Next week I'm heading off to take on my next big paddle challenge. It's been months in the making to bring it all together but as the days creep up it's all getting much more real - and I'm so I'm so frikking excited to share it with you.
I'm taking Plastic Patrol to New York - the land of opportunity. My plan is to paddle board the tidal length of the Hudson River launching from Albany in New York State on 6th September and finish the foot of the Statue of Liberty 275km (170 miles) later in the heart of New York City as the river meets the Atlantic Ocean 9 days later on 15th September. But there's a lot more to it than this...
So many reasons!
It's always been my mission to rid the world of single use plastics and use my voice to campaign and draw attention to the issue of plastic pollution, ocean health and, ultimately, climate change through adventure.
I launched Plastic Patrol in the UK two years ago and so far more than 800 people have joined me on the waterways to remove plastic. We've intercepted more than 100 ton bags of waste this summer alone and it's making a difference - every piece removed before it reaches the oceans is a victory!
I also developed the Plastic Patrol App to crowdsource and map important data (take a look here, its amazing!) about the types of plastic we are finding/ collecting to make sure the big brands responsible are held accountable. So far we've recorded more than 50,000 examples of plastic waste from 15 countries globally - and counting...
Essentially, in the UK we've seen progress in the last couple of years and the huge groundswell of public support for change has driven legislative amendments. Our collective voice has forced government and companies re-think their approach to plastic use and we're not finished yet.
In America it's a slightly different story. It's one of the world’s biggest consumers of single use plastic with 80% discarded after just one use and, on top of that, climate change scepticism is encouraged by the current government. The movement towards change is gaining momentum and passionate individuals and organisations are pushing for change. I want to bring my platforms and voice to generate further awareness and support for this cause because, let's face it, that's what it takes - more pressure from more people and time isn't on our side anymore!
I started my campaigning against single use plastics three years ago when I read that 80 percent of marine debris starts from inland sources, yet all I saw was focus on the beaches and oceans. We need to tackle the issue from its source - our rivers, canals and inland - before it reaches the oceans where most of it sinks and is irretrievable.
The Hudson is one of the most well-known and iconic rivers in the world with a huge population living along its shores. I will be there for the APP World Tour (Plastic Patrol is the charity partner) and want to use my time there as effectively as possible... so I am calling on American's to join the fight and take action to make a real difference in efforts to resolve the global problem of plastics choking our seas.
This is a paddle boarding adventure with purpose. I will combine environmental research, community beach cleans and legacy partnerships to bring the Plastic Patrol ethos to America.
I'm working closely with Hudson River Park Trust to identify plastic hotspots on the river to collect water samples for micro plastic analysis. We will compare findings against an existing archive gathered by the Trust and share results with you.
I'll also be BETA testing some incredible fin technology on my board. It will be microchipped to allow me to measure multiple water based factors including temperature and motion characteristics. It's the first time this technology has been used on the Hudson River and the data gathered will not only become a baseline for future research but also be shared with scientists looking to understanding trends and ocean warming indicators on inland waterways and how it correlates with ocean data.
The Plastic Patrol app will enable me photograph, geo-tag and log every single piece of plastic I encounter along the route, much like I did when I paddled the length of England two years ago captured more than 3000 examples of the problem. It gives undeniable, visual evidence of the scale along every body of water and helps locate pressure points for clean up action. Everything I find will appear on this map.
Finally, Plastic Patrol clean ups will come to America - something I said I've wanted to introduce out there as a concept for a long time. I am inviting people to join me on a beach and paddle clean up of the Hudson River in three locations:
- Sunday, September 9th, 3:30-5:30, Kaal Rock Park in Poughkeepsie
- Wednesday, September 12th, 5:30-7:00, Croton Point Park in Croton-on-the-Hudson
- Friday, September 14th, 5:30-6:30, Pier 26 Hudson River Park, NY
Anyone who wants to come along can RSVP here. And if you can't make it but want to show support it would be appreciated if you could share this page with your friends too.
Everyone who attends the clean ups will be encouraged to log everything they collect in the Plastic Patrol app (but anyone can contribute, you don't have to be at clean ups!) - so we can see exactly what has been identified along the river and where.
It's an incredible milestone in the journey for Plastic Patrol and whilst I'm obviously nervous, I can't wait to get paddling.
I want to take this opportunity to also thank some incredible people who have worked so hard to help make this mission happen. Firstly, Jana, an amazing volunteer from the US who read about my campaigning in United Airlines magazine and got in touch. She's am amazing human being and has dedicated hours helping make everything come together because of her passion for the important cause and she deserves a massive shout out!!
I would also like the thank REN Skincare for believing in the The Hudson Project sponsoring it to bring this big idea to life.
Finally, thank you to the APP World Tour for supporting the Plastic Patrol mission as charity partner for the Tour and bringing the environmental message to elite paddle sports. And to Riverkeeper - the custodians of the Hudson River - who have helped the beach clean ups come to life by imparting their knowledge and resource of this waterway.
You can follow my journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and if any one has any more questions I'd be more than happy to answer - just drop me a message on social media.