An Interview With Beach Guardian
We’re proud to support Beach Guardian through our 1% For The Planet commitment. The work that father and daughter duo Rob and Emily Stevenson do is extremely important in keeping our beaches and oceans clean, whilst also providing environmental educational resources for schools and businesses. We caught up with co-founder Rob to learn more about Beach Guardian.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and Beach Guardian?
Beach Guardian is now in it’s sixth year! It was co-founded by my daughter Emily and I in October 2017. As a family we’ve always enjoyed time on the beach, in the sea, having outdoor adventures and collecting plastics and other beach-combed finds. We have regular volunteers and other members of the team who all help with our mission to “Engage, Educate and Empower Against Plastic Pollution”.
How did Beach Guardian start?
It started whilst Emily was at university and collecting plastics for her research dissertation. At the time people would see us on the beaches picking up plastics and asked what we’d done wrong to have received “community service”! Then Blue Planet 2 came out and people wanted to join in, which is why we then started organising regular community beach cleans.
There are so many elements of the CIC. What is your favourite aspect of Beach Guardian?
What we love is that no two days are the same and that our days are not always predictable. Our first love is being on a beach, in or close to the sea and around the magnificent Cornish coastline. We have regular favourite spots too, like remote coves and caves where we are more likely to discover interesting finds from far flung countries due to tides, currents and storms. We love going out on our paddle boards, or borrowing kayaks to spot nature and retrieve marine litter.
We also really enjoy seeing people come along to our beach cleans, events and meeting us virtually and physically at our presentations and talks, that reach people of all ages in Cornwall, the UK and around the world.
The reactions we get on social media when we find something interesting, old, unique or with a story are also incredible to see. Our Facebook posts alone reach 2 million people each year!
How do you think BG benefits the local community as well as the environment?
We did a survey last year to ask this question to our volunteers and participants and it was amazing to see the comments that we received from people.
It’s great to see how it makes people feel to be involved with Beach Guardian and the benefits that they can see after an hour’s beach clean. We also see physical and mental health benefits in our volunteers, for example reducing social isolation and anxieties by being involved in a positive movement. We raise awareness but also spread a message of hope by talking about the successes that have happened since we started.
We read often that the beaches that we look after are referred to as the cleanest in the UK and we get positive comments from the local community as well as holidaymakers. It’s a collaborative effort and it’s great when people on holiday return to their homes and start litter picking and doing more in their communities.
How can people get involved? Is it possible for people to support/ work with BG if they aren’t based in Cornwall?
Our Facebook page shows all of our local events that people can participate in; beach cleans, drop-in sessions, art projects and other events and activities. We also have a YouTube channel so you can watch the videos that have been created over the years to find out more about what we do and why. People can also create fundraisers as we are reliant on grants and donations to continue doing what we do.
It's great when schools around the country watch our videos and then do projects or artwork and send it to us, too! Plus, Rotary Clubs contact us and we provide online talks with a Q&A section. Take a look at our social media channels and get in touch if you want to find out more.
What are your plans for the future, both personally and with BG?
We will keep doing what we do and we have two locations near Padstow which we plan on developing, so watch this space to see how those plans unfold. Emily is doing incredible research on micro plastics and is involved with the House of Lords looking at policy makers. It would also be good to find more funding sources that would allow us to grow further.
Because your Beach Guardian work is so beach and ocean focused, how do you access and enjoy those environments outside of your work?
We’re fortunate to live within walking distance to local beaches so we take time out as often as we can, whatever the season or the weather. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing, and our Robies help us to be outside in all weathers!”