I am hoping that, in 2017, with the amazing amount of information sharing we have access too – and generally because of a more conscious, connected and caring youth and young adult group – we all know the devastating effects of plastic on the environment and our shared world.
Plastic consumption has risen rapidly because it is light, cheap and easy to produce. The problem is that 79% of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics humans have produced in the last 65 years (1950-2015) has accumulated in landfills or the natural environment, causing major dramas for ecosystems and the living creatures that are a part of it (including us!).
8.3 billion metric tonnes. That’s the same as 25,000 Empire State Buildings; or 80 million blue whales; or 1 billion elephants.
I don’t know about you but this is stressing me out. I find myself looking to environmentally conscious groups for guidance, to see what I can do, or what we can do collectively, about this big mess that seems like it could be fixed with some new thinking and serious action.
Cue the legends from Clean Coast Collective : Nat & Dan.
Nat & Dan, first of all, are lovely humans. They are extremely focussed and have been running their not-for-profit lifestyle brand since 2014. I wanted to know more about what they do, what drives them and how they are making a big difference to reduce plastic pollution on Australia’s beaches.
How are you guys doing today? ☺
Such a great first question! We’re doing great thanks. We’ve both been traveling a bit lately so we’re looking forward to some time back home soon.
Tell us a little about yourselves and about Clean Coast Collective ♥
So we are Nat and Dan and we have the privilege of running an organization called Clean Coast Collective, which is an organization that is cleaning up our oceans and protecting them from the unnecessary flow of plastic pollution. We stop plastic pollution at the source by selling a range of alternatives to everyday plastic items and we use the proceeds from those sales to run massive beach clean up expeditions along some of Australia’s most remote and most polluted beaches.
What drove you to start the organization?
Before starting Clean Coast Collective, we were both working in Government jobs and spent our weekends hiking into beaches on the Far NSW South Coast. During these hikes we started noticing rubbish washed up along the shorelines – it seemed the more remote we went, the more rubbish we would find. We started researching online and that’s when we learnt of the devastating impact that rubbish was having on our oceans and also on our health.
We felt absolutely compelled to do something so we started Clean Coast Collective and set off on a 7-month adventure around the entire Australian coastline to see first hand the state of our beaches. Almost four years on now and we’re still ticking away.
We feel a strong sense of responsibility to preserve our oceans but are also both passionate about contributing to something bigger than ourselves, so that’s another driving force behind Clean Coast Collective.
You guys are doing really amazing work. What have been some major milestones so far, and how do you measure ‘success’?
Thanks Sarah ☺
Some major milestones for us have been teaming up with a number of brands we admire and successfully completing our second Trash Tribe expedition. We’ve also got some great events coming up including partnering with Wanderlust festival on the Sunshine Coast and supporting the Jack Johnson film ‘The Smog of the Sea’.
We measure success in terms of our impact on ocean pollution. Through our product sales, we’ve prevented around 1 tonne of plastic from ever existing (which includes 296,000 plastic straws); through our Trash Tribe expeditions we’ve removed over 10 tonnes of rubbish and through our social media we’re sharing this issue with over 27,000 people. The more impact we can have in each of these areas the more successful we’ll feel!
100% of profits from products sales go directly towards funding your Trash Tribe expeditions: Do you think that other social lifestyle ventures should follow this model?
Tough question. We wanted to ensure that our organization existed purely for the purpose of reducing ocean pollution, rather than making some wealthy people even wealthier – being a not-for-profit allows us to do this, but it also limits us in other ways. As for other ventures, your structure will largely depend on how you intend to fund your initiative – do you want to rely on investors or philanthropists, or will you be self-funded through product sales? You also need to consider what structure will allow you to have the greatest impact – sometimes that means being a for-profit and sometimes a not-for-profit.
What role do you think social entrepreneurship has, overall, in our world today?
We think it currently has a massive role because social entrepreneurship can be far more nimble than both the Government and traditional not-for-profits. They can tap into social trends and create massive impact in short periods of time. Social enterprise is proving that you can run successful businesses without it being to the detriment of others or the environment. We think that we’ll start to see a blending of business and social enterprise, to the point that the term ‘social enterprise’ will become obsolete. There will be an expectation that all businesses will operate in ways that are least harmful to our world.
Have there been any challenges for you along the way?
We’ve had all the normal challenges of running a start-up. We’ve battled for funding, cancelled trips worked million hour weeks and given up aspects of our professional lives in order to continue growing Clean Coast Collective. Also, being a team of just two presents constant challenges of how to best use our time and get through everything.
As two hard workers committed to one another, dedicated to making a difference, living and working together – do you have any words of advice for people thinking of embarking on a similar venture? How do you keep the balance?
We feel pretty damn lucky to be able to work and live together. Of course at times it’s challenging but as long as we keep the communication flowing and be respectful of each other’s needs, then it’s an incredible experience.
As for people embarking on similar ventures, our advice would be to focus in on what really drives you. If you are coming from a place of genuine desire to create change then there is no end to the people and businesses that will stand up and support you 100%. The thing that will be most important to us at the end of our lives will be knowing that we tried to create change, so launch yourself into whatever you’re passionate about.
How has the journey been for you guys overall?
Amazing. We’ve had so many incredibly rewarding experiences and been welcomed by so many beautiful people as a result of Clean Coast Collective. There have been many stressful moments and we’ve had our share of anxiety and burn out, but we’ve always felt incredibly grateful for our journey.
Do you have any last things do you have to our fabulous readers about your journey as social entrepreneurs making a massive (10,000kg +) difference in Aus?
Support your community and make sure that you always put people before business!
Massive thank you to Dan & Nat for sharing their insight with us.
Find out more and support Clean Coast Collective here ♥
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Sarah has spent a decade working for social change, leading international projects and teams in Australia, Asia and the Americas. She is a Rotary Global Grant Scholar, has been guest speaker at the United Nations and was awarded International Young Woman of the Year in 2018 for her work in global peace-building.