KOBE & ALE FROM MEREWETHER BEACH CLEAN
Merewether mates Kobe Benton and Alessandra Adam are on a mission to keep our beaches clean, encourage others to live more sustainably, take care of our beautiful Mother Earth and enjoy this little thing called life!
I first came across Merewether Beach Clean during Surfest earlier this year, when I saw them sorting out rubbish and counting straws and coffee cups on the concrete outside Blue Door Café. An initiative run by friends Kobe and Ale, Merewether Beach Clean use Instagram to drum up local support and involvement in regular beach clean-ups around Newcastle.
Kobe is Merewether born and bred, part of an ocean-loving family, married a surfer and is raising a “water baby” – the beach is her second home and she feels an incredible pull to protect it from human impact. Ale moved to our lovely city about six years ago with her husband, and fell quickly in love with the beaches, wellbeing culture and family atmosphere. They’re both preschool teachers who met through the surfing community and became fast friends, sharing their love of the beach, the environment, and teaching their daughters to pick up rubbish everywhere they went!
“We have such a cool little community, which has become even more obvious to me since starting our beach clean program. So many people are into it - they want to help out and learn more about what they can do to live more sustainably.”
As a New Year’s resolution this year, I decided to make more conscious choices in my daily life, with small baby steps that lead to big impactful changes. I have to admit to being guilty of falling into cynicism and apathy over the years, becoming overwhelmed by the disaster that is climate change and the global plastic crisis. What could I possibly do? I’m just one person. A lot of us, me included, make excuses about money, time, the effort it takes to change the habits of convenience and consumerism we’ve fallen into over the years. But in 2017, I decided no more excuses. Hell flippin’ yeah we can all make a difference. Every drop of water makes up the ocean, every straw we refuse is one less that ends up in the sea, every tree we plant takes the place of one cut down somewhere in the world.
My small baby steps looked like one change per month: stainless steel bottle, KeepCup, Sprocket and Steel straw, soft plastic recycling, bamboo toothbrushes, Who Gives a Crap subscription, beeswax wrap, Onya produce bags, and I carry a mini fork and spoon in my handbag. Easy transitions, sustainable, and I didn’t have to spend a bunch of money at once.
When I asked them for their best tip for living more sustainably, Kobe and Ale say: “When you can, refuse single-use plastic! These insignificant pieces of plastic that we use just once can last hundreds to thousands of years in landfill. Not to mention the bits that find their way to our ocean - if they don’t sink to the bottom, then the sun will break them down into ‘micro plastics’, which are easily mistaken for food by our sea creatures/birds and are often fatal. It’s so simple, but makes such a huge difference. There are reusable options for everything! So there's #noexcuseforsingleuse.”
Merewether Beach Clean organised their first clean-up in December, and decided to do one every month from then on. Follow them on Instagram at @merewetherbeachclean.
“It feels so good to live this lifestyle - and we still have a long way to go but we make small changes along the way. Plastic is poison! Every moment you spare the Earth a taste of plastic you are cleansing our planet, healing our waters, enriching our soils that our children’s children will be planting their food in, cleansing the air your great grandchildren will be living in. We can do this - I feel a wave of change coming.”
Who is the coolest person you know?
My daughter, Florence. It’s inspiring to watch her take it all in. She is my little eco warrior and will be an extraordinary asset to our planet. She points out the rubbish we walk by and says “Bin!” She gets it. She is incredible and I am so excited to watch her grow and teach me more and remind me to smell the roses (or pick up the rubbish!).
It’s hard to choose only one! Marc, my husband, is cool. He’s eccentric and irreverent, he surfs big waves and makes it look easy, always supports my crazy ideas and he’s a loving father. My daughter, Mali, is a very cool six-year-old – an adventurer. My friend Sandra and I co-founded a Steiner school in Brazil and she’s very cool – her family lived on board their sailing boat and crossed the world!
What does COOL mean to you?
I’ve always loved that saying “it’s cool to be kind”. It speaks to me in so many ways - kindness is a gift we can so easily share and it should be offered to each and every being on this beautiful earth, mother nature included! I just think being conscious of your actions and speaking through kindness is really cool; you can potentially make someone’s day, heal someone’s heart, or even save a life.
Cool for me is making something new, or recreating something old. Cool can be inspiring, something that brings to you lots of questions, feelings and thoughts.
When did you first have the idea to start Merewether Beach Clean?
We saw through Instagram that we were both picking up rubbish with our daughters at the beach... and what started off as a fun little hang-out became the stepping stones to our beach clean program. It didn’t matter if it worked out or not - we were just happy to be getting together and getting salty, while helping out our marine life and keeping our home town clean.
What inspired you to want to share your work on social media?
After the first beach clean last year, the response we had from families with children was amazing. Everyone was so engaged and proud and with social media, there’s an immediate response. Instagram is our way of connecting with other like-minded individuals and hopefully gaining some more support while spreading awareness. We also wanted to inspire others to do the same - to make small changes! We can all make a big impact when we come together.
How can people join in with your awesome mission? How can they get in touch with you?
We are on Instagram and Facebook as @merewetherbeachclean. We aim to do 1-2 missions a month - and really need all the help we can get. Cleaning the beach is lots of work and picking up rubbish isn’t the only job – it involves organising, separating, counting and sorting. We keep most of the plastic such as straws and bottle lids to do art works in the future. The more hands and hearts, then the more rubbish we can save from entering our oceans and polluting our world.
Tell me about the most successful (or least successful, depending on which way you look at it!) clean-up you’ve done recently…
Definitely depends on the way you look at it! We would have to say our second clean up. It was a beautiful sunny day, we set up our home-made sign on the sand and out came the locals. Two then four, then 24! Half of them children, which filled our hearts. Everyone returned with a bag full of rubbish and we took a photo together on the beach, which ended up being featured by Take 3 for the Sea (our inspiration!). It motivated us to keep going. We’re so grateful to everyone who contributes to the cause!
“The amount of rubbish was/is appalling; sometimes it’s not so obvious to the eye when you have the beautiful ocean views. But what’s lurking underneath you or around you… you don’t even want to know the things we find! And we expect our children to play on the sand? And swim in the sea?”
Can you share your top tips for living a more sustainable lifestyle?
A good life motto – “less is more”. In a society where we are told we need more, need new, need better, it can be hard to go against the grain, but it’s so worth it. To live sustainably means to live meaningfully - to be conscious of yourself, your thoughts and actions and the people around you. This beautiful world gives us so much, so we should repay her kindly, tread lightly, be present and mindful of your actions.
Shop at your nearest bulk whole food store (SCOOP at the junction is amazing - fill up jars or reusable bags - no plastic!) Go to the farmer’s markets, buy whole fruit and veg with no packaging! Try to buy organic. Shop locally. Shop less. Sell or donate your old clothes, look for good second-hand items. Adopt a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle (animal agriculture is the source of 51% of all greenhouse gases...) Recycle! Buy reusable materials like coffee cups, water bottles, straws, bags, cutlery - things you use all the time but contribute to most of our waste in oceans and landfill. If you must use plastic, try to recycle it. Ride bikes! Grow your own and cook at home more.
Shop small, cook more at home, refuse plastic, even though it seems impossible sometimes! Recycle, reuse, be part of a community garden, eat less meat, walk or ride a bike, share your electronic devices, leave your phone at home. Spend time in rural areas and in nature with your family.
What does the future of Kobe and Ale look like?
A lifetime of friendship! We hope that our tribe grows and Merewether Beach Clean really takes off, creating more awareness on how plastic and rubbish affects every kind of life on Earth. We would love our little adventure to grow and create change - change the minds of some, get people thinking, inspire others, inspire ourselves. We hope to form partnerships with other good souls and projects.
Tell me about your dream for an ideal society/country/planet…
One where we all give a little more than we take. Where we can all come together and live in harmony - people, animals, nature - we all deserve love.
“I hope that while remaining present, people can look towards the future and see the consequences of their actions and perhaps take a different path rather than turning a blind eye.”
I dream about people spending more time in nature and reconnecting with what is really important, like family, outdoor play, social events, art and stories. Recognition of the ancestral knowledge of the land and ways of living in harmony with the environment. A planet that doesn’t label or discriminate different backgrounds and cultures.
“A dream that you dream by yourself is only a dream, and a dream you have together is reality.”
What inspires you the most?
Nature and children. As teachers, we encourage outdoor play as a prime method of learning. Children learn so much here - and so do we as adults. You can recharge just by listening to the sea and breathing in the salty air. What’s around us is incredible and this world is real-life magic - you just have to open your eyes and appreciate it. Nature is the way and our children are the future.