By Josh Saunders
A free-diver who has been disposable-plastic free for nearly a decade reveals damage caused to our oceans in playful mermaid shots.
Kate Nelson, 32, started-off refusing to use bags, straws and cups made of plastic, but now she’s found alternatives to her every need.
She became aware of the damage caused by plastics, which can take up to a MILLENNIUM to decompose, while volunteering for beach clean-ups in her home of Santa Barbara, California, USA.
After learning about the trash gyre in the Pacific Ocean, she went on a research trip where water samples were tested in the area, revealing microplastics ten-feet below the surface.
Since then she’s cut-out plastics, switching cups for reusable mugs, bags for using her t-shirt as a pouch, and using products made from natural fibres and materials.
For the last three-years she has not bought anything with any form of plastic and now coaches others how to live a plastic-free life.
She teaches everything from making her own toothpaste, snacks, beauty products and more, to campaigning in amusing and saucy shots dubbing herself the ‘plastic free mermaid’.
Kate, who now resides in Byron Bay, Australia, said: “I didn’t realise how far-reaching plastic in my life was at that stage.
“I didn’t have a concept of plastics but they were used from my headphones to my spatula and beauty products, it was everywhere.
“Because we’re so used to convenience plastics, from cups to straws and more, it’s about being comfortable with the inconveniences you may encounter after giving up plastics.
“You have to be prepared and think what you will need during the day, so you can bring it with you, sometimes I end up like the bag lady clanking everywhere.
“Single-serving, individually packaged items are everywhere, we even have produce wrapped in plastic.
“The plastic awakening is gradual, but once you start seeing it, it’s hard to un-see and it’s everywhere.
“My first step was to get rid of disposable plastics – straws, cups, bags, bottles, I quit them all and from there it took a little longer to get rid of all the plastic from my life.
“The other thing is being creative – for examples, at a supermarket instead of using a bag you can turn your shirt into a pouch, use cardboard boxes food was shipped in and other things.
“I still have reusable plastics but I’m disposable plastic free since 2009 and for two-and-a-half years I haven’t bought any food packed in plastic or any plastic products.
“I don’t buy clothing with plastic tags or anything, I have recycled active wear using natural fibres for clothing, even my phone case is made from plants.
“I never thought I’d be a fully-fledged plastic-free activist, but I live a much healthier and happier lifestyle because of it.”
Kate became more aware of the damage caused by plastics in 2009, after learning about the Great Pacific garbage patch.
The area consists of plastic, chemical sludge and debris that has been trapped by the tides.
It’s estimated that eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year.
Kate said: “I learned how plastics were creating dead-zones in the sea, the trash gyre, and felt appalled by my own usage.
“I kept thinking of the trash gyre and that not breaking down for a thousand years, it rattled me, even the smallest microscopic level was being devastated by trash.
“I decided to give-up single use plastic bags, takeaway coffee cups and the more I reduced my use of disposable plastics the more I realised they were everywhere.
“From the shopping cart to beauty shelf in my bathroom, cleaning products and more.”
Kate’s rejection of plastic upped over time and through being creative she found other ways to live a normal life without the consumption of plastic.
She maintains the key to avoiding plastic is about being prepared and willing to say ‘no’ to convenience in favour of helping the environment.
Kate said: “The first steps are getting into the habit of bringing reusables, then being comfortable saying no to anyone offering you plastic.
“Instead of using disposable items, I bring my own bags, coffee cups and more, these are easy changes.
“I make it fun, playful and try to be creative in using all I can before sending anything off to the mystical land of recycling – that we all put too much faith in.”
Kate even stopped shopping at locations serving plastic – which led her to farmers markets, bulk-buy stores and to even make her own alternatives to needed items.
She campaigns online using playful light messaging to avoid people feeling helpless and unable to make a difference.
Kate said: “I try to stay positive, we have all watched documentaries with horrifying statistics and images, with no call to action that leave you depressed and helpless.
“I try to keep mine playful and fun, the mermaid persona reminds people of the mystery and magic of the ocean.
“The more sparkly and fun we keep campaigning the more people will be inspired to make a change.”
Through her online following, she has been able to teach others about the alternatives to our ever-increasing plastic consumption.
Americans-alone use 500 million straws a day according to the National Park Service, in just one small example of the single-use plastic, regularly thrown away.
Kate who is a passionate water-sport enthusiast hopes changing habits surrounding plastic will preserve the beauty of our oceans, the marine life and ultimately human life.
She said: “Years ago I had to decide where to run beach clean-ups based on reports, but now there is so much trash that you can do one on a beach anywhere.
“I’m an avid water-woman, I surf, sail and free-dive, which is where my love of the ocean and underwater exploration is coming from.
“As a diver seeing the incredible diverse marine system and cuttlefish blew my mind, the incredible surface of their skin that changes colour and its texture blew my mind.
“I have an incredible respect for the life out there that we know so little about.”