We recently met Aleksandra Dragozet, founder and CEO at Sea Going Green. Providing consultation services, SGG aims to alleviate the negative impacts of the tourism industry on the marine environment. Born in Serbia, raised in Canada, and spending her childhood summers on the coasts of Croatia, Ally’s international background sparked an early passion for travelling and ocean conservation.
Read on as Ally shares her journey, combining a love for travel, an education in marine biology, to a cause aimed at transforming the travel sector.
Journey and interest in Sustainability
As a Marine Biologist, environmental sustainability has always been at the heart of my studies and my work in the field. Following my studies at the University of Amsterdam, I realized that I wanted to offer something different than other consulting services and ecotours to really help create formative change in the tourism industry as a whole. Having traveled to many parts of the world and seeing plastic pollution in what would otherwise be beautiful blue waters or pristine mountains definitely was a wakeup call for action.
To kickstart my startup dream, I took part in the ACE Accelerator program, which was a huge step in forming Sea Going Green. Here we are a year and a half later with a team of passionate changemakers and looking to scale in the near future to take on more projects and clients. It’s a very exciting time !
Sea Going Green and the experience so far
It has been easy and difficult at the same time. Easy in the sense that there are so many great organizations, companies, NGOs, influencers and many others that are just as dedicated and understanding that we all need to work together to create the large-scale change necessary to protect our wildlife and oceans from the many threats we see today.
Many of the difficulties have come from the enormous scale of pollution and the devastation that has occured to our oceans and its biodiversity;
75% of the world’s coral reefs are projected to die by 2050.
Coral reefs and the oceans provide habitats for marine wildlife including fishes which collectively provide the primary source of protein for more than 2.6 billion people and is a source of livelihood for fishermen globally. Therefore, the impact is huge for not only the tourism industry, which provides a large sources of GDP for many developing countries, but also for sustaining individual livelihoods and local communities.
Even in the most obscure areas of the ocean, plastic is being found and endangering marine life that ingest it and become entangled in it. Yet, plastic pollution is only one part of the problem, there are also issues with overfishing, diesel pollution, warming ocean temperatures…etc., which is putting a lot of stress on an already fragile environment home to 80% of life on this planet. In order to really create change, we must all do our part by simple behavioral changes like refusing a plastic straw or bringing a reusable shopping bag. The action itself helps, but it also creates awareness and can help fuel a trend, which is where we will see the real change set in.
Green transition strategy
As a part of our “Green Transition Strategies”, Sea Going Green urges clients to switch to sustainable alternatives after measuring their environmental footprint. Examples of alternative energy sources include: clean fuel such as wave & wind energy and biofuels, which many skippers and ocean enthusiasts are happy to transition to. Additionally, we measure the amounts of waste being produced by our clients and then we transition their onboard practices to use less single use plastics and other materials and encourage the use of innovative re-usable products. We then help our clients re-brand and facilitate partnerships with a range of organizations, retailers…etc. to ensure their sustainable future as well as offering environmental training to embed sustainability throughout the whole company.
To influence consumer behavior, we distribute “Sustainable Tourism Kits” to our clients, which include a selection of retail products that are leading the way as alternatives to plastics and other harmful materials. It is our hope that by introducing these products to our clients and audience that we can influence consumers to buy sustainably.
Reception so far
We have been really well received so far, and I think a lot of it comes down to timing. I don’t think anyone can dispute that 2018 has really been ocean & plastic pollution focused across all industries. We are currently working with one of our first clients (The Yacht Week), and have a lot coming up in the next few months that we’ll keep under wraps for now.
Some of our past collaborations have been a huge success. For our launch we partnered with a dozen amazing retailers, who provided a variety of sustainable products, which we raffled off to raise money for a charity to help Saint Martin re-build following Hurricane Irma. Sea Going Green also won the competition to take part in a trade mission in Saint Martin with Present Your Startup – Haarlem Valley & Build Back Better Week SXM to help come up with some creative solutions to ensure that re-building efforts will be sustainable. We organized various clean ups throughout the year but our Earth Day clean up with The Yacht Week got a lot of attention as well as taking 1000 kg of trash from the ocean floor.
Some other noteworthy traction that we have received includes making it to the semi-finalist round of the Philips Innovation Awards, and we have been awarded a grant from the Netherlands Institute for Scientific Research to develop an app, so stay tuned for more details on that!
Sustainable marine tourism is catching up
I cannot name one place in particular, but it seems that many island nations in the Caribbean and South Pacific have been making strides to ban plastics and increase sustainable tourism infrastructure and education. A few destinations that come to mind are Dominica, which has pledged to be single-use plastic free by the end of 2019 and Palau, which required tourists to sign a sustainable tourism pledge upon arrival at their airport. Hawaii will also be the first state to ban sunscreens that pose a risk to reefs and the marine environment, which is also a huge step forward. Island nations are the most vulnerable to climate change and pollution, therefore it is understandable that these areas are leading the way to sustainability.
There is definitely a trend taking place all over the world though. Cities and corporations throughout Canada the European Union and the U.S. have voted on banning plastic straws and I can imagine that this trend will only increase to expand to other regions of the world. Costa Rica and Bolivia have recently opened various eco-friendly resorts and are looking to lead the way in Latin America. Also it is important to keep an eye on Asia, since it seems that many other countries may follow Taiwan’s example of banning single-use plastics by 2030. Many vacation destinations in Asia are also looking to incorporate sustainable tourism practices into their hospitality and tourism industries to help alleviate the strain that over tourism and negative environmental impacts have created.
3 must-have products to travel eco-friendly
My top three picks for sustainable travel must-haves are:
- An easily foldable and reusable bag
- A re-usable water bottle
- Reef-safe sunscreen & body care products
When traveling just try to go by the principle of “reduce, reuse, recycle” when it comes to using/buying products.
*also a re-usable straw can also be really useful if you can’t kick the straw habit
Favourite travel destination
It is impossible for me to pick just one favourite, but a favourite travel destination and must see of of mine has to be Gili Trawangan. It is a beautiful little island in Indonesia part of the “Gili Islands”, it has magical beaches and the best sunsets. In terms of sustainability they are making moves, the whole islands is motor free! Everyone gets around the island on foot,by bike or by horse & carriage. There are some new boutique resorts and villas being built in a more sustainable way, which is a relief as common practises used to be clearing mangroves and building resorts on top of sand beaches which are extremely damaging to the natural ecosystems and the island itself as mangroves are essential in preventing erosion.