Working as a dive instructor in Grand Cayman, Sarah Gauthier saw first-hand the effects pollution was having on the ocean and knew she needed to take action to make a difference. Her challenge was to dive on all seven continents whilst spreading the message of marine conservation and showing that through small changes we can all make a positive impact on the planet. She shares her experience below:
What’s your first memory of the ocean?
I am from Québec, so did not grow up around the ocean but learnt to ski and ice skate pretty young, so my first memory of the ocean came pretty late in my life. I would say that I remember snorkeling for the first time when I was around 12 years old in Cuba. I remember seeing a moray eel and getting amazed by his teeth!
What makes you passionate about ocean conservation?
I think that I am a positive and optimistic person. Instead of seeing the negative effect of pollution, for example, I prefer to see what we can do to change things. I am a diver and an animal lover, so to see the underwater habitats and also my ‘playground’ deteriorate makes me sad. I am not the type of person to wait for others to do things, I like to get up and start working to reach goals. I am passionate about marine conservation because I know it is super important, not only for the animals but for ourselves too because we depend on the ocean to survive (Scientists think that more than 50% of the oxygen on this planet comes from the ocean!).
Tell us about your Seven Continents Challenge and why you’re doing it?
Whilst working as a dive instructor in Grand Cayman I could see the effects of pollution on the environment, and I was trying to find a way to change things. I knew that the best way to create a movement of change was to get as many people involved as I could. Nowadays, social media is a big part of our life, that’s why I decided I wanted to become a positive leader, I strongly believe that leading by example is the way to go. I knew I had to do something big to get attention but also to prove that this cause was really important for me. One morning I woke up and sat in my bed, this idea popped in my head; I was going to dive all the continents by myself!
How many continents have you travelled to so far?
I have travelled and dived six continents out of seven but I will be finishing the project in March when I will reach Antarctica!
I’m sure you’ve had so many, but can you pick one experience from your trip that has really surprised you? Or one you’ve learnt from?
It is too hard to choose one experience! But what I can say is that I have been really impressed by how people are involved everywhere around the world to help save our oceans. I have met some amazing groups of people trying their best to build projects and do their part! It gave me a lot of energy to see that we are a lot more than I thought.
You took some eco-living items in your luggage, how have you found avoiding single-use plastic whilst travelling?
My goal was to reduce as much of my plastic consumption during the trip, to show that it was possible to travel and live a good life with a small impact on our planet/oceans. To be totally honest with you (because honesty is super important and is the key to success) I found it really hard in some part of my trip. Some countries or cities don’t have fresh water access so everything is coming in plastic bottles. I had to search for places where I could fill my metal bottle but in some places, it did not exist… the worst place was definitely on the plane. You have almost no way around it. I would ask them to fill my water bottle instead of giving me water or juice in the plastic cup, I would give them back the cutlery when it was in a plastic bag so they could reuse it and I would use my bamboo utensils. I would avoid using the blanket because it was wrapped in plastic. It is all about being prepared, I had socks and extra layers of clothes so I would not be cold. I also used shampoo, conditioner and soap bars. I discovered, deodorant in a metal tint, mesh bags for fruits and homemade toothpaste!
What are three pieces of eco-advice you’d give people?
- Try to reduce, reuse, and start by doing little changes that will stay forever more than crazy changes that will last a little while and won’t stick around.
- Become a positive leader (lead by example!)
- Don’t wait for the change, BE the change.
- Also, remember that nobody is perfect but a big group of people that start to do little changes will eventually have a really big impact. Don’t feel that what you do has no impact because it is not true!
Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
I want people to understand that having a positive approach towards marine conservation and ecological lifestyle is essential. Showing depressive images of pollution and dead animals is important but there is already a lot out there. It makes people feel guilty and does not make them change. Instead, by being positive, showing the beauties and presenting solutions people are more open-minded to the change. We need to make them realize that they have the power to change in their hands and that they are intelligent enough to make decisions and make things happen. By giving them confidence and tools to be better there is way more chance that they want to enter in the movement! We can all do it together!