Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentines Day!!

Happy Valentines Day from The Bahamas Plastic Movement!!

May your love for others last as long as plastic!

Photo Credit: Marina Debris.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

January 2014 Daily Single Use Plastic Log

As I mentioned in the prior post, this year I decided to start documenting the amount of single use plastic items I use daily. Starting in January 2014, I kept a running log on my cellphone and recorded the date, number and type of items used, it's origin and things I did to avoid the product. Most days I didn't use any items but on days that I did I was most likely out of town, at a fair or bar. Below is a table that I have constructed that displays the information listed above. For the month of January I used 54 single use plastic items. In contrast to global estimates of daily plastic usage, I don't use nearly as much as the average person, but I've estimated that I use 1.8 pieces of plastic roughly per day. However if you take a closer look at the items that I've used most during the month of January, you'll discover that plastic straws are most prevalent. In the words of my good friend Josh Kovach (sup Josh) "Eewwy". Why am I consuming so many straws, 18 this month!! A small number of those straws were drink stirrers that I refused, but the others were used as I guiltily enjoyed frozen beverages. Straws are one of the top ten debris items found on beaches worldwide. Thanks to this log I am able to pin point my single use problem areas and create personal solutions that will lead to national and global ones as well. 

My name is Kristal "Ocean" Ambrose and I abused plastic straws during the month of January 2014. 

February is here so I will most definitely be curbing my single use plastic appetite even more. To solve the issue I had with straws this past month I will keep my reusable straw in my purse or nearby. Unfortunately my reusable straw is made out of plastic (go figure) but I will invest in some glass straws made by this really cool company called Simply Straws, click on the name to learn more. You can review my single use plastic log below.

You can start a daily log as well! Every little step counts so begin documenting your usage today. What's stopping you?

January 2014 Daily Single Use Plastic Log

No. of Plastic Items
Type of Plastic Items
1st January 2014
cups (4), lid (1),straws (4), plastic clamshell (1), utensils (1), styrofoam plate (1), bottles (2)
Coffehouse, Junkanoo event, rib shack
2nd January 2014
cups (2), lid (1), straw (1), utensils (2), styrofoam clamshells (2), bag (1)
Coffehouse, art gallery, take out restauant

Tracking My Daily Single Use Plastic Consumption (Photos Inside)

Single use plastic is like an ex-boyfriend that you try to get rid of. You know it's not good for you but you use it anyway, you try to avoid it but it seems to be everywhere you go and when you're lonely it's so convenient to utilize; like takeaway food containers for example. Although I'm an advocate for saying NO to single use plastic items, sometimes I find myself on the corner of hypocrite street and guilt avenue. In 2012 I made the decision to say NO to single use plastic items because they require lots of finite resources to create but are used for a minimal amount of time and persists for ages in the natural environment, especially in our oceans. So things like straws and plastic bags were taboo in my book, although depending on the circumstance I still found myself using them. Living on the island of Eleuthera allows me to control how much single use plastic enters my life. I take my reusable bags to the store or use boxes and if I order take out from the local food take away in my town I take my own plate. In fact the restaurant owners are so used to me bringing my plate in, that if I forget it they let me borrow their dishware (shout out to A & T's Take-Away in Deep Creek). The minute I step foot outside of my settlement or town of Deep Creek, things get a bit different and I find myself unprepared, even more so when I'm travelling to Nassau or other islands or countries. Although my rules remain the same as far as no bags,straws or styrofoam, the minute I'm in a different environment I find that its unavoidable sometimes. Especially if I'm at a party, a coffeehouse, or bar. I've come to the conclusion that plastic is simply a silent part of Bahamian culture and having these items every and any where that you go is just the norm.

This year I decided to conduct my own personal study, which was quantifying the amount of single use plastic items I use on a daily basis.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Deep Creek Middle School: School Without Walls-Plastic Unit Part 1 (Pics Inside)

If anyone knows me they know that I love me some Deep Creek Middle School! So when the opportunity came about for me to co-advise the eighth grade school without walls plastic unit I was all over it. The Deep Creek Middle School (DCMS) is an independent school for Bahamian students in grades seven through ninth and is located on the southern end of the island of Eleuthera. DCMS offers an experiential approach to the Bahamian curriculum.  As much as I love all of the students of this school, often times I find myself a tad bit jealous of the awesome experiences they have.  When I was in middle school I didn’t have a quarter of the opportunities and experiences they have. From marine ecology class to learning how to scuba dive, these kids have it made in the shade. In addition to the exciting courses offered, these students are empowered to become young activists. When I was that age I was totally oblivious to global issues and was never challenged to think outside of the box. 

The School Without Walls (SWW) Unit at DCMS is 21st century learning at its best.  It’s an intensive interdisciplinary instructional unit that gets kids out in the community finding real solutions to real problems. This year for SWW, the eighth grade class at DCMS is tackling Plastic Pollution in South Eleuthera.   This six week course challenges students to investigate the ‘what’, ‘so what’ and ‘now what’ of the issue and propose and implement solutions to solve the problem. For our first class we left the bland walls of the classroom and headed to the beach to take a closer look at plastic that was washing in. Students were split into groups based on plastic debris categories, i.e food wrapping, household items, packaging, etc. Each group conducted surveys to determine the amount of plastic items found within their category while simultaneously performing a beach clean-up. The amount of debris that we came across was staggering! There were beverage bottles, plastic film, countless bottle caps, car tires, you name it –we found it. There was even a rusty refrigerator door laying on the beach. Seeing the first hand effects of our plastic consumption got our students fired up to raise awareness and promote change. Our young activists are on a mission. Stay tuned to see what they do next!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Plastic Pioneers Sprout Junior Activists (Loads of Cute Pics Inside)

I am proud to announce that the plastic team has successfully reached every school aged group possible; from kindergarten to elementary, middle through high school and even college level. We have had the pleasure of enlightening and empowering many young people on the issues of plastic pollution but my favorite group by far has been the mini scientists from the Island School Early Learning Center (ELC). Shortly before the holiday break I had the pleasure of working with six precious kiddies from the ELC aged 2-6 years old. We discussed what happens to plastic waste, acted out the gyre and even talked about plastic fragmentation in the marine environment via a song and dance I created called “Plastic Breaking”. It was epic, click here: ELC Plastic Song and Dance to view the video of these little cuties singing and dancing. These kids were on their A-game as most of them already knew what happened to the waste that we ‘throw away’ and offered solutions to the problem. After our mini lecture filled with dancing and fun we headed to the beach to do a mini clean up. All of the debris collected was used by the students to make beautiful pieces of art. I had such an amazing time working with the ELC crew, they were tons of fun! Thanks to the lovely Mrs. Cassie who made everything happen, can’t wait to do this all over again. 

Photo Credit: Erik Kruthoff

ELC kiddies acting out the gyre


Little ones searching for plastic

Putting plastic in the bucket

Plastic Team Visits Local Primary School to talk Trash

In September 2013 my outreach partner and dear friend Tiffany Gray and I sat on the couch of her apartment and devised an elaborate plan to deliver the message of plastic pollution to 4th, 5th and 6th graders of the North Eleuthera Primary School.  Initially we were in way over our heads as we planned to present a slideshow filled with graphic photos of turtles, whales and birds affected by plastic pollution in addition to some mind boggling facts. Once we arrived to the primary school we discovered that there was no way we were going to touch these students in a positive way by speaking at them and making them feel guilty for something they were unaware of. We wanted to be able to talk, play and relate to them instead via a different approach.

Once we got into the classroom the magic happened instantly!! We enlightened the students on the issues of plastic use by relating it back to their daily lives. To our surprise the students were well aware of the effects plastic pollution had on the marine environment. Within minutes we had the entire class on their feet acting out the ocean gyres (circulating currents that trap marine debris) and coming up with solutions to help tackle the issue. Before we left the school we got invited to talk to the 2nd graders about pollution and let me tell you the promise of this country resides in each and every one of those students. They were so excited to learn all about marine pollution and urged us to keep our beaches clean in an amazing turn of events. During our visit we spoke to over sixty kids! It was such an amazing experience empowering the younger generation of The Bahamas to make a change regarding their plastic choices. After all they will be the ones responsible for cleaning up the mess that our generation has created.

5th Graders say no to single use plastics 

2nd graders say keep our beaches clean

Beach Plastic Christmas Ornament Workshop with Barbara de Vries (Photos Inside)

On November 15 &16, 2013 the Eleuthera Arts and Cultural Center (EACC) in Tarpum Bay hosted a beach plastic workshop lead by Miami artist and designer Barbara de Vries. Barbara started the organization Plastic is Forever  after she found plastic on the beach in Eleuthera. After falling  in love with these plastic items she began to make jewelry. As a fellow anti beach plastic pollution activist, she teaches local Bahamian kids about beach plastic through workshops. Barbara is AWESOME, I have been inspired tremendously by her and her beautiful work!

The workshop, which focused on utilizing beach plastic to create Christmas inspired ornamental art, drew participants from throughout South Eleuthera. Plastic pollution is an increasingly global issue and has detrimental effects on our environment and health. With our extensive coastline, the islands of The Bahamas are highly susceptible to severe plastic debris accumulation on its shorelines. This could potentially have a negative effect on the tourist industry as visitors travel from near and far, especially to experience the beautiful pink sand beaches of Eleuthera. The goal of the workshop was to empower locals to utilize discarded resources found on the beach and use it to develop artwork for a profit. The event was a success and inspired everyone to think creatively and view beach plastic in a different light. The Cape Eleuthera Institute team members were able to participate and create their own plastic Christmas ornaments. A great time was had by all!

Photo Credit: Barbara de Vries

Plastic Beach Project Teams up with Local School (Loads of Photos Inside)

At the beginning of the fall 2013 school year I was determined to get into the local schools of South Eleuthera to get students involved with my plastic research. As faith would have it I ran into the Geography teacher from the Preston H. Albury High School (shout out to Mrs. Joanna Parker) who was interested in conducting a comparative study between beaches for the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) coursework, which is a national exam all Bahamian high school seniors are required to take.  I briefly informed her of The Plastic Beach Project and our methodology. After that the rest was history.

During the month of October 2013 I had the pleasure of visiting the high school to deliver my plastic pollution presentation, which was a hit with all of the students from grades 10-12. They were blown away and had no idea how much plastic had a negative effect on the environment and their health. After wrapping up the talk I went into the study design for their course work and began to plan our field day. Initially 12-15 senior students who would be sitting the geography exam were supposed to visit the beach to collect data. The following day we went to the school to transport students to the beach and 32 yes 32 students from grades 10-12 showed up. It was INCREDIBLE!!  Even parents came out to support!! Due to our unexpected influx of students we had to take an additional two vehicles to our study sites.

The students surveyed two beaches in South Eleuthera: Airport Beach and Winding Bay Beach, and compared how debris levels varied between beaches. This was the largest amount of volunteers I had ever had on a beach. It worked out perfectly-8 students per transect. The educational programs team from the Cape Eleuthera Institute assisted in this venture and helped to make it a success. Students were impacted by the amount of debris discovered on the beaches and were excited to conduct more surveys! Once we returned to campus the students asked “So when are we going to another beach?’ It was so amazing to get local students conducting practical scientific research and it served as a credited assignment. On that beautiful October day we welcomed 32 young Bahamian marine scientists to the field, it was a beautiful feeling!

Photo Credit: Liam McAlpin and Kenzie Harpst

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Launching The Bahamas Plastic Beach Project (Photos Inside)

The Bahamas Plastic Beach Project was launched in March 2013 at the Cape Eleuthera Institute by Kristal Ambrose to conduct research and compare plastic pollution data from local beaches on South Eleuthera, Bahamas. This project aims to better understand quantities of plastic pollution found on Bahamian beaches. Data gathered will be useful in comparing types and quantities of plastic debris between beaches, or at a single beach overtime. Since the inception of the project
we have successfully surveyed 16 beaches across South Eleuthera, Bahamas, twice between March 2013-November 2013.

To date the plastic research team at has successfully established a citizen science based research project geared around plastic pollution. Thus far we have welcomed over 350 volunteers from schools across South Eleuthera, Nassau and The United States. This has allowed relevant research to be conducted with minimal funding effort while maximizing outreach efforts simultaneously.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hold How do you do beach surveys again?? (Photos Inside)

Who knew surveying a beach for debris could be so complicated! Well it is when you don't know what the hell your doing!! Thank goodness for Carolynn Box, my former crew mate and Environmental Coordinator at 5 Gyres. She is responsible for successfully launching the Plastic Beach project throughout Marin County in California. When we first started The Plastic Beach Project it was quite the ordeal as we didn't have the proper equipment and
I was having some troubles understanding the proper execution of the methods. After hours of skype calls with Carolynn, which consisted of several drawings to aid in my understanding, I got it! In the words of Drake- "We started from the bottom, now we here" Lol That's a pretty new age quote, I'll go with it. I'm proud of the leaps and bounds we've made since launching this project but I can't ever forget where we started from. These photos below are from our "trial", "trial" trial survey, as we had several trial runs until we perfected our technique. FYI this survey was not performed correctly lol.

Plastic Pioneers Plunge into Plastic Art and Fun (Loads of Photos Inside)

In the Fall of 2012 things started to take off for the plastic team at the Island School (IS) and the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI). During that time my primary focus was to maintain our aquaponics system and assist with teaching a marine research class. Luckily I was fortunate to have my feet in several different pools including the art and human ecology classes at the Island School. For the art class I would take all of the students to the beach to do a beach sweep. This activity allowed the students to witness the first hand effects of our dependence on plastic products and also provided the medium for their art projects where they either had to create an activist or up-cycled piece from plastic they collected. Both classes provided me the opportunity to enlighten the entire IS student
body about plastic pollution and inspired them to raise awareness of the issue and make changes within the local school community. Since then this has been a staple within the IS curriculum as I deliver my plastic lecture every semester in addition to continuing to help with the art and human ecology classes.

So if I had to recount the fall of 2012 via the plastic related things we did I would have to say: mini museum, plastic talk, cotton bay beach, beach sweeps, plastic art, plastic jewelry, plastic and human health awareness, plastic p.s.a videos, FUN!! Honorable mentions to everyone that was a part of the movement in the Fall of 2012 especially the Island School Fall 12 semester (so much love for that group), Nadine Lloyd, Serena Galleshaw and all teachers and interns involved.

Panoramic Photo Creds: Maria White

And so it began........(Loads of Photos Inside)

Boy life started moving fast after that trip! For six whole years my career had been centered around marine biology and fisheries work, but all of a sudden I was getting sucked into this waste portal. Plastic this! plastic that! Lord knows I tried to fight it! I was scared that my love for being in the water and studying fish and coral reefs would be taken away, but the more I learned about this issue the more I wanted to create change. It was a blessing in disguise, I'd finally found the direction for my career in marine pollution of all things.

A few months after I returned from the trip I got a call from the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), a well established NGO that focuses on protecting the marine and terrestrial environment of The Bahamas. They wanted me to be the keystone speaker at one of their public meetings.  For years I had been going to the trust meetings
to listen to scientists present their research. I used to sit eagerly in the front row, waiting for my mind to be blown by doctor's and masters of marine science as they relayed their scientific work and findings to the audience. It never crossed my mind that one day I would be up on the exact same podium delivering my message to a local audience. And so it began... I was given a platform to educate the general public about plastic pollution and my goals for creating a plastic free Bahamas. The crowd was receptive and had loads of questions regarding my topic. This was the first of many talks for me and it would not have been possible if it weren't for those amazing folks over at the BNT who believed in me and set the whole thing up. Check out some photos from my talk circa September 2012 below: (photo cred: BNT)

So What Happened After The Trip??

Within the first week of the expedition I was ready to go home!! I was seasick for the first five days, I was hot, I was irritable and I just couldn't comprehend why people wanted to study garbage (of course it was the sea sickness that caused this perceptual narrowing). We were 3000 miles from land, hadn't seen any other vessels or signs of human life except for trails of waste! It was everywhere. Trash! Plastic bottles, caps, nets, buoys, toys, toothbrushes, food wrappers, you name it, it was all there- things that were a apart of my life. "oh these ships should stop throwing their dump overboard", "humans are so nasty", "who does all of this waste belong too?" These are all statements that I made until I realized that all of that waste belonged to me. I was a consumer, I was unaware of the consequences of my plastic dependent lifestyle, I was PLASTIC POSITIVE.

After countless hours of travelling, my plane landed back in The Bahamas. My feet touched that sweet island soil and I felt like a Plastic Warrior! I was gonna change the mindset of Bahamians, everyone was going to be plastic free by the end of the year, of course this is what I'm screaming on the inside. It was gonna be me, the one that was going to set the country straight until I realized that the blind would be leading the blind. Once I got back to my apartment it hit me like a ton of bricks, I was such a hypocrite!! How could I point the finger at persons who used plastic when I used more plastic than anyone I knew. There were stacks and stacks of plastic bags under my sink, styrofoam plates and plastic untensils in the cupboard, take away containers in the refrigerator and a handful of straws that I ummmm "borrowed" from the local grocer. I was addicted to plastic and I didn't even know it. It had been a silent part of my culture for such a long time that I failed to realize it.

Since June 2012 my life has changed for the better as I grew more conscious of my plastic use and the negative effects it had on my body and the natural environment. No longer do I depend on single use items like straws, plastic bags, trash bags, styrofoam containers, floss pickers, bottled soda/water or plastic cups. I've learned to say NO THANK YOU! and you can too. So this is where the change began, but trust me it's not ending here. Buckle up and re-fasten those seat belts because we are about to catapult into The Bahamas Plastic Movement!

More of Japan- Photo Journal (Loads of Photos Inside)

Photos from the TRASHION Show by artist Marina Debris ( and Plastics Conference at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT). Who knew there were so many scientists studying plastic pollution. It was such a great conference, I learned so much and was inspired to do some great things.

2012 North Pacific Western Garbage Patch Expedition Video

Here's a video made by Belinda a.k.a Bebe from our trip that talks about the importance of our research and some of our findings. Check it out by clicking the link below:

2012 Asia Pacific Exploration

Japan Ahoy! (LOADS AND LOADS of Photos Inside)

Sea fever didn't hesitate to kick in towards the end of the trip as every one was about ready to get back to land. The closer and closer we got to Japan the more antsy the crew got to touch land, so much so that we started making bets on how far away we were from the island. I had the pleasure of being the spotter and got hoisted up the mast to try and find land. IT WAS AWESOME!! Japan is an amazing place and I'm excited to return there. We ate sushi, bowled, had an earthquake, a plastic TRASHION SHOW courtesy of  designer Marina Debris, went to the Tsukiji Fish Market (quite the experience) and most importantly attended a Plastics Conference at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology and met Captain Charles Moore, author of the book Plastic Ocean and the first person to discover the North Pacific Garbage Patch. Kumpai (cheers in Japanese) to all the great moments we had in Japan.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Last Week at Sea-Photo Journal (Loads of Photos Inside)

The last post I made regarding my trip was about the epic meals we had on board, but let me tell you- the meals weren't the only epic thing about the expedition. We performed cutting edge research, collected tons of plastic, shared countless laughs and created new friendships and made it safely to Japan after three whole weeks at sea. I won't say much more but I'll let the photos speak for themselves. Enjoy.

Where the Hell Have You Been??

Hello 2014!! Greetings to everyone in cyberland, I'm Back! After a year and half hiatus the blog is up and running again with a brand new look. After the expedition my computer crashed and it took quite some time to recover all of my files and photos. So in true Kristal Ocean fashion I'm going to take you guys all the way back to May 2012 to the end of my expedition across the Pacific Ocean which completely changed my life. So let's wrap up the remainder of the trip, jump into everything 2013 had to offer and begin exploring 2014!! It's all about the BAHAMAS PLASTIC MOVEMENT!! Wooohooo!!