safe, so you don’t need any previous experience. Volunteers are provided with life jackets and all the other gear they need to paddle and pick up waste. Carstensen states how GreenKayak is not the solution that will save the oceans from plastic pollution.

— But, it’s an amazing and very effective way to make citizens take local action, connect themselves and their family and friends to the ocean, have a lot of fun and a dialogue about what it will take of all of us to battle plastic pollution in the sea.

In 2020, they’ve added another 10 kayaks, expecting to achieve record numbers on people participating and collecting trash.

— For the next year to come we want to expand the network even further and hopefully place an additional 20-30 GreenKayaks around Europe. We work towards making ourselves redundant in the hope that some day the plastics in our waters will be gone, but this is unfortunately a very long journey and we will not experience it in our lifetimes unless there are major political changes, says Carstensen.

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