• Lucy Lucille

Protect Blue : Rethinking the Sustainability Conference

It’s been a month since a diverse group of ocean lovers descended on a beautiful coastal town in Italy for the inaugural Protect Blue event. The gathering took place alongside the Green Surf Festival and it’s aim was to bring together key players within the SUP industry to discuss how best we can lead the way when it comes to sustainability.

PC: David Altabev

What does a Protect Blue event look like?

The format of a Protect Blue event is pretty strict, and for folk who are used to going to sustainability conferences, a little out of the ordinary. Why? Because everything happens outside immersed in nature. There are no regular presentations, no PowerPoint’s and definitely no rows of chairs in hotel conference rooms.

The ethos of the event is to have conversations about sustainability whilst playing outdoors. Deepening our connection to nature and reminding us why we’re working so hard to protect it.

PC: David Altabev

So… What happened in Italy?

Protect Blue kicked off with drinks at sunset overlooking the beautiful bay of Noli. There are many common threads that link our community together, but it’s so rare we all get to hang out in one place. Over dinner (pizza... of course) conversations began that would weave through the entire weekend about how best we can work together towards our collective goal of protecting our oceans.

The next morning Darryl Mootoosamy from B Lab UK took the group on a hike up through the forest of Capo Noli to the most incredible cave overlooking the bright blue ocean. We stopped along the way to learn more about using business as a force for good, and how the B Corp movement is leading the way when it comes to balancing people, planet & profit.

Straight after our hike we jumped into the ocean with Michael Stewart from Sustainable Surf. Michael’s workshop focused on the ECOBOARD project and as we went on a SUP adventure with him, he shared more about sustainable board production and Sustainable Surf’s vision for a Deep Blue Life. Ollie O’Reilly, Product Manager at Starboard was on hand to showcase the new technology & renewable materials they’re using to further reduce the environmental impact of their boards.

After a much needed pasta break at Bagni Ziggurmare (Protect Blue’s Italian HQ for the weekend) Haley Haggerstone from 5 Gyres ran a Plastic Beach workshop focusing on micro & macro plastics. The Protect Blue group was made up of an incredible bunch of sustainability experts & SUP athletes from around the world, which made the conversations around micro plastics, legislation & campaigns all the more interesting.

Friday night rolled in and we were all pretty stoked to kick back and grab a drink together at SUP Racers' Beers For Good (a nod to the fact that most of the magic conversations happen at events in between the activities).

Saturday was a big day for the Green Surf Festival, with the Noli SUP Race taking place as well as a number of Green Talks hosted by Protect Blue speakers. We started the day early and grabbed a bunch of boards, jumped in the ocean with SUPKids to make rafts, fall off (a lot) and remind us of how important it is to play. The rest of the day was spent on, in or under the water for most of us, with breaks to listen to talks by Svein Rasmussen of Starboard, Stefano Bellomo of Greenrope, Sea Shepherd Italy, the Watertrek team and Shilpika Gautam of Ganges SUP.

As the sun set on another busy day, we gathered at the beach to hear Chris Bertish share the story of his epic SUP crossing (for those of you who don’t know - Chris paddled unassisted across the Atlantic, from Morocco to the Caribbean in 93 days). What followed was an in-depth account of a phenomenal adventure and an opportunity to understand Chris’s ‘why’ (and how NOTHING is impossible!).

Our Sunday morning class was hosted by Juli Schulz — a Climate Reality Leader from Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. Juli took what normally consists of a whole bunch of slides & data and transformed it into a Climate Fit class — an awesome (and way more fun) method to learn more about the impact climate change is having on our planet.

And late afternoon we joined Lykke’s Alan Laubsch for a gentle hike through the forest to learn more about the worlds first mangrove backed cryptocurrency - an ethical use of the power of blockchain to invest in nature. Lykke have issued TREE as a digital token that represents a mangrove tree planted on 1 sqm in the Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park in Myanmar, enabling anyone to act on climate and restore a vital ecosystem with the press of a button.

Protect Blue’s final night was hosted by SUPKids & Starboard, using IDEO’s Design Thinking model to lead a discussion on how we can co-create a more sustainable future.

PC Georgia Schofield

What next?

The future of Protect Blue? We’re focusing on two things - running epic events & building an awesome community that enables collaboration & creates impact.

We’ve already seen some amazing collaborations take place since the event. Chris Bertish announced his “Revive 365” pledge with Lykke to invest in a mangrove every day for three years to be Climate Positive For Life.

Frida Ongre at Starboard has built a matrix of all the plastic regulations globally - a phenomenal resource for all NGO’s, non-profits & businesses that are working hard to reduce plastic use and raise awareness of the ocean plastics issue.

Starboard & Chris Bertish are both working towards becoming a certified B Corp. SUPKids is working alongside Greenrope in Italy, Mangata Adventures in Belgium, Plastic Tides in the US and the London Stand Up Paddle Co to reach more kids with it’s environmental education curriculum. Stefano from Greenrope has launched the Plastic Pirates project. Watertrek is working on a citizen scientist collaboration with Plastic Tides & 5 Gyres. Carolyn & Carlos from The Whale Company have just completed their 7th marathon on their plastic board. The Plastic Ocean Festival is screening A Plastic Ocean in various locations in London in September. And we’re already planning more Protect Blue events in India, NZ & the US.

How can I get involved?

Best bet is to sign up to our newsletter on Protect Blue - we’ll keep you up to date on all upcoming events & collabs. We’re working closely with Starboard, Lykke and the Protect Blue community to create a platform to share projects, campaigns, resources, stories & events.

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