If you wonder what difference one person can make in protecting and improving our environment, especially with Earth Day approaching, take a look at Kai Lenny.
In March, the six-time SUP World Champion and ultimate waterman, alongside Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and The 5 Gyres Institute, led the first statewide beach cleanup on the Hawaiian Islands.
Transported by human-powered crafts, Kai traveled the 200 nautical miles through the Hawaiian channels to attend beach cleanups and empower communities around oceanic pollution. With the help of Alison Teal, advocate for the ocean plastic problem and Naked & Afraid alumna, the team encountered pollution head-on and learned creative ways to minimize environmental impact on oceans and coastlines.
Alongside a safety and environmental activism team, it took Lenny five days to complete the voyage through the island chain. His first crossing, the Alenuiha’ha channel between the Big Island and Maui, is generally regarded by the U.S. Coast Guard as one of the most treacherous channels in the world because of strong winds and high seas.
For Kai Lenny, traveling the channels also acted as training for a challenging upcoming competition season. While completing the Molokai 2 Oahu channel on the heels of the coastal cleanup finish line, Lenny broke the SUP world record by 41 minutes.
Under the direction of 5 Gyres Research Director and Co-Founder Dr. Marcus Eriksen, Lenny trawled for microplastic pollution, which Eriksen was first to identify as “plastic smog” in 2014 when he established the world’s first Global Estimate of Plastic Pollution
Through its campaigns, 5 Gyres aims to inspire individuals and communities to pledge to go #plasticfree for a day, week, year — or forever. People can go #plasticfree by refusing the top five sources of single use plastic: plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic to-go containers, plastic takeaway cups, and plastic straws.
The 5 Gyres Institute’s vision is a planet free of plastic pollution and they believe, together, we can make a difference — one piece at a time.
Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and the team facilitated six cleanups on the Big Island, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu and Kauai. The cleanups collectively brought out roughly 326 people who removed 11,049 pounds of debris.
Through this athletic passion project, Lenny gives the world a firsthand perspective of the pollution between the islands while imposing the lowest environmental impact by traveling via wind and human powered-crafts.
These cleanups reflect a passion very near to Lenny’s heart as he’s grown up along these coastlines and in this ocean and has experienced the impacts of pollution both at home and in foreign waters.
What he did, so many cleanups in one weeks, is best described as “amazing.” Kai Lenny is proof positive each of us can indeed make a difference on Earth Day.
“When you look at all the debris on our beaches, sometimes it feels like there’s nothing we can do, but we’ve seen that the task is achievable with the help of passionate people,” said Kahi Pacarro, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii,Thanks to Kai and all our volunteers this week. I feel like plastic pollution has an end in sight.”