Shore Buddies Ocean Hero of the Week: Emily Penn
I’m Stephen Seagull, and I’m ready to bring you a whaley good Ocean Hero this week! This amazing person has been involved in reducing plastic pollution for over a decade! That’s longer than I can fly by a long shot! Since the beginning, she has founded her own organization and touched so many people along the way!
- Hello, I’m Stephen Seagull, and I’m from the beach! What’s your name and where are you from?
My name is Emily Penn and I’m from London in the UK.
2. How long have you been passionate about Ocean Protection?
I’ve always loved our oceans and I learned to sail when I was a child.
3. Ocean Protection is a pretty big deal to me and my friends since we live at the ocean. What event happened in your life that made you want to pursue Ocean Protection?
I first become involved with tackling plastic pollution when I decided to hitchhike to Australia on a bio-fueled boat in 2008. During that journey, I couldn’t believe that I was seeing so much plastic in the remotest areas of our planet. The nearest people to us were in the space station above our heads and I was seeing a toothbrush washing across the deck of the boat. I decided to stay on a remote island in the South Pacific for six months and started a large community clean up. Since then, I have travelled all over the world studying plastic pollution and empowering others to make a positive impact.
4. What specific cause are you a part of/did you create? Tell us about what it accomplishes.
I fight plastic pollution by giving talks internationally about the impact of ocean plastic, and through the organisation I founded, eXXpedition. eXXpedition organises all-women sailing trips all over the world with a focus on plastic and toxic pollution in our ocean. The women who are part of our guest crews have different skills and are from different backgrounds – we take them out to see the problem and help them explore how they can make a difference when they come home.
5. I know I’ve been flying around longer than you (we don’t have to give actual numbers of how old I am) but what do you believe is the state of our oceans today versus when you started pursuing ocean protection?
Every year, 8 million tonnes of plastic enters our ocean, which means we are making the problem worse. I recently sailed on a voyage through the North Pacific gyre and I saw more plastic in the ocean than I ever had in the last 10 years – it was terrifying. The positive news is that attitudes are starting to change and if we can take away the pressures of pollution, the ocean will bounce back. For this to happen, we have to turn off the tap, which is why I now spend more time focused on how we can create solutions on land.
6. What tip do you have for everyone to help keep plastics out of the ocean?
Firstly, avoid as much single-use plastic as possible, but also take a look at your skill set and work out how you can apply it to the problem. We all have a unique set of skills that can be put to use, you just need to explore where you can make this biggest impact. This might be as a teacher in schools or a sailor at sea, but it also might be as an accountant for a non-profit or as an events organiser, setting up a community clean-up.
7. It’s been so great interviewing with you. I have one last question for you. What would you tell someone who is struggling to stand up for a cause they are passionate about?
It is billions of microactions that got us into this situation with ocean plastic, and it is microactions that will solve the problem. Just get started by taking small steps – it will all add up!
Do you know someone who should be featured as a Shore Buddies Ocean Hero? We would love to hear from you. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org who, why and how we can get in contact.