Turning the Tide to Better Stewardship Through Social Activation
Jim Claussen 270002B8GD JCLAUSSE@US.IBM.COM | | Tags:  trash social-business environment data gyre oceans communities mobile gps earth-day
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Paddling a mile off the coast of Monterey Bay, we watch a couple of humpback whales feeding on krill as they stop to rest on their journey down the coast to Baja. Looking down in the water we could see schools of fish passing under. Michelle stops paddling, and getting down on her knees to reach something, pulls a plastic bag out of the water. We look at each other, shaking our heads. Before we get back to the beach, we’ve collected 19 pieces of plastic and trash, floating on the water. That was a few years ago.
At an Earth Day event the following spring, we saw a booth displaying a variety of garbage. Someone was talking about the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," a floating landfill the size of Texas, caught in the rotating Northern Pacific Gyre. The currents conspire to capture floating debris from countries around the Pacific, from telephone poles to tiny pieces of plastic, and the detritus continues to build. Today, it’s known that there are five great garbage patches across the world’s oceans, each about twice the size of France, with more than 10 million tons of plastic debris.
What can we do? How can we possibly make any kind of impact against a problem so large?
Sharing this story with friends, we heard of a local organization called Save our Shores, with a mission to care for the marine environment through ocean awareness, advocacy and citizen action. We went to the next beach cleanup event, and have been involved ever since.
Today, the Annual Coastal Cleanup Day is the single-largest volunteer event on the planet. Led by local organizations, activated by purpose-focused social networks, hundreds of thousands of volunteers across more than 100 countries come together each September with a shared goal: preventing hundreds of thousands of pounds of pollution from trashing our oceans and harming marine wildlife.
There are two critical factors that have led to the scale and impact of this effort
What started with an annual cleanup day, has expanded to thousands of weekend beach, river and coastal clean days around the world.
With mobile devices to capture images and GPS locations, and social networks to instantly share with volunteer networks, organizations are now able to execute flash cleanups. These are on-demand cleanups initiated by members of the organization who may find a problems area, and activate other volunteers to get a group together to clean up the trash, before it enters the ocean to make its way to one of the five garbage patches.
Today, we are more hopeful than ever
Why? Because the tools, infrastructure and approaches that are transforming business, are also transforming for-purpose organizations and socially activated efforts, like cleaning beaches. At the heart of it, it’s about greater efficiency, better collaboration, and harnessing resources like volunteers.
It’s about sharing what we are finding on the beaches in actionable data with lawmakers and manufacturers. As a means to an end, the principles of a social business are a key element in turning the tides of better environmental stewardship for the Earth.