Man from Atlantis
He loves our coasts and gets New Zealanders stuck in to keep them beautiful. Sustainable Coastlines co-founder Sam Judd is pleased with the charity’s interesting new direction but doesn’t mind if he’s out of job before too long.
The numbers are impressive: educational presentations to over 18,000 school kids and 1000 athletes; 13,500 volunteers; 697,000 litres of rubbish cleared off the coastlines. This is the work of Sustainable Coastlines, a home-grown charity with a mission to clean up our beaches and educate kiwis about the damage a discarded chip packet, or bottle cap can do to our environment.
Co-founder and event director Sam Judd explains every coastal clean-up is followed by an audit, where the rubbish is categorised and counted and the results recorded. Community Probation Services from around New Zealand have helped Sustainable Coastlines with these audits, and now Sam has identified another way to involve offenders.
“I was in Gisborne for a clean-up and audit and I didn’t think many people were going to turn up in the bad weather, so I went to corrections and suggested I come and present the slideshow I do in schools to the community service workers.
“We gave them the presentation, and the key point in it is the fact that dropping plastic in the ocean is poisoning our kaimoana. This message really resonated with them; we had 40 guys that day and picked up 980kg of rubbish.
Sam says Sustainable Coastlines now plans to work with Community Probation Services on educational work programs for offenders. “Offenders aren’t necessarily the ones dropping rubbish but they are a group of people that are lacking pride. I find that by using the principals of kaitiakitanga, or guardianship of the earth, we can engage them and restore pride.
“It’s a very effective way to help the community; it’s got me really enthused. I get real satisfaction from working with people who are missing that pride, and building that up again. It makes me happy.” Sam’s always been a tidy Kiwi. He grew up in Wellington and while on university exchanges (Mexico, then Chile) was deeply struck by the impact littering has on the environment.
“I saw intense pollution – Mexico was shocking. In the end it doesn’t matter where people drop rubbish, it makes it out to the coasts anyway and I saw it everywhere.
“We were on the Galapagos Islands surfing, and saw a whole lot of animals wrapped up in rubbish. That really brought it home to me, here is a place where no one lives but it’s covered in rubbish.” Unable to leave the Galapagos without making a contribution, Sam and fellow Kiwi surfer James Bailey, organised their first coastal clean-up and cleared 7.5 tonnes of rubbish from island of San Cristobal. That was February 2008; now the charity has over 20 large scale cleanups to its name, from Tonga to Rangitoto Island. While he’s definitely not one to grumble, Sam says it hasn’t always been easy.
“After two and half years of doing this, I first got paid. Before that I was relying on the support of generous friends, sleeping on couches. It was a real struggle but at the same time after running each event we felt really good about ourselves.” He says he’s not one for talking about himself. “I’m more interested in painting a picture of rubbish, because that picture is what’s going to change people’s behaviour.
“Our whole kaupapa, what we really want, is to put ourselves out of a job. If people stopped dropping rubbish on the street we wouldn’t have a job.”
Above: Sam Judd Photo: Kellie Blizzard.