NEWS: Partnering in symbiosis to save our reefs

NEWS: Partnering in symbiosis to save our reefs

Industry leaders have stepped up to embrace Green Fins with symbiotic partnerships with The Reef-World Foundation, driving sustainable diving as the global social norm.

Reef-World has embarked on a journey to develop mutually beneficial tourism industry partnerships that drive sustainable value chains by creating tangible outcomes for the ocean, communities and the economy through the Green Fins initiative. Pioneering businesses from various lines of the industry are taking progressive steps to implement environmental policies and practices, green their value chains, educate people through showcasing solutions, thus raising the bar of sustainability across the industry through the Green Fins initiative. These partnerships are already having impacts, including:

1) Greening Equipment Manufacturer’s value chains, through introducing Green Fins messages for wider reach. One example is Fourth Element who have been setting some of the sustainability industry standards when it comes to manufacturing and establishing ‘circular’ value chains, from compostable packaging to recycled swimwear, to wetsuits made from recycled ‘ghost’ fishing nets. Fourth Element will further green their value chain through introducing Green Fins messages, starting with a label for their gloves that is intended to warn divers not to touch any marine life from the first step of the purchase.

2) Leading diver training organisations are interested to embrace Green Fins as a proven solution for improving environmental performance of dive centres, furthermore, educating dive staff and divers. Some of the solutions involve adopting Green Fins at scale to green their network of dive centres; educate local businesses and showcase solutions from the field; launch/revamp conservation-based courses with the aim for divers to become more aware of the marine environment, the threats and understand what they can do to protect it.

3) A pioneering resort, Six Senses Laamu is using Green Fins as an educational tool, and in partnership, we have released the first of a series of videos, where Six Senses Laamu has shared their approach to environmental pre-dive briefings to help educate dive staff and divers; and inspire the industry as a whole. Explorer Ventures Liveaboard in the Caribbean has also stepped up as the first liveaboard to adopt the Green Fins Code of Conduct voluntarily and use the Green Fins International Year of the Reef 2018 Campaign to educate people on sustainable dive practices and operations.

 

4) Divebooker, an online reservation system for travelling divers has introduced an incentive for Green Fins dive centres to become part of the platform with 0% commission. A new emerging platform for dive rating called Rateyourdive.com has introduced Green Fins as a filter for divers to be able to locate a green dive centre and has included environmental rating for dive centres. Both of these businesses are driving tourists to more environmental businesses, whilst setting high sustainability standards.

 

 

Why are businesses interested? Their long-term viability depends on the marine environment. Divers who are travelling across the world to see the rainforests of the sea, are becoming more and more environmentally aware and are choosing businesses who demonstrate environmental stewardship. Businesses are joining forces with the Green Fins initiative to decrease industry threats to the marine environment, allowing coral reefs to be more resilient to fight off bigger threats such as climate change, pollution and overfishing. Apart from the positive environmental impacts, it’s an opportunity to INNOVATE, to build relationships with CLIENTS and to PIONEER SOLUTIONS.

These collaborations directly contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 14 (Life Below Water), 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production) and serve as a platform for the diving industry to take the lead and collectively prove that healthy oceans really do mean a healthy business.

It’s the beginning of an exciting journey where the industry is starting to tackle challenges collaboratively, learn from each other and co-creating, thus working for the long-term sustainability of businesses and the dive sites we enjoy.

Are you interested in implementing environmental policies and/or practices in your company's operations, courses or value chain? Spreading the word and driving behaviour change? In supporting the creation of positive tangible impacts for the ocean, communities and environment?

If the answer is yes to one or all of the previous questions, please get in touch! For becoming a Symbiotic Partner of The Reef-World Foundation, contact Klementina Dukoska at klementina@reef-world.org

 

PRESS RELEASE: Eco-Diving Certification Programme Green Fins comes to the Caribbean

PRESS RELEASE: Eco-Diving Certification Programme Green Fins comes to the Caribbean

With support from the Regional Activity Centre for the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife for the Wider Caribbean Region (SPAW-RAC), under the framework of the Caribbean Environment Programme of the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment - CEP) and with support from UK based marine conservation charity The Reef-World Foundation, an initiative called Green Fins is being introduced to the Dominican Republic in June 2018. Taking the lead are locally based Reef Check Dominican Republic, a local organization aiming to protect coral reefs and their associated species, who will be using Green Fins to address the increase in tourist numbers that are engaging with the marine environment and the associated threats that come with this. In 2016, 6.1 million tourists visited the country.

Green Fins is a free certification programme for participating businesses that provide SCUBA diving or snorkelling activities that pledge to follow a set of best practice. The Green Fins 15-point Code of Conduct was developed by the UN Environment in 2004 and has since been introduced into nine countries in South East Asia with much success through demonstrating a measurable reduction in threats to coral reefs from participating businesses. Due to the high biodiversity and attractiveness to SCUBA divers in Asia, many countries have seen a boom in tourist numbers bringing with them associated threats to the marine environment. Green Fins helps to identify these issues with the help of the private sector and provides a simple solution-based approach with support from government and NGO’s.

The initiative is a way to reduce the threats and pressures from the SCUBA diving industry such as anchoring, chemical pollution and diver damage to coral reefs through providing training and tools to the businesses who are in a position to act.

International Coordinators, Reef-World will be coming to the Dominican Republic in June 2018 and will be establishing a National Green Fins team who will be overseeing the programme. A small team of Assessors will be trained by Reef-World that will include Reef Check Dominican Republic, the government and other key stakeholders who will be visiting the dive centres to carry out on-site evaluations of the dive centres.

Reef-World Operations Manager James Harvey says “This is really exciting as we have been receiving requests for many years from Caribbean based governments and businesses to introduce Green Fins to the region and now it is finally expanding on the great work we have achieved so far in Asia. Reef-World are very excited to have the team behind Reef Check Dominican Republic taking the lead as they are renowned for their ability to protect coral reefs and are well respected in the country.”

The coral reefs in the Dominican Republic, and globally, are under an increasing level of threat from a range of issues from climate change to land-based sources of pollution including marine plastics and Green Fins will use the passion and the power of the marine tourism industry to help reduce the threat from this important industry upon which many people depend on.

For more information contact: info@reef-world.org

Download the press release here:

English | Spanish | French

BLOG: REDEFINING Conservation Messages

BLOG: REDEFINING Conservation Messages

As times change and generations pass, the way that we communicate changes with us. Internet, technology, social media have driven us into the fastest ‘evolutionary communicational process’, if that’s a thing! Information is moving at such a fast pace that technology is a big determining factor on how people develop and interact with the world around them. Marking a difference amongst generations, such as the Baby Boomers, X, Y, and the new Z!

Sometimes it feels like we are running a never ending race, most of the factors that make up an efficient message need to constantly catch up and evolve. Anything that we put out there is a small drop in the ocean of messages that one person receives each day, with the average US person being exposed to between 4,000 to 10,000 ads on a daily basis. Not to mention that many of these ads and articles have likely been created by big corporations that have all the means to capture attention.  In this context, amongst these giants, where do conservation messages stand?

One thing we can do is to learn from them, use their tools and methods and adapt them to our needs. Maybe we won’t be reaching as many people, but we are going to reach those people who are interested, and it is through them that we can instigate a behavioural change. From where we, Reef-World, stand at the moment, it is not quantity, but quality!

As mentioned before many aspects of the communication process are constantly changing, marketing, branding, design, graphics; all of them have to work together in order to reach the audience. In recent years, the infographic has proved to be an excellent medium to communicate complex messages:

 I bet you read this information first with the nice icons on the side! Source:  https://offers.hubspot.com/generate-leads-with-infographics

I bet you read this information first with the nice icons on the side! Source: https://offers.hubspot.com/generate-leads-with-infographics

For that reason, and for the urgency that we have to protect coral reefs, we decided to create brand new infographics gathering many interesting facts for the #GreenFinsIYOR2018 Campaign. These infographics will cover the main Action Points of the campaign, some of the biggest environmental threats posed by the diving industry.

When creating the #RedefineTheDive infographic, our new star, it was a big challenge to filter the information and choose the messages that we wanted our audience to know and to share. Direct diver damage has big impacts on coral reef ecosystems, but most of the time they are unknown or undermined.

I fully enjoyed… and at times suffered through(!), the whole process of gathering the information and then pulling it together into a visually appealing form. I hope you enjoy it, share it, post it, and print it if you can!

We'd really like to thank all of the researches quoted here who have worked on this area of expertise, without their studies the impact of this infographic wouldn't be as strong! 

NEWS: A new assessor team for Green Fins in Negros Oriental, Philippines

NEWS: A new assessor team for Green Fins in Negros Oriental, Philippines

Over the past few years, Reef-World has been working hand-in-hand with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the Philippines to integrate the Green Fins approach into national frameworks for managing the impacts of marine tourism, in particular diving and snorkelling.

With significant infrastructure milestones in place, like the adoption of Green Fins into the comprehensive Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Management Program (CMEMP) and the resulting Technical Bulletin reached, 2018 marks the year of Assessor training!

Between the 16th-21st April 2018, a new team of assessors from the Negros Oriental Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), satellite Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices (CENROs Ayungon and Dumaguete) and local NGO Marine Conservation Philippines were trained up by Reef-World.

Since the launch of CMEMP, DENR staff across the country have been honing their skills for both diving, and managing coastal resources, and the results are clear. The new team of six were not only highly enthusiastic, they took to the Assessor roles like fish to waterThe team certified four (4) Green Fins members, reaching 29 people through awareness raising presentations. With representatives from across the province, they will focus on the diving hotspots of Dauin and Zamboanguita before taking Green Fins to all corners of Negros Oriental!

Follow Green Fins on Facebook to stay in the loop as environmental standards are implemented across one of the muck diving capitols of the world.

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PRESS RELEASE: Sustainable Diving Think Tank and Dialogue at ADEX 2018

PRESS RELEASE: Sustainable Diving Think Tank and Dialogue at ADEX 2018

Singapore, 6th April 2018: Once again, among the excitement and fun filled schedule of the Asian Dive Expo (ADEX) in Singapore last weekend, a group of 50 industry leaders gathered for a deeper purpose. The event was a true collaboration; Co-chaired by UN Environment and The Reef-World Foundation (Green Fins international coordinators), organized by UnderWater 360 and supported by the Blue Ocean Network. It brought together some of the giants of the diving industry to share how their businesses are working towards sustainable consumption and production patterns and minimizing impacts to life below water.

The group who gathered for this event understand their industry will face unprecedented challenges in the future as a result of climate change threatening their key asset, coral reefs. They want to be prepared and connected to a professional network of like-minded people to ensure their businesses continue to thrive.

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Each segment of the diving industry was represented on a panel; Lauren Sida from Six Senses Laamu (dive resorts); Mik Jennings from Worldwide Dive and Sail (Liveaboard); Danny Dwyer from PADI and Jacki Ng from SSI (both diver training agencies); Chee Hoon from Fourth Element (equipment manufacturer); and, Jason Isley from Scubazoo (underwater photography and videography). Throughout a dialogue the panel discussed how they are building sustainability into their business models, where they are falling short and what opportunities and challenges they are meeting along their journey. Challenges such as promotional t-shirts being supplied individually in plastic bags were raised. Solutions were then offered, such as the Fourth Element t-shirts which come in 100% biodegradable bags made of cassava.

Participants from the first Sustainable Diving Think Tank and Dialogue in 2017 shared their stories of change inspired by the event, detailing the steps they have already taken.

We make our business from the ocean and we need that ocean to be clean and sustainable.
— Mik Jennings from Worldwide Dive and Sail (WWD&S, Liveaboard operator).

Since last year’s dialog WWD&S have developed a new company wide environmental policy, eliminated single-use plastic straws, aim to be single-use plastic free and are looking at LED lights and solar energy alternatives.

“After Thomas Knedlik participated in last year’s think tank, it inspired changes in the APAC office for recycling and reducing”, said Danny Dwyer of PADI. PADI globally offers an option for people to choose digital programmes and in collaboration with Project AWARE as part of dive against debris, PADI has just registered 1 million pieces of rubbish recovered from the ocean.

One of the key messages to come out of these stories is the reaction from customers. “There is positive feedback from our customers, including non-diver friends.” said Chee Hoon who represents Fourth Element (Equipment Supplier). Fourth Element with its mission 2020 is on the way to eliminate all single-use plastics and currently manufactures a wetsuit using recycled ‘ghost’ fishing nets as part of its OceanPositive collection. Fourth Element is looking to minimize climate change by moving raw material closer to the assembly area and using alternatives to airfreight to minimise carbon dioxide emissions.

Environmental sustainability is about choices in terms of what you buy, eat, how it was packaged, where you stay. Making the right choices as a consumer is important, because we’re the ones who can drive that change.
— Lauren Siba from Six Senses Laamu resort.

It was standing room only for the audience who enthusiastically shared their own stories of change, offered more solutions to some of the problems raised and took the opportunity to pose more questions to the panel. Participants walked away full of ideas of actions to take and connected to a network of people who are all keen to pull together as an industry to build sustainability into its core.

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“Companies have similar challenges in sourcing, value chains, etc. How do you come together to discuss how to solve those challenges? Are there any events, or is there a task force in place in order to do that?”, asked Sabine Henkel from Asia Divers (Philippines based dive centre). The panel and audience raised the possibility of this Sustainable Diving Think Tank and Dialogue being consistently repeated during dive shows to serve as such a platform.

The closing statement from the chair, Gabriel Grimsditch from the UN Environment, was that taking steps towards sustainability for your business does not need to cost money, and will actually act to build profits in the medium and long term.

Contact: Chloe Harvey, Programmes Manager at The Reef-World Foundation chloe@reef-world.org

 

BLOG: Reef-World’s International Year of the Reef

BLOG: Reef-World’s International Year of the Reef

This year the international community is celebrating coral reefs, 2018 was declared as the International Year of the Reef (IYOR). The third IYOR was launched by the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) as it is recognised that reefs are facing an uphill battle against global changes in climate, ocean acidification and a host of local threats. When working in conservation, or if you are interested in any type of conservation movement, is not new to know that nature is suffering and that the reason for it usually boils down to one thing, humans.

For us in Reef-World IYOR was a great opportunity to raise awareness, and certainly, it was for me. Since I graduated from university, back in 2010, I knew that I wanted to apply my knowledge and skills towards raising environmental awareness. It seemed very obvious back then, and unfortunately, it still is, how people tend to isolate their day to day lives from nature. Not thinking about their actions and even less on the consequences.

 During last years' Green Fins implementation in Palau, I had the opportunity to see some of the most stunning coral reefs. Crazy to think that all reefs used to look like this at some point!

During last years' Green Fins implementation in Palau, I had the opportunity to see some of the most stunning coral reefs. Crazy to think that all reefs used to look like this at some point!

Our everyday actions have environmental impacts. Even those living in cities far from the coastline can have an impact on the marine environment. Do you smoke? Do you flick your cigarette butt on the floor when you’re done? That cigarette butt can very easily travel from the drain to the ocean, and the chemicals found in one cigarette butt can leach out and contaminate approximately 7.5 litres of water within one hour. Are you aware of the CO2 emissions of your daily commute? Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere heats up the Earth and the oceans absorb most of this excess heat. Heat absorbed by the ocean is moved from one place to another, but it doesn’t disappear. The heat energy eventually re-enters the rest of the Earth system by melting ice shelves, evaporating water, or directly reheating the atmosphere. Many buzz words like climate change, ocean acidification and rising sea levels; come out this equation. I’m not even going to get started on the issue of plastics, that would be another blog in itself.

In a nutshell, there are MANY problems, and to have one organisation tackling ALL of them is not very realistic. What we do is to help a specific group, the diving industry, to lessen their environmental impact. The diving industry, like any other tourism industry, has many impacts on the marine environment, and it is through Green Fins that we help them tackle those threats.

To celebrate IYOR we decided to make a special effort to spread the Green Fins message and get as many people involved as possible! Social media has become one of the most influential communication channels, with recent studies showing that people are starting to expand their use of social media platforms. Revealing trends where social begins to overtake search engines. Using this new understanding we want to make the user experience more enriching and in doing so, more beneficial for the reefs! And for that reason, we released the #GreenFinsIYOR2018 social media campaign.

The social media campaign aims to make sustainable diving practices the social norm, by promoting pragmatic solutions to key local threats identified through years of work with the dive industry; and encouraging other stakeholders, like equipment manufacturers, to take action to reduce the pressures on coral reefs.  If you are not yet following Green Fins on social media, this is the year to start!! It is never too late, you won't miss a thing because all the posts, hashtags and relevant information are collected in one place:

Share. Print. Post. Tag

#RedefineTheDive and help save our reefs this #IYOR2018!

NEWS: BOOT Show, Dusserldorf - January 2018

NEWS: BOOT Show, Dusserldorf - January 2018

The Reef-World Foundation were present at the annual Boot Show in Dusseldorf for a few days to meet with various partners, meet some Green Fins members and to see the usual SCUBA diving and snorkelling innovations and trends. The BOOT show is home to the ‘world’s greatest boat and water sports show’ with 1,923 exhibitors from 68 different countries spread out over 220,000 square meters. There was a dedicated hall to just SCUBA diving with dive centres, tour operators, equipment manufacturers, conservation organisations and diver certification agencies all selling their new products and showcasing new equipment. The days were busy and long with the evenings providing a fruitful opportunity for the exhibitors to get together to talk about various topics such as tourism trends, marketing strategies and of course the current state of the health of the seas and oceans and how they can contribute to marine conservation approaches.

As there is every year, there is seems to be a growing trend in the awareness to environmental issues with dive centres and tour agencies showcasing eco or environmentally friendly dive trips that minimise their impact on the marine environment. Through the Green Fins initiative and other programmes that promote best practices, divers and businesses are becoming more aware of specific behaviours that should be more commonplace within the industry. This trip allowed Operations Manager James Harvey and Global Partnerships Manager, Klementina Dukoska to speak with the main certification agencies including SSI, SDI-TDI and PSS to name a few and some major brands such as Fourth Element, Scubapro, Cressi and SEACAM to find out more about what changes their businesses are making to reduce their impact. It was a good chance to speak with some of the main tour operators to hear what today’s divers expect in terms of environmental credentials and how trying to keep ahead of the curve in terms of making sure they are reducing all possible risk to corals reefs is being done at various levels throughout the business.

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The Reef-World Foundations ultimate goal is to reduce the negative impacts from all aspects of the diving industry whilst enhancing the publics awareness to the various threats to the marine environment and making them aware of how thy can positively influence the seas and oceans that they care so much about. Through support from Reef-World, many companies are making pledges to make serious and meaningful changes within how they operate such as reducing their packing, stop the use of single-use plastics and reducing the amount of cargo that needs to be transported around the world. As such simple solutions become more commonplace and affordable it not only makes environmental sense but businesses are finding that it also makes businesses sense too, increasing their profit markings. It is only when it makes financial sense for everybody will we see serious changes happening, reflected by healthy and prosperous reefs and Reef-World is leading the way in making this happen across the globe for this passionate and dedicated sector. 

NEWS: Introducing Green Fins Bali! - January 2018

NEWS: Introducing Green Fins Bali! - January 2018

Indonesia is renown as a world-class diving destination with booming tourist hotspots and several emerging destinations. Diving activities range from muck diving to see the weird and wonderful macro-life, to zipping currents and the chance to see Mantas and Mola molas, the tourism industry is booming.

Bali has long been a tourist hotspot and despite recent hiccups with press misconceptions about the impact from Mount Agung’s activity, diving plays a major role in the island’s tourism. In order to leverage this passionate industry for coral reef protection whilst helping them to reduce their own threats, the esteemed Coral Triangle Center have adopted the Green Fins approach.

Between the 22-27 January 2018, Reef-World trained up four (4) new Green Fins assessors from CTC, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries and the Bali Professional Divers Association as Green Fins Assessors. The new Green Fins Bali team took to the initiative like fish to water, quick to see the value of Green Fins as a management tool and an opportunity to build stronger, more collaborative relationships with the diving industry. The diving industry was incredibly receptive and have shown serious motivation towards environmentally positive changes.

As a result, there are now six active Green Fins members in Bali, with more requests for membership coming in every day. This small but committed team will be piloting Green Fins in Bali and are aiming for 30 active members by the end of 2018. Starting with a select number, the team will be providing quality environmental consultations and training to Bali members before spreading their fins to increase membership in Bali and beyond.

This is a really exciting development for the Green Fins network and Reef-World is looking forward to see what CTC, the MMAF and the new team of assessors will do with the new Green Fins tools in Indonesia over the years.

If you have any questions, you may contact the new team at indonesia@greenfins.net, or follow their Facebook page.

BLOG: Climbing the Marine Conservation Ladder

BLOG: Climbing the Marine Conservation Ladder

A little while ago I wrote a blog for Zoox about my volunteering experiences in marine conservation, convinced that it was the last one I would ever write. Yet, here I am again, writing a blog. This time, not for Zoox but for The Reef-World Foundation (RWF) (sister charity of Zoox).  Yes, I am back in the Philippines and not as a volunteer, but stepping up as an intern.   I never could have guessed that this is what I would be doing, when I first went diving a little more than a year ago. Obsessed with diving, I dreamed about a job that would combine that interest with my passion for sustainability. But how to do that?  I didn’t study marine biology but political science so nobody would ever hire me right? Well, true passion brings you already a long way, or rather 7000 miles in my case.

My volunteering in Asia brought me the necessary experience and a first taste what it felt like to work in marine conservation. And I am thirsty for more. Working as an intern is one step closer to chasing that dream. During this internship, I get the chance to be part of the daily operations of an international conservation organization. I learn all about the administrative, financial, promotional side of marine conservation, while working with a variety of stakeholders. I meet a lot of motivated people that truly inspire me.  I have the opportunity to conduct Green Fins assessments in Moalboal and Malapascua. This is still my favorite part of the job. I get to dive a lot, I get to give awareness raising presentations (which I now like doing), and consult with managers on a plan of action on how to reduce their environmental risk.

In between the assessments, my days in the office are filled with writing articles, reports, blogs and updating social media. I also have to develop a tier system in our training material to guarantee the awareness raising presentations meet stakeholder expectations. Every day I learn more while the RWF team makes sure I get the opportunity to capitalize on my earlier experiences.  Giving presentations is something I used to lay awake for, meeting stakeholders I would prepare for days and days, but no longer as it is now part of my daily routine.  I also get to further expand my personal project on waste management, to provide solutions for dive centers to dispose of their hazardous waste responsibly (such as used engine oil or empty batteries). I am trying to identify opportunities to establish public-private partnerships between Local Government Units and recycling companies in the Philippines. If I manage to pull this off, this will prove to be a long-term solution with real conservation impact. So definitely a very busy agenda to realise during these four months of my internship but I am excited to make the most out of it.

 

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BLOG: What if you can combine travel, adventure and working for a cause? My first two months with Reef-World!

BLOG: What if you can combine travel, adventure and working for a cause? My first two months with Reef-World!

Second day at the new job and I was diving in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Isn’t it amazing to be diving at the very beginning of a new job?! After seven days, I got certified as Rescue Diver. I never imagined I be diving with a job, and I also did not expect to realise my dream so soon, to live in Asia and travel while working for a cause I believe in.

   
  
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
     Photo on the top left was taken in Apo island, Philippines. Photo on right was taken in Dauin, Philippines during my rescue diver course.    The photo below was taken in Dauin, Philippines during some of the adventure dives we did.   Photo credit: Bernd Zomerdijk

Photo on the top left was taken in Apo island, Philippines. Photo on right was taken in Dauin, Philippines during my rescue diver course.

The photo below was taken in Dauin, Philippines during some of the adventure dives we did. Photo credit: Bernd Zomerdijk

It was during the diving within the first weeks, that I also discovered a lot of the challenges with the diving industry, the dive tourism and its effect on coral reefs and related ecosystems, from destructive anchoring, stepping on fragile coral, damaging coral reefs with equipment to disturbing and affecting the marine life, etc. And did you know that some coral such as the honeycomb coral take 20 months to grow one centimetre? Looking at the different boats, the different dive tours, the snorkelers, I came to realise the scale of the problem. I was in paradise, I was enjoying, but I also was aware this paradise might not continue existing in such beautiful form and shape in future.

  Leaving Apo island, Philippines after a day of diving

Leaving Apo island, Philippines after a day of diving

It did not take me long to get the link between what Reef-World does through the core program Green Fins and Climate change, a grand challenge I am working on for several years as a climate speaker and advocate. Protecting and conserving the coral reefs and related ecosystems, through sustainable dive operations, can prepare them to fight the ‘wicked’ climate change challenges.

I was also stunned by the work the small and motivated team of Reef-World is performing in bringing policy, businesses and communities together. The team is working directly with local communities, local and national governments, influencing policy and identifying clear solutions to local problems, and even helping countries to meet specific targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On the other side, the team has a broad global perspective and understanding of marine conservation, and has developed strong relationship with UN Environment and other relevant stakeholders, with the aim to to protect our precious oceans and the marine life thriving in them.

  A photo of the team together with the local community in Panglao, Philippines during a Green Fins training

A photo of the team together with the local community in Panglao, Philippines during a Green Fins training

I witnessed the different links of relationships and the value people see in the core program Green Fins, through visiting dive businesses in Negros Oriental and Panglao, Philippines, through participating in a training with the Philippines government where national actions where agreed, and currently I am in touch with UN Environment to work on strategic development of the organisation.

  Photo of the Malaysian community, after being trained as Green Fins assessors

Photo of the Malaysian community, after being trained as Green Fins assessors

Now more than ever, the oceans need protection, and I’m motivated and grateful to be able to ride the journey. This is a unique opportunity to go deeper into marine conservation, explore Asia and everything it has to offer, explore the underwater world through diving and simply live a unique, exiciting and sustainable life.

BLOG: Gifts from paradise!

BLOG: Gifts from paradise!

Over the past few weeks, I got to experience a side of Reef-World that I’ve never seen before, one that embodies the ever-present ‘inspire and empower’ of the Reef-World mission statement. It was my first time being part of Green Fins implementation on a national level, it gave me a different perspective of the work that we do and a bigger, more international, scope to the reach we have as such a small numbered team.

With the guidance of JJ and Sam, I was part of the Green Fins Assessor Training in “Pristine Paradise Palau’, the first Green Fins country in the Pacific AND the 8th active Green Fins country! Before the trip to Palau, I assisted Sam in a training for the Philippines’ government and, once we came back from the pristine paradise, I got the chance to participate as a guest speaker on SSI’s event Free Dive for the Future, which took place in Mactan, Cebu, Philippines.

 Traveling around to  inspire and empower !

Traveling around to inspire and empower!

Over about three weeks, I interacted with three very different and important audiences that Green Fins reaches out to: national level teams (Palau and Philippines), the diving industry (Palau) and dive tourists (Mactan). You can see how being the Coordinator of communications for Green Fins can be complex sometimes! But it just shows the reach and amplitude of the initiative, there are so many different ways and channels that we can use in order to change perceptions toward a more sustainable and conscious interaction with the marine environment.

 The Milky Way is famous tourist attraction for snorkel tours in Palau. Bottom right, me and Marley during a snorkel assessment. 

The Milky Way is famous tourist attraction for snorkel tours in Palau. Bottom right, me and Marley during a snorkel assessment. 

It was eye-opening. While doing one of the snorkel assessments in Palau, with local Assessor Marley Kloulubak, I realized I was in the middle of the Pacific on a boat with 10 Chinese tourists, 1 Bangladeshi boat crew, 1 Filipino boat crew, 2 Palauans and me, a Costa Rican; all sharing one experience for many different reasons. There and then I could see it so clearly, the complete supply and demand chain within the tourism industry. For whatever reason each one of us was there for, it was all directly influenced by the healthy state of coral reefs, and the marine environment.

The diving and snorkelling tourism industry directly depend on healthy oceans, and it is through these experiences that we at Reef-World have the chance to make a change. Experiences that give light to that flame inside, and remind us of why we work so hard every day!  

What inspires you to go that extra inch for conservation?

What inspires you to go that extra inch for conservation?

If you were to ask me who my hero’s in life were, I would have a tough time answering. I have different people that I respect for their contributions to the world of conservation and the obvious always spring to mind; David Attenburgh, Sylvia Earle, the entire Cousteau family, Ove Hoegh-Guldburgh, Callum Roberts, Charlie Veron. They are all people that would not have made me the conservationist I am today. Their teachings and works are truly inspirational. And although these people, among others have had a huge impact on my career direction, it is often in other places that I find motivation on a day to day basis. In this way, I suppose a few of my biggest inspirations are NFL Coach Marty Schottenheimer, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, and Winnie the Pooh. Now that sounds odd, even to me, but let me explain.

I have always been a sucker for a good motivational speaker. During my university rowing days, I would always listen to the Al Pacino ‘Inches’ speech from Any Given Sunday to get me into that fighting mode on race day, activating the Adrenalin. Even after having watched it many times, it can still make my neck hairs stand on end. “We can stay here and get the sh!t kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light, we can climb outta hell, one inch at a time.” “Life is a game of inches” he says. Recently I was rereading the Tao of Pooh. It’s a funny little book that tries (very successfully) to explain Taoist teachings through Winnie the Pooh. The author, Benjamin Hoff, explains that when he first started to write the book, many people exclaimed that it was “preposterous” and “where would you even begin?” To which he replied, “A thousand-mile journey starts with one step.”

Now individually, one would never really think to pair a film about American Football with Winnie the Pooh and Taoism and yet those two quotes go so well together. Basically, “start at the very beginning, and take it one inch at a time.”

  All you have to do is start at the very beginning and take it once inch at a time

All you have to do is start at the very beginning and take it once inch at a time

So let’s apply that to conservation.

It is becoming truer every day that there is plenty to do to reduce the impact that humans are having on the environment but while working for The Reef-World Foundation we are trying to protect coral reefs by encouraging dive and snorkel operators to follow a code of conduct. Despite it being a proven way to minimise the risk of environmental damage, I work with naysayers, people with motivation but ultimately low capacity to change, people lacking motivation but with high capacity to change and those who go all out to ensure that their environmental conscience is clear, regardless of the actions of others. With each stakeholder, and each task, I start at the beginning and take it one inch at a time

And sometimes it gets too much. Every now and again it is nice to work with people who share in your mission to better deal with those people who seem determined to oppose everything you know is scientific fact. And in this way, ignorance truly is bliss. The most motivated people I work with are often also the people who are having their water pipes dug up for being an ‘environmental activist’ or going to bed at night feeling their efforts are just too small a drop in the ocean. These “enlightened ones” are often the people who are unhappy with the current global/local situation while the naysayers continue in their blissful ignorance.

  How hard are you prepared to fight to leave your mark on the world?

How hard are you prepared to fight to leave your mark on the world?

So really it comes down to two camps. Are you motivated to change, or are you living in ignorance? In the Shawshank Redemption, Andy DeFresne says to Red, “You either get busy living or get busy dying”. In the warped way my mind makes connections, to me, that means, you either get busy trying to make the world a better place or you end up being part of the problem. And for my final motivation, I refer to The Old Man and the Sea by Ernst Hemmingway. It doesn’t matter what other people think of you, it is about getting up and fighting for what you believe in till the very end. There will always be people trying take away the things you fight hardest for, but the only thing that matters is how hard you are willing to fight back (in the book, its sharks fighting the old man for his hard-earned fishing catch).

And once all is said and done, rest well, because tomorrow is another day!

PS. Actually, having rewatched that Al Pacino Speech about 5 more times, just go ahead and watch the whole thing, right now. And be part of the team that fights for that inch

Don't forget your roots

Don't forget your roots

Over the years I’ve worked for Reef-World, I have heard the stories of the “birth” of Green Fins at Phuket Marine Biological Centre in Thailand. In 2004, as a new UN Environment initiative, Green Fins was first implemented through PMBC whose dedicated staff, in collaboration with Reef-World founder Anne Paranjoti (nee Miller) starting spreading the 15-point code of conduct around the local diving industry. 

 PMBC from the sea.

PMBC from the sea.

 

In 2008, our managers Chloe and JJ knocked on the door of PMBC looking for voluntary work experience. Their passion was soon harnessed to work on the Green Fins programme. The rest is history. History that I have taught to numerous volunteers through our sister company Zoox. History that I see shaping every decision we at Reef-World make. The very foundation, the ethos of Green Fins was born at PMBC. 

 

The legacy from Anne and Khun Niphon Phongsuwan and Aey Suptuchong to name a few saturates my daily work life. Naturally, I was delighted to head over to Phuket last May with JJ to train a whole new team of Green Fins Assessors. I’ve always loved to see history brought to life and it was heart warming to visit Chloe and JJ’s old office, see the old faded Green Fins stickers on the tables and meet the people I’ve only seen in the depths of our photo library. Those stickers have formed the basis of Jula’s recent branding overhaul. Those people taught Chloe and JJ the lessons they now teach us. It felt like a full circle. 

 The newly trained Green Fins Thailand team with JJ and myself.

The newly trained Green Fins Thailand team with JJ and myself.

 

To top it off, it was a real pleasure to work with the new Assessor team, nine passionate conservationists (and a cat) from DMCR, GVI Thailand, North Andaman Network Foundation and independent researchers. The experience many had from years of conducting Green Fins awareness raising activities translated easily into the assessment process and it was a quite incredible to witness the respect that the marine tourism industry stakeholders have for them. 

 Tourists lining up in Ao Chalong for day trips to nearby islands. Up to 1000 people a day in high season.

Tourists lining up in Ao Chalong for day trips to nearby islands. Up to 1000 people a day in high season.

 

The Phuket tourism industry is overwhelming, and that was only seeing it at low season. However, the warm reception Green Fins got from the shops we worked with was incredible. It won’t be like that every assessment the team does, it never is, but to know that there are business owners out there that appreciate the chance to streamline sustainable practices into their every day practices is inspiring. 

 

We’re all looking forward to seeing the plans of the Thailand team come to life and even more active Green Fins members added to the growing network. 

 Newly trained Green Fins Assessors Maw and Kaew deliver the GF Awareness Raising presentation to senior management of a snorkel tour company.

Newly trained Green Fins Assessors Maw and Kaew deliver the GF Awareness Raising presentation to senior management of a snorkel tour company.

Breaking Barriers with Green Fins

Breaking Barriers with Green Fins

Working on the Green Fins initiative means working closely with the diving and snorkelling community. Over the last two years, I have been privileged enough to meet some of the industry's strongest forces for coral reef protection. Whether it's the Green Fins Ambassadors - local dive guides going the extra mile to promote sustainable diving practices - or dive shop managers working alongside government to achieve their mutual conservation goals.

 Green Fins Ambassadors of Panglao, Philippines

Green Fins Ambassadors of Panglao, Philippines

These individuals come from all walks of life: mothers and fathers, twenty-somethings and fifty-somethings, Filipino and Chinese, experienced divers and even newly qualified divers. But they all have one thing in common. They love the ocean. They'll do everything they can to fight for the survival of coral reefs.

One way in which Reef-World are working to help these inspirational people is by breaking barriers throughout the industry. Recently, so many instructors and dive guides have expressed their concerns about the growing number of new divers visiting them from China. I have heard story after story about divers that don't know how to control their buoyancy, divers that have been certified without even entering the ocean, and divers that just want to touch e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.

Chinese divers are becoming burdened with the stigma of being terrible divers before they've even set foot in a dive shop. It's a sheer numbers game. In 2017, visitors from North East Asia accounted for 65% of all people travelling to the Asia pacific! That's a huge majority but such growth only really began in the last 4 or 5 years. That volume of people learning a completely new sport - diving - in a completely new environment - underwater - that quickly is bound to lead to problems.

 Asia Pacific Visitor Forecast 2017-2021, Source: PATA

Asia Pacific Visitor Forecast 2017-2021, Source: PATA

Again and again the industry has identified language barriers as the biggest hurdle to helping these new divers learn about sustainable diving and coral reef protection. That's why we at Reef-World have really pushed to translate all of the Green Fins materials into Simplified and Traditional Chinese (as well as Japanese and Korean!). By using these materials, dive guides and instructors can break the language barrier between themselves and their divers. They are able to show them exactly how all divers should behave underwater to ensure the future survival of the animals they love.

There's still a lot more work ahead for the entire diving and snorkelling community but this is definitely a fin forwards in the right direction! Check out all of the newly translated Green Fins materials promoting environmentally friendly diving and snorkelling here: http://greenfins.net/en/Posters

 Some of the Green Fins Materials

Some of the Green Fins Materials

Green Fins How-to-videos, behind the scenes

Green Fins How-to-videos, behind the scenes

At Reef-World we are constantly trying to figure out the best ways to help the diving industry reach sustainability. We do this by providing solutions and tools that aim to make the task as easy as possible. From posters, e-books, briefing cards, presentations and now videos!

The first two  Green Fins How-to-videos have been released on all Green Fins’ social media platforms, the rest will be published one per month for 9 months! After several months of planning, production and hard work, we are all looking forward to witnessing how they will be received by the diving community. They were created with the purpose of sharing ideas gathered in the field, over more than 10 years, and encouraging others to get involved in the ‘green movement’ to protect the oceans that we love so much.

I was assigned the task of producing the How-to-videos, during that time I was a director, writer, and producer, many roles I never thought I would be able to do! It was daunting at the beginning, but then working for a small NGO poses incredible challenges, taking you out of your comfort zone in ways that make you grow in a personal and professional way. These videos were definitely a big challenge with a big learning curve, that now I can humbly say I overcame.

But this wasn’t done on my own, definitely not! There were a countless number of people involved, which we at Reef-World, truly thank. I personally appreciated having the opportunity of working with professionals in the field of video production, sharing with me all their knowledge and being open to absorb the Green Fins philosophy. Projects like this provide the opportunity to influence others, to share passions and to immerse yourself in many different areas of expertise.

One of my favourite aspects of working with an initiative such as Green Fins is that all the knowledge and tools are shared. That is the only way we can ALL really achieve a more sustainable future.

Here, is the newly released video ‘How-to Manage Underwater Photographers’, I hope you enjoy it and find it useful! And if not, feel free to contact us at info@greenfins.net.

Reef DependenSEA

Reef DependenSEA

Right now, my colleague Sam is travelling around the Philippines and Malaysia with a film crew gaining an insight into the various perceptions of coral reef value among the full range of coral reef and dive tourism stakeholders. This is a way for individuals to really reflect on their relationship and dependence on reef ecosystems and the actions taken to protect them, the benefits arising from good reef management and how Green Fins can help to reduce reef impacts.

To help ignite the passion for commitment to change I thought I would answer some of the questions as a marine conservation professional to give insight from this perspective!

My relationship with the ocean and coral reefs began through the aquarium trade when I had a small tropical fish tank. From there I learnt a lot about aquariums with my interest then expanding to the natural habitat of these fish. Over the years my ocean relationship has varied between running Sea Green School programmes and becoming one of the first Sea Green School Leaders with the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, to teaching international and local volunteers to conduct Philippine ReefCheck surveys. Currently, working for Reef-World, my main role is to conduct Green Fins assessments for members across the Philippines, Maldives and Vietnam.

The biggest benefit I get from the reef is doing a job that I consider a hobby, and not work. It allows me to earn a small income, do a generous amount of SCUBA diving (mixed in with a lot of time sat behind a desk too), and do a small amount of world travel. These are all things that are also really important to me. Without coral reefs, I probably would have become a police officer! Even while studying for my MSc Conservation and Protected Area Management I was considering working in the police.

 Walking the beat and carrying my dive kit back from assessment on on of the less sandy roads of Malapascua

Walking the beat and carrying my dive kit back from assessment on on of the less sandy roads of Malapascua

Instead of walking the beat, I now do the Green Fins beach trudge. They’re similar except I walk along (mostly) sandy beaches, speaking to members, recruiting new ones, hearing about the daily life within the diving industry and trying to develop new solutions for coral reef management efforts. Using the Green Fins code of conduct this can range from overseeing the development of oil disposal policies to giving briefing workshops to educate dive guides to protect their reefs from poor diving behaviour.

This has also provided me with a platform on which to do scientific research. Monitoring the underwater behaviours of divers has led to the better communication of environmental standards to the diving industry. I am now also attempting to measure the social impact Green Fins is having within dive tourism, specifically looking at the change in attitudes, opinions and beliefs of guides and tourists alike.

 Its picture time after a member requested an environmental briefing workshop to help them communicate environmental standards to their guests.

Its picture time after a member requested an environmental briefing workshop to help them communicate environmental standards to their guests.

As a result of Green Fins implementation, I see governments that are more in touch with their dive tourism stakeholders, but also more passionate and empowered stakeholders who are willing to do whatever it takes (or at least make small changes) to ensure they are minimising their environmental impact.

Many of the predictions for the future of coral reefs sound bad but in the Philippines, despite predictions, there has been hardly any bleaching over the past 2 years. This means there is something larger at work in this area which is keeping the reefs healthy. By ensuring that we, as humans, are making responsible choices in life and for the reefs, we can ensure that they remain able to fight off global stress. By refusing plastic straws, using canvas bags to hold shopping, and not touching the reef, we make the reef that little bit more able to survive, a little bit longer. The longer the reefs survive the longer the benefits are sustained. It’s common sense!

The beast that has been, 2016

The beast that has been, 2016

I think it's safe to say that 2016 has been an ... interesting year. The internet is flooded with 'worst year ever' sentiments and memes, and there has been no escape from the media frenzy on the ups and (mostly) downs of global politics. Several people I know have had challenging years personally, and we have lost some of the great voices in our global culture (R.I.P. Snape, Willy Wonka, Major Tom etc). 

Unsurprisingly, it's also been the hottest year on record. Again. (See some brilliant climate graphics here). I learnt the terrifying fact that "if you are 30 years old or younger, there has not been a single month in your entire life that was colder than average." This year also saw the bulk of the 3rd, and longest running, global coral bleaching event, with some countries seeing up to 74% of it's reefs bleached. The predictions for reef health over the next 30-50 year are, honestly, bad enough to entertain the "why bother" thoughts. 

All the global temperature observations for 1850-2016 mapped in a single figure. Can you see a trend? By Ed Hawkins

This feeling of hopelessness, whilst more acute this year than ever, is not new. Not to me, nor to the vast majority of people working in conservation. I remember sitting in my Marine Pollution module during my Masters thinking....we really can't do anything that doesn't have a negative impact on the environment. We are too many, too greedy, too short-sighted. But here I am, still working in conservation 10 years (has it really been that long!) later. And so I'm sure we'll get through this year and whatever 2017 has to throw at us. 

Working in conservation requires this delicate balance of naiveté (things will get better, won't they?) and thick skin (to stave off all the hopelessness). It requires you to absorb the lows and use them to propel you and your cause upwards, and forwards. You have got to celebrate the successes. You have got to stop and appreciate the progress, even if it is only a tiny step for mankind.  Even if it's not enough yet. Because the crime, the real savagery, is to accept the status quo. To not act. And none of us are in this to 'lie back and think of England'. 

In that vein, let us consider my top three: 

  • We made it to the Paris Agreement. Ok, so it was made in 2015, but this year it 'entered into force', at literally record speed. You will have read how it's not enough, it's too vague, it took too long, countries still have to follow through - all valid points - but on this hottest year ever, the global community has listened to science and taken a stand. We didn't, and won't, give up. That is no small thing. 
  • More than 5% of the ocean is now protected. For the first time ever. Considering that countries started promising measures of protection in 1992, and in 2012 when I joined Reef-World the figure stood at 1%, this is pretty incredible. Plus there's all the super cool technology they are using that is speeding things up even more. 
  • #CITES4SharksAfter being under-represented for decades, we saw, for the second COP running, a majority consensus to protect highly vulnerable sharks and rays despite heavy lobbying from “the other side”. Three thresher shark species, nine mobula ray species and the silky shark (and the Nautilus - not a shark, but as cool) were voted in a nail-biting vote that doubled the percentage of sharks threatened by the fin trade whose trade is now regulated internationally. 

[Read more happy ocean news]

 New kids on the block

New kids on the block

Closer to home, we at Reef-World had an exhilarating, exhausting, exciting, remarkable year. Welcoming Charlie and Jula as full time staff, plus Lui for his 6-month internship, our growing family sprinted through 2016. The highs and lows, joy and tears, sweat and sea water all culminated in amazing conservation outcomes. 

  • Green Fins Assessor training -  17 government and NGO staff to be Green Fins assessors from three different countries have undergone our 6-day training programme to work as Green Fins to champion sustainable tourism in partnership with the diving industry.
  •  Green Fins Toolbox - A huge amount of this year was dedicated to launching the Green Fins Toolbox, a cumulation of 10 years of lessons on sustainable marine tourism for dive centres, divers, governments and NGOs. Check it out here
  • Updating the Green Fins Toolbox - Not ones to rest, we then trekked the beach fronts of many a diving location to consult with the industry and tourists and off the back of this, we are in the process of designing new materials and translations to meet the challenges of various growing tourism markets. Watch this space! 
  • Green Fins How-to-Videos - To complement some of the ... tools in the Toolbox... we are filming a whole set of environmental best practice how-to-videos for the diving and snorkeling industry. Another watch this space! 
  • The Green Fins website got a makeover, mostly the boring fiddly stuff behind the scenes in the database used to monitor the improvement we've seen this year in Green Fins members environmental practices around the world. 
  • Green Fins implementation - This year we worked directly in 8 different sites across the active Green Fins countries, conducted 250 assessments, trained over 900 dive and snorkel staff, released over 100 media releases/ articles, ran booths at three dive expos, presented at three international conferences, and wrote one bajillion emails and reports. Try saying that in just one breath. 
  • I just want to take a minute to mention how much more has been done by the Green Fins teams across the 6 countries - thank you to everyone for your tireless work. 
 Green Fins assessors in the same place for the first time! Warm and fuzzies all around. 

Green Fins assessors in the same place for the first time! Warm and fuzzies all around. 

A major personal highlight for me was doing the Kinship Conservation Fellowship making 17 new life-long friends and talented conservation practitioners. Not only did this experience teach me a whole suite of new conservation tools and attitudes, but reminded me that there are so many passionate, dedicated individuals out there all working towards the same goal. 

So I step into 2017 refreshed and raring to go, determined to stay positive in the face of political upheaval and terrifying changes in climate. The world ebbs and flows to a dance that goes on for far longer than our lifespans, and if we want to drive a more sustainable world, we only have one choice. 

Just keep swimming. 

My internship with Reef-World

My internship with Reef-World

Having worked to implement Green Fins in dive centres I worked in, in Vietnam I was keen to get more involved with it. So, as I arrived in Philippines I came to meet the Reef-World team and was offered an internship.

 

At first the change from working by the beach in a pair of shorts to being back in an office felt so strange. I felt myself thinking ‘I’m hot, I should take my T-shirt off… Can I do that in an office?… hmm I guess not!’ Soon I was digging deep into research papers; conducting dive centre assessments and training; managing social media campaigns; researching sunscreens, greener cleaning recipes and septic tanks; having meetings with local government; writing news pieces and contributing my knowledge gained as a diving instructor. I even had the pleasure of visiting 3 municipal waste sites; I’ll never forget the look on Jula’s face when we were confronted with a wriggling sea of maggots!

A real highlight for me was to be invited to an expo in Xiamen, China to run a Green Fins Booth and be a guest speaker “Be the Best Diver – the Green Fins way”. The trip to China was an amazing experience; everyone was so lovely and welcoming to us. Event Co-ordinator Angeline, who had been one of my students in Vietnam, gave Charlie and I full VIP treatment. It was also lovely to see how our volunteer translators Emily and Wendy became passionate about Green Fins and gave us their full support. And… the food in Xiamen, so delicious; I’ll never forget that spicy hotpot!

 

Having previously experienced Green Fins from a dive centre perspective, I had never realised how much work goes on behind the scenes to run the programme successfully. Now at the end of my 6 months, having really experienced what Green Fins is and witnessing how it can truly make a difference, I am passionate about taking what I have learnt back to the industry as I return back to my life as a diving instructor.

It’s not all rubbish!

It’s not all rubbish!

Having the pleasure of visiting the rubbish dumps of Dumaguete and Dauin and seen how people hand sort through the rubbish to separate out recycles, I’m now compelled to make sure my rubbish is separated.

Over and over since being in the Philippines, I’ve hear people saying there’s no point separating rubbish out as it all get thrown in the same truck. It is true that it all gets collected in the truck together, but at the other end it is hand sorted. Certainly Dauin and Dumaguete anyway.

Visiting the Dauin dump wasn’t too smelly an affair as they don’t take bio-degradable wastes. It was sad however, to see the staff digging through each rubbish bag and pulling out recyclables by hand. The scrap buyer based at the dump, further hand sorts recyclables to sell in Cebu. The four staff get paid daily salary plus 50% of whatever they make from selling the recyclables (this 50% is also split between the four garbage truck operators). The remaining 50% goes to the Municipality.

Visiting Dumaguete dump was a much smellier experience, as organic waste is collected along with all the other wastes. The landfill recently caught fire and is still smoldering from plastics believed to still be burning deep in the pile. The smell of rotting and smoldering rubbish was a real nasal delight. Imagine having to work there.

  Members of the BaCaSA (Balugo Candau-ay Scavengers Association) search for recyclables

Members of the BaCaSA (Balugo Candau-ay Scavengers Association) search for recyclables

Two staff (cover photo) are researching how to up-cycle plastics into other items to educate schools and Barangays how to reduce their landfill waste.

A small amount of bio-degradable waste is composted, if brought separately. 

  Biodegradable waste from agriculture and the organic market is collected by MENRO and combined with manure from the slaughterhouse to make soil enhancer.

Biodegradable waste from agriculture and the organic market is collected by MENRO and combined with manure from the slaughterhouse to make soil enhancer.

Unfortunately the City’s separate collections for bio-degradable waste stopped as the trucks broke down and they don’t have the funds to fix them. Now everyone throws their rubbish in together, making the job of the scavengers harder, slower and stinkier.    

On returning to the office I felt we could do more to help. Recycles were already separated out, but waste was still being generated with non-recyclable and food waste. A third bin and a ‘chat’ with the gardener solved this, as he was happy to take raw bio-degradable waste and he could sell recyclables if we separated them. Well done Charlie for getting the message across with basic Vasayan and hand gestures.

Simple: three bins – recycles, bio-degradable and landfill – sorted!

 Separating your waste is as easy as 1 - 2 - 3 bins

Separating your waste is as easy as 1 - 2 - 3 bins

Even if all your waste is collected by the same truck, separating it makes the job of the scavengers much easier and efficient and bio-degradable waste can be composted instead of landfilled.

Now our rubbish is sorted and disposed responsibly; I’m working my way through the products used in the office and kitchen, to swap them all for environmentally friendly ones, such as the Clean and Green recipes. If we can use them, so can the dive shops…

Next it’s time to hit the beach: Alona Beach - Green Fins Assessment time, starting Monday...

A year in the reef world

A year in the reef world

 

For how long have you been in the Philippines? I then start counting and realizing that my fingers are not enough anymore; a year has gone past. Twelve months in this beautiful paradise. Life is certainly not easy here, everything requires a bit more effort: from doing laundry, getting to places (!), running errands, everything requires a little bit more from you. Talking Filipino doesn’t only mean learning Visayan; it means learning the special way of saying things - even in English, the face gestures, understanding how their mind works in order to be understood. Life here is a constant adaptation to the people and their very cheerful way of being.

No day is an ordinary day. I can be woken up by a group of goats shouting by my window, trying to sleep with a chorus of frogs singing to the moon or a group of Filipinos singing karaoke! Certainly this story that I am telling is not new for those living outside their comfort zones in countries with very different cultures, so far away from home. We all have to cope with the differences, and particularities of the country we chose to live in. But another factor that we all share in common is the reason or reasons that keeps us here; it might be a job, a conviction, a group of people, or in my case, all of the above!

Although being challenged every day is a constant, it is one of the things that I really appreciate. It just forces me to keep strong and realize that I can do it, that the process of adaptation can be as easy or difficult as you want it to be. Also, being here has showed me how irrelevant the concept of time is; at the end it is more important what you do with the time given. And that is exactly what I most treasure in this on going adventure; the Reef-World team has taken my abilities and not only made me realize, in the most humble way, that they are there; but also make me capable of doing things that I never thought of. In just twelve months they have helped me to grow professionally and personally, helping me to reach new levels of accomplishments in my life. For that and everything else, I will be forever grateful.