(This blog, written by Anna Cummins, originally appeared on 5 Gyres. It has been reprinted here with permission.)

For the past 5 years, our team at 5 Gyres has immersed ourselves pretty deeply in plastic garbage. We have sailed across remote areas of the world studying the issue, through hurricanes and cyclones (cue violins), inviting intrepid scientists, artists, innovators, and citizens to join us. We have spoken with policymakers, companies, NGOs and individuals passionate about the issue. And this past December, we published our findings, the first global estimate on plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

Image: WikiMedia Commons

Image: WikiMedia Commons

50,000 miles later, we’ve come to some conclusions we want to share with you – neither shocking revelations, but guiding us to greater clarity:

1)   We’re only as strong as our core values, and;

2)   Design matters.

What this means to us:

The importance of having CORE VALUES embedded in the fabric of your culture is something that successful companies around the world understand. Though there is less Core Values talk in the non-profit world, it is no less relevant, perhaps even more so! Our community and team deserve the respect that we devote to making the world a better place. You are part of our community, so we want to include you in these:

Be supportive and compassionate
Execute with excellence
Be willing to fail
Celebrate successes
Engage our community
Listen deeply

We’re working to delve deeper into how to practice these, and get better at resetting when we drift. Do you have any experience here? This is still new for us – we’d love to hear your thoughts!

DESIGN MATTERS. So we’ve given a lot of thought over the years to solutions. And solutions to plastic pollution are complex (shocker). BUT we’re more convinced than ever that effective solutions must start with better design – plastic pollution is ultimately a design flaw. By the time that packaging, fork, wrapper, or bag reaches the ocean, real solutions are too late.

Yes, education is important, individual responsibility plays a role, cleanups even have their place in the arena, but if we don’t tackle this problem at the design phase, through collaborative dialogue with entrepreneurs, companies, and policymakers, were going to keep staving off the flood by sticking our finger in the levee crack….

We changed our mission statement to better reflect this, “to engage people in design and policy solutions to the global health crisis of plastic pollution”. Our work on microbeads underscores how our original science can unveil design flaws that contribute to plastic pollution. And how good science can drive the policy and corporate change needed to protect our waters. Were continuing to hone in on this model, and plan for our next campaign.

Were more interested than ever in hearing from you – if these concepts resonate, and you’d like to get more involved, let us know! Were launching a few new exciting programs in the next month – a research expedition, an ambassador training program, and more – stay tuned and let us know how you’d like to get involved in pushing solutions.

We can’t say it enough – we’re here because of you. Because you support our work with your time, energy and resources, and because you care as much as we do. Lets keep doing this!

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