When I founded City to Sea, back in 2015, I genuinely had no idea or expectations of what might come from it. I’d had a powerful awakening to the problem of plastic pollution the year before, whilst watching the Albatross film trailer by the artist Chris Jordan. I talk about the effect it had on me in my TED talk – and it’s something I often come back to; the exact moment in time when my life changed course.
Up until the day I watched the trailer, I’d been passionate about sustainability, had felt upset about the state of the environment to varying degrees, but had never felt grief to the extent I did when watching that footage. It was a seismic shift, the strength of which meant I couldn’t just go back to business as usual and do nothing. So, I decided to do something, anything, to make the suffering I’d witnessed stop.
Fast forward four years, I look at our staff email list and see 31 names. A team of phenomenally passionate and motivated environmentalists, each using their talents to facilitate an array of award-winning campaigns that have stopped hundreds of tonnes of plastic from making their way into the world’s rivers and seas. All because something – in my case it was the albatross chicks with their bellies full of plastic – woke me from my numbness. Grief, turned into rage, turned into an unbridled motivation to act, now.
Along the way, as a team we’ve tried different techniques to bottle that experience and share it with the masses. Creating silly films, sharing powerful films, lobbying supermarkets, creating community, championing solutions – as many ways as we can to inspire grassroots action that challenges the behemoths of the plastic industry.
Currently in the U.S. over $200 billion is being invested in new fracking infrastructure, factories and pipelines to supply raw materials to the plastics industry*. If this goes ahead, plastic will account for 20% of global oil use by 2050, increasing greenhouse gas emissions from petrochemicals by 30% and doubling plastic pollution in our oceans.
At City to Sea, we have a different vision. One story we like to tell our audience is that ‘there’s a better way, that’s way more fun’. Saying no to single-use plastics and opting for reusables is a life-enhancing behaviour change that ripples out amongst your peers. Saying no to investing in fossil fuel or petrochemical industries and instead investing in regenerative, planet-loving technologies and businesses makes you feel good. Which is why we love being able to encourage City to Sea’s audience to bank with Triodos – when people realise their savings are funding the very thing they’re trying to stop, it’s a no brainer for them to make the switch.
I write about banking, along with food, politics, travel and almost everything else we do in our lives, in my new book. It’s probably the closest I’ve come to being able to bottle my understanding, grief, motivation and – hopefully! – humour to help shift the dial on our current ecological crisis. Never before has humankind faced such a rapid loss of species, and never before have we had such an opportunity to save them. Hopefully, How to Save the World for Free will help more people make the most of it and play their part in protecting and restoring our fabulous big blue planet.
*American Chemistry Council, 2018
About Natalie Fee
Natalie Fee is an award-winning environmentalist, author, speaker and founder of City to Sea, a UK-based organisation running campaigns to stop plastic pollution at source. Her book, How to Save the World for Free (Lawrence King Publishing) is now out and can be ordered online through all major bookshops now. She can be found on Instagram as @nataliefee_ and on Twitter as @nataliefee.