Navigating our way toward a plastic-free ocean with Emily Penn, Co-Founder & Director
“There is no silver bullet solution to the ocean plastic problem. The good news is there are hundreds of ways to solve it! We need a multidisciplinary and multicultural approach, tackling the issue from all angles. We all need to find our role and work together." - Emily Penn
This past January our UK Steering Committee hosted our first in a series of events in London featuring speakers from Pukka, WeForest and Patagonia. Building off of the momentum of our first event we had to adapt our originally in-person event to an online virtual event featuring Emily Penn, Co-founder and Director of eXXpedition.
You can watch our full webinar with the 1% for the Planet UK Steering Committee and Emily Penn below:
About Emily Penn & eXXpedition
Emily Penn was originally studying architecture in Melbourne, Australia, when she was inspired to change her path completely. While sailing in the South Pacific in 2008, she saw the problems that microplastics were causing for wildlife and the communities living on the Pacific Islands. Emily was shocked when a trawl was pulled through the water and captured hundreds of microplastics. This is when she knew she needed to take action.
"That first crossing of the Pacific, seeing all that plastic, was certainly the moment when all my priorities and perspective and everything I’d learned up to that point in my life changed. It didn't make any sense, and I had to do something about it."
Emily decided to have a blood test conducted to find out how many chemicals used to produce plastic were in her bloodstream. The test found that out of 35 tested chemicals, Emily had 29 in her bloodstream. Most of these chemicals were endocrine disruptors, which can greatly impact women. She also found that studies on the impacts of chemicals in the human body are largely focused on men. This, and the low percentage of women in STEM inspired Emily to start eXXpedition and give women the opportunity to study the impact that microplastics have on people and the planet first-hand.
There are around 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the ocean. eXXpedition voyages strive to lower this number by removing plastics from the ocean, identifying areas of high plastic concentration and working with industry partners to prevent plastic from ending up in the ocean in the first place. Emily identifies three steps to following plastic from the source and keeping it out of the the ocean:
Science: drive solutions on land through research
Storytelling: travel to remote places to share what is really going on and bring those images to the world
Community Involvement: rally people around the issues and build a network of changemakers
Since 2014, eXXpedition has taken 175 women from 36 nationalities, aged 18-70 to sea to study microplastics and help remove them from the water. They are scientists, teachers, engineers, filmmakers, CEOs, policymakers, psychologists and more. This unique mission is an exceptional example of people-powered change. Emily believes that we all have a role in solving the plastic pollution issue and that micro-actions will build up and create the significant change needed to reduce plastics in our oceans.
"After a one-off voyage in 2014, I realized the incredible power of bringing a diverse group of women together to do something extraordinary. Bonds form fast at sea, and last forever."