This month, Surfrider Foundation Vancouver joins the global movement of Plastic Free July by highlighting the increase in plastic pollution that has hit the Lower Mainland alongside the COVID-19 pandemic. While British Columbia has emerged from this pandemic as a leader in the containment of transmissions, we join the rest of the world when it comes to carelessly discarding single-use PPE such as gloves and face masks. Globally, scientists recently estimated that 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves have been used around the world every month.

Surfrider Foundation Vancouver is partnering with local artist Sarah Hammond. Sarah has created a series of prints in collaboration with us at Surfrider — the Ocean Starts Here — that highlight the connection between our city waterways and the ocean pollution. In Canada, we produce 3.3 million tonnes of plastic waste per year, and only less 10% of the plastic we discard is recycled.

Photo: Alexis Greene

The Ocean Starts Here series shows the ties between pollution in our streets and pollution in our oceans. When trash is littered on the sidewalk, overflows from garbage and recycling bins, or is picked up by animals, it eventually makes its way through storm drains and waterways, and back into the ocean. 

How to purchase:
This limited run series is now for sale on Sarah’s website ($30 plus taxes for the set of 3 prints) until August 2nd. Sarah is generously donating 50% of all proceeds from the Ocean Starts Here series back to Surfrider Foundation Vancouver — so you can own Sarah’s beautiful prints all while supporting the health of our oceans.

Photo: Alexis Greene

I’m hoping that the Ocean Starts Here campaign will make people rethink using single-use plastics, encourage people to dispose of cigarette butts responsibly, and pick up litter that they see on the streets.”

A few questions with Sarah Hammond:

What is your connection to the ocean? How do you do your part?
I moved to Vancouver 8 years ago, and love living by the ocean. I regularly swim, SUP, and kayak. I’ve always loved the water, but until living here I never had the opportunity to live so close to the ocean. For me, I feel a sense of calm living by such a huge body of water.

I regularly do beach cleanups with organizations like Surfrider, or even just while I’m hanging out at the beach. Beach cleanups are so important — we all know the problems we are facing with plastic in our oceans. But, I think that it’s equally important to clean up our streets. The trash on the streets ends up going down storm drains, which eventually ends up in the ocean. Whether it’s a cigarette butt, a bottle cap, a broken Starbucks cup, or, more recently — rubber gloves and face masks — it all makes a difference. I think that just like beach cleanups, it’s also important to do street cleanups. 

What led you to create the Ocean Starts Here series?
The Ocean Starts Here series was created in COVID-19 times. I had extra time on my hands and had recently started to learn a new digital art program. So, I gave myself this project as an opportunity to really dive into it and create something new. I reached out to Surfrider to see if they wanted to partner with me, and share the message of this project with a bigger audience. 

Photo: Alexis Greene

I’m hoping that The Oceans Starts Here campaign will make people rethink using single-use plastics, encourage people to dispose of cigarette butts responsibly, and pick up litter that they see on the streets. It’s small actions like these by individual people that can have huge ripple effects. If just one person picking up a piece of trash from the street turned into thousands of people picking up a piece of trash a day, there would be a massive positive effect on our streets and oceans. 

How did you decide to pursue art?
I left my clothing design career of 16 years for multiple reasons, but a major one was that I felt it no longer aligned with my values. Working in an industry that propagates consumption and disposability jarred more and more with my own ecocentric values. I felt that with a change in career to an artist/illustrator, I could give back to what inspires me most, the natural world, by both creating work that inspires people to love and get outside in nature. When we love something, we want to protect it. 5% of all my sales go towards CPAWS, protecting the parks and wilderness that inspires me most. Through my work, I’m also able to create pieces like this that bring awareness to the environmental problems we face.  

This month, Sarah is also offering friends of Surfrider 10% off anything on her website (use the code SURFRIDER). She is also donating 10% of each of these purchases to Surfrider Foundation Vancouver.