Oceans advocate, passionate environmentalist and explorer Emily Penn has joined forces with Y.CO to help lead a plastic revolution among the yachting community. The latest spokesperson for Y.CO’s Clearwater project, designed to raise the environmental awareness and reduce the impact of yacht operations, she wants to highlight the devastating impact of plastic pollution. Below she talks about the inspiration behind her work and her involvement with Y.CO’s environmental initiative.
The youngest and only female recipient of the RYA Yachtmaster of the Year, awarded by HRH the Princess Royal, Emily was inspired to try and help the protect the world’s oceans during her first round the world voyage.
“I had a chance to take a boat around the world when I was 21 and it was really that journey that opened my eyes as to everything that was going on in the ocean,” she says. “I remember being woken up in the middle of the night by a thud on the hull of our boat and coming up on deck to find that we were surrounded by pieces of plastic in one of the most remote parts of our planet. It was really that experience that led to me working on ocean conservation.”
Emily was further inspired to raise awareness about plastic pollution after visiting remote islands where the inhabitants had no choice but to burn the plastic that was ending up on their beaches. “The burning of that plastic, creates these chemicals, these dioxins, which lead to cancer, they mess with our hormone systems and they are chemicals that we really don’t want inside us,” she explains. “It was that moment of seeing the situation these islanders were in that made me realise that I need to do something about it.”
One of the key goals of the Y.CO Clearwater project is to help reduce plastic use within the industry and recogniseing crew members that are making an outstanding contribution to ocean conservation. Emily is looking forward to the opportunity to help engage the yachting community in some of the big ocean challenges.
“Really it is us, it is the boating community, who firstly love the ocean because it is our back garden and we are also the people who are in the best position to be advocates for that and to protect it,” she says. “So I am excited for how we can work with the Y.CO community to further protect the oceans and see how we can work with the crews and the owners on board to find ways that we can tackle the problem together.
“With the Y.CO Clearwater project I am going to be a spokesperson and pass on any knowledge that I can from the past eight years of exploration of our oceans. We are also going to look at a way we can set up a course that can be opened to the Y.CO community, where crew members and owners can actually come along and learn more about the challenges that are affecting our oceans and also what we can do together to solve it.”
As well as her work with the Y.CO Clearwater project Emily wants to encourage everyone to consider their plastic use.
“Some of the main ways that we can work to solve the ocean plastic problem as individuals and as consumers is simply to reduce the amount of single use plastic that we are using in our lives every day – so those items, like plastic bags and water bottle that are disposable, we use them once and they are thrown away,” she adds. “A lot of it does find its way to landfill, a little bit gets recycled, but much of it does make its way into our ocean.”