Since my earliest memories, I have loved the ocean and what it holds.
Like many people, I am saddened by images of wild creatures on beaches, which I have seen photographed strangled or entangled by plastic, and their lives ended by our casual use and discarding of plastic.
I know that so many people feel the same dislike of inadvertently harming the things that are the most precious and beautiful in the natural world.
I have always loved being in nature. My parents instilled in me a love of wild places and a respect for animals and the natural world. However, I hadn’t really thought seriously about my use of plastic until a few years ago.
Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, who were married in October, made their ceremony eco-friendly by banning bottled water, cocktail straws and providing biodegradable and compostable ponchos to protect guests from the rain
Plastics are everywhere — seemingly impossible to avoid in every supermarket and every coffee shop. Then I was introduced to the work of a number of initiatives making environmental changes — and I was inspired to start to make changes to my own life.
I learned that every bit of plastic I had ever used is still on the Earth, and will be here long after I am gone.
In fact, it will still be out there somewhere when our grandchildren’s grandchildren are alive.
I had never thought about the issue in that way before and, when I did, I determined to try to do something about it, however small. My eyes were opened to this problem and since then I have read anything I can find about the problem of single-use plastics, and particularly its impact on our oceans. That’s why I am incredibly proud to be an Ambassador for Project 0 — which campaigns to protect our oceans from plastic pollution and other threats.
Princess Eugenie attends a photocall on Carnaby street for the launch of ‘Pass on Plastic’, an pop up from Project 0 and Sky Ocean Rescue
My parents are also committed to this — my father’s work with [email protected] backs entrepreneurs, including one making reusable bottles. But there is a long way to go for everyone to get to a point where reusable is the norm rather than something which needs so many of us to change our ways. The statistics are stark and horrifying.
Across Europe, we throw away 46 billion plastic drinks bottles every year, 36 billion plastic drinking straws and 16 billion plastic-lined coffee cups. Single-use plastics are the main source of litter on our beaches.
The impact on marine life is appalling. Of dolphins that are found stranded on our beaches, more than two-thirds have plastic in their stomachs. A sperm whale found emaciated and dying in the Mediterranean was discovered to have ingested 26 plastic items, weighing more than eight kilos.
Then there is microplastic — a problem that we are discovering more about all the time. These are tiny pieces of plastic, which come from larger items that have been broken down over time, and tiny plastic fibres from synthetic fabrics. According to some estimates, there are now as many as 51 trillion particles of microplastics in our seas — 500 times more than the number of stars in our galaxy.
The truth is, we know very little about the long-term impact of microplastics on the ecosystem and on human health. But we do know it is unlikely to be good. That’s why I am so pleased to support the Great British Spring Clean, run by the charity Keep Britain Tidy, which asks communities nationwide to come together and pick up litter for recycling.
Princess Eugenie’s wedding guests were given water in recyclable aluminium cans and reusable gift bags (pictured)
I was shocked to discover that 80 per cent of litter in our oceans comes from the land, as rain and wind carries plastic waste into streams and rivers. Cleaning up a beach, a beauty spot or even a city street really does help to save the ocean — and proves the power of every single one of us to make a difference. What can we do about this as individuals?
My husband Jack and I too have tried to make some changes in our lives. We were proud to tell our friends and family that we had decided to make our wedding celebration last October as plastic-free as possible.
We made sure that guests were offered water in recyclable aluminium cans and that they were given reusable gift bags made by our family project in India, Key to Freedom, which provides vulnerable young women from India with skills to earn an income.
(Left to right) Clara Paget, Princess Eugenie, Pixie Geldof, Jo Wood and Jaime Winstone attend a photocall on Carnaby street for the launch of ‘Pass on Plastic’
We even managed to source biodegradable and compostable ponchos to protect guests from the rain! We asked suppliers not to use single-use plastics at the wedding.
In our lives, we have banned plastic bottles, plastic straws and plastic-lined coffee cups. We do not buy bottled water in plastic bottles. If I am buying drinks, I will only ever choose glass bottles — or I fill the reusable water bottle I designed for Project 0.
I only use my reusable coffee cup that I take everywhere with me. In a bar or restaurant, I now decline a plastic straw.
When I am in shops or the supermarket, I will buy loose fruit and vegetables or ones packaged in cardboard rather than ones pointlessly packaged in plastic.
I use a Project 0 reusable bag or paper bags and cleaning products that come in reusable, refillable bottles and work fantastically. When I go for a run, I wear trainers which are made from plastics sourced from ocean and beach clean-ups.
I am not saying we are perfect, and I can’t say we don’t sometimes find that there is really no option but to buy something which is made of plastic or comes in plastic packaging.
To sign up to the Daily Mail’s Great British Spring Clean campaign, visit gbspringclean.org
But if we do, we always try to recycle it. I feel so passionately about this, and I really hope that more people will be inspired to try to make a change in their lives that will make a tangible difference.
The oceans are our life. They store carbon and regulate the climate. Every second breath we take is generated by the oceans.
Over a billion people rely on them every day as a source of food and many more for their livelihoods. The seas represent 99 per cent of the living space on our planet, yet only 4 per cent is protected.
When we look at something as beautiful as our oceans, we can’t sit back and do nothing while they are choked with plastic waste that we have put there.