Since its formation in 2010, the Ocean Crusaders team have been responsible for hundreds of ocean, shoreline and waterway clean up initiatives, including their iconic 'Paddle for Plastic' and K'Gari Island Clean Up (sometimes known as Fraser Island Clean Up), of which we were a proud sponsor.
As if this doesn't keep the team busy enough, Ocean Crusaders offer free programs for school-aged children to educate them on the oceans and how they can contribute toward saving our sea.
We caught up with Ian Thompson, the founder and managing director of Ocean Crusaders to find out what keeps him going, and to talk all things sustainable living.
Pelli: Hi Ian! We’d love to hear more about your heart behind forming Ocean Crusaders. What is it that you care the most about?
Ian: I care about protecting our marine and wildlife. We don’t clean our beaches and waterways for humans - we’ve created this mess and we need to clean it up.
Pelli: Absolutely. And that would translate into our own personal living practices too, wouldn’t it? What does sustainable living mean to you?
Ian: Sustainable living means living in a way that has the least impact on our amazing environment. Consuming as little as possible, and living in a positive way. For example, giving more back to the world than taking from it.
Pelli: Ocean Crusaders has achieved so much in the past decade. What are your ambitions for the future of Ocean Crusaders?
Ian: The ultimate goal is a huge landing barge travelling through the Pacific and Asia Pacific regions. To be able to turn up to third world and remote islands, remove their plastics and turn them into building products which we can then give back to them. If we can give their plastic value, they won’t throw it away. Our other goal is that by the time I am being recycled (personally), that we are putting less into the oceans than we are taking out, globally.
Pelli: Creating something as large scale as that would take some inspiration. What, or who, have been your inspirations on your sustainability journey?
Ian: A moment of confrontation: looking into the eyes of a dead turtle who was taken because of plastic ingestion. Having that revelation that it died because of one plastic bag - it’s heartbreaking, and I don’t want to have any other turtle have to suffer the same fate.
I’m also inspired by doers, not talkers. We need to do more and talk less. We research so many things, but we already know the problem: we just have to deal with it. All of my idols are people wo have conquered something they set their hearts on. They are all sailors. Dame Ellen Macarthur (world record sailor), Nick Moloney (a mate of mine, and the only Australian to have sailed in the Vendee Glove) and Jamie Dunross (a Western Australian who set a world record for sailing solo around Australia...as a C5 quadraplegic.)
Pelli: How would you personally define success in terms of environmental change?
Ian: For me, it’s seeing wildlife return to a place that was once so badly polluted that nothing could live there. Seeing mangrove shoots in place where you removed debris in the past. Seeing birds foraging in a clean environment.
Pelli: We’ve seen such an increase in public response to sustainable living, it’s amazing. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the sustainable living industry at the moment?
Ian: Definitely over consumption. We consume way too much in our “throwaway” society. We need to buy a quality bag and keep it for a long time, using it time and time again. Not just buying a cheap one that falls apart fast.
Pelli: We love the eco-friendly industry, and all that’s happening within it. Can you tell us about your favourite initiative?
Ian: It’s very broad I know, but natural resources in general are great; using natural products that don’t impact the environment. It’s why we are putting together an elite racing yacht with zero emissions...to show the world that it can be done with no compromise!
Pelli: One final question for you Ian! If you could influence a change to the way communities or individuals behave toward the environment, what would it be?
Ian: Again, the way we over consume. I wish people could come out with our team for just one day. They’d learn very quickly the impact we’re having. We need to be better, we need to do better and we need to live better. We are just caretakers of this world - we don’t own it! Yet we abuse it. We have to take more care of this planet.