How long have you been creating art out of trash and what was the inspiration behind this?
About half a year ago I went to this ocean conference, and there was a panel discussion on plastic pollution happening. So I walk in, and the first thing I notice is how nearly every single one of the figures leading the discussion had a plastic water bottle in hand while talking about how we shouldn’t use plastic water bottles. When I walked out of that room, I knew I wanted to be somebody who embodies my passions, not just speaks about them.
What made you so passionate about environmental sustainability?
I owe much of my passion to a childhood rooted in the most indescribably beautiful state. Growing up in Florida, and later living far from it, inspired this connection to nature that made it nearly impossible for me to not want to preserve it. How could I look at our reefs and our wetlands and our forests and our springs and think they should be spared my upmost respect? And that’s really how my work came about—because I respect nature more than I love it.
I read that you would explain yourself as an environmentalist rather than an artist- could you please elaborate on that for me?
I’m slowly coming around to the idea of calling myself an artist. I even put it on my business cards! But I’m an environmentalist by degree and by profession (my day-job, that is), so I think it’s just hard for me to take on a new title when I’ve had this other, more ‘evidenced’ one for several years. I don’t think I’ll ever call myself simply an artist without “eco-“ in front of it, though. The environmental message is too integral a part. And it’s all just a matter of labels anyways! When people ask what I do, I don’t usually use a title; I just describe what I do. The titles are useful at first glance, but they never capture the full scope of your work. I think that’s probably true for most professions.
Obviously when doing a beach clean you would pick up anything and everything, but when creating an art piece what do you primarily love to use?
Plastic! It’s irrefutably one of the worst pollutants on the planet, suffocating our oceans and contributing big time to climate change. It also breaks down into what we call microplastics (pieces under 5mm in diameter) which means it’s often left behind by beach cleanups. These microplastics are particularly harmful to marine life and pose a threat to humans who consume seafood, too.
Aside from being the kind of destructive trash you’d especially love to clean from the beach, plastic is an artist’s dream! It’s colourful, it’s workable, and it’s everywhere.
What do you think about the decisions the government in your country has made regarding the environment? How did Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement make you feel?
Any and all government inaction on environmental issues is saddening, but it doesn’t discourage me. We can’t be uncertain that our individual actions are capable of stirring considerable progress. President Trump won’t stop you from riding a bike to work. He won’t stop you from shopping with a reusable bag. He won’t stop you from turning pollution into art.
It’s easy to feel hopeless when you put the future of the environment in the hands of some distant, unrelatable team. But the moment you realise how much power you possess as a passionate person, unfavourable policies become detours, not roadblocks.
Do you sell your designs? What is the price range of them?
I’m glad you asked! You can purchase my work online at Reefusable.com, or by dropping me a line via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Instagram (@reefusable). Prices start at $15 for a small piece and typically don’t go beyond $45.
What is your advice on how people can make little changes in their lives to become more sustainable?
The first thing you have to do is believe those little changes can have a worthy impact.
Understand that when you unplug your phone once it’s charged, you prevent 15lbs of carbon from entering the atmosphere each year. When you turn off the water while you brush your teeth, you save 150,000 gallons of water in a lifetime. When you recycle a single glass bottle, you avoid enough energy to power a TV for 90 minutes.
Our world is full of intricate, sometimes incomprehensible connections. Seeking to understand them beyond the surface is the first step to practicing sustainability.
Anything else you would like to add?
I’m excited to share that I’ll soon be launching a line of jewellery made of marine plastic pollution! You can keep up-to-date with the launch by following my Instagram @reefusable.
I’ll also be sharing more about plastic pollution, sustainable solutions, and environmental art on my website, so I’d love for you to subscribe and stay in touch.