Ocean Wise has officially announced the winners of the inaugural Ocean Wise Innovator Lab. This project-based competition for youth aged 13-30 elevated voices by providing mentorship from leading ocean health experts and entrepreneurs who helped participants develop innovative ocean health solutions with a particular focus on plastic pollution.
During the three-month program, participants received education and mentorship from a global team of leading entrepreneurs and ocean health experts, including Alexandra Cousteau, Co-Founder of Ocean 2050, Brad Liski, CEO of Tru Earth, Joe Mwakiremba of Ocean Sole Africa, Brian Hardwick, partner and impact strategist at Enso Collaborative, Soraya Abdel-Hadi, founder of All The Elements, and Laura Hardman, Director of Ocean Wise Plastics Initiative.
Ocean Wise Innovator Lab mentor, Joe Mwakiremba, shared the program’s impact: “In Africa, there is an old adage that says, “It takes a village to raise a child”. I absolutely love Ocean Wise’s approach to reaching out to the global community for solutions. All the participants presented a myriad of opportunities that can offer that solution to this global plastic problem we all find ourselves in.”
Cash prizes have been awarded to the three finalists for their outstanding concepts to tackle the pressing issue of plastic pollution in the ocean. These top innovations were designed to create maximum positive impact and engage local communities in minimizing plastics in the ocean.
The youth winners and their innovations are:
First place: Ranah Chavoshi, Vancouver, British Columbia
Concerned with increased plastic use during the pandemic, Ranah began developing a prototype for a biodegradable and non-toxic bioplastic without a petroleum-based plasticizer. Ranah’s innovation will break down into compostable material, so it prevents plastics from remaining in the marine environment and further breaking down through degradation into microplastics. By working with local Indigenous communities, Ranah hopes to utilize seaweed aquaculture and farm multiple seaweed species with coastal communities to create a seaweed bioplastic. Seaweed aquaculture sequesters carbon and has a minimal or negligible impact on the environment making it the perfect substance for bioplastic. All the manufacturing would occur in British Columbia, therefore reducing reliance on external markets. Ranah aims to become a Certified B-Corporation that can also sell carbon credits as a revenue source.
Second place: Jocelyn Marsh, Vancouver, British Columbia
Jocelyn started the “Love Our Oceans Project” to combat plastic waste throughout Veterinary Medicine. As a Registered Veterinary Technician, she noticed large volumes of plastic used every day with no procedures on how to recycle or be sustainable. Jocelyn aims to create a conversation and engage with fellow Veterinary workers and pet owners on how to decrease plastic waste. The project is multi-tiered with the first step to discontinue the use of single-use needles and syringes to measure controlled medication volumes during audits. The second part is a Pill Vial Recycling Program that relies on circular economy. Clients bring their pet’s pill vials for prescription refills, or they return vials, which are then disinfected, dried, and re-used for other prescriptions. The project is the first of its kind within the industry, having the potential to decrease approximately 2.7 million plastic needles/syringes and 340,000 pill vials per year in Veterinary clinics across Canada. Check out www.loveouroceansproject.com to learn more!
Third place: Brittney St. Amant, Tofino, British Columbia
Brittney plans to release a documentary, “Along the Mountains and the Sea,” which documents the impacts of plastic pollution on unceded Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations territory through the eyes of the Nuu-chah-nulth. Through interviews, observation, and research, “Along the Mountains and the Sea,” will depict the lives of the Nuu-chah-nulth from generations past to present. This short documentary will focus on traditional knowledge from this Indigenous community and shed light on the observed changes due to plastic pollution. By providing a voice to a disproportionately impacted community, the aim is to educate and raise awareness to the effects of plastic on the island communities of the west coast of Canada in hopes of promoting sustainable action and initiating steps in the direction of policy change. Brittney will continue to educate and raise awareness after the documentary release by setting up educational booths and hosting shoreline cleanups.
According to the UN Environmental Programme, 400 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced globally each year, and production of primary plastic is forecasted to reach 1,100 million tonnes by 2050. Urgent action is needed to reduce the non-essential use, production and disposal of plastics, and Ranah, Jocelyn, and Brittney will help lead the next generation of changemakers to realize a better future for ocean health.
If you’re interested in supporting these innovations, please connect with us by emailing [email protected].