Beauty Store Business

AUG 2016

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Page 17 of 139

16 August 2016 | The 5 Gyres Institute was co-founded by husband-and-wife team, Marcus Erik- sen and Anna Cummins, in 2009, as a new nonprofit set to address the gap in research on plastic pollution. The two have a colorful past and very different backgrounds, as 5 Gyres' executive direc- tor Cummins puts it. She grew up on the west side of Santa Monica, and is a Southern Californian who developed an interest in plastic pollution while pursuing environmental policy in graduate school. Eriksen, however, derives from a much more conservative culture than Cummins, as he served as a marine in the first Gulf War and grew up in Louisiana. He received his Ph.D. in science education from the University of Southern Califor- nia. The couple met in 2007, went out to the North Pacific Gyre in 2008—and it was on this trip that Eriksen proposed to Cummins in the middle of a garbage patch on Valentine's Day with a little ring he'd made out of fishing gear. They later mar- ried in Big Sur, wearing outfits made out of plastic bags. Their passion for tackling plastic pollution has allowed them to be a part of history, as the microbeads issue has made its way into law. BEAUTY STORE BUSINESS: Anna, please tell our readers about yourself. CUMMINS: I'm currently the execu- tive director and co-founder of 5 Gyres. I'm originally from the Los Angeles area, and I have always been passionate about the outdoors and sustainability. I grew up close to the beach. I've always been a lover of the outdoors. But it wasn't until I was in graduate school pursuing environ- mental policy that I was exposed to this issue of plastic pollution in the oceans. THE NORTH PACIFIC GYRE While in graduate school, I heard a talk in 2001 on the North Pacific Gyre, and I was stunned that here I was pursuing graduate work in environmental policy, but no one was really talking about this. Following completion of my graduate program, I worked locally in Santa Cruz, California, doing bilingual outreach for Save Our Shores. But the idea of plastic always stayed with me. This idea that there's a massive region of the Pacific Ocean that is slowly turning into—at the time we called it—a garbage dump. We talk about it differently now; but that image haunted me. I reached out to the organization that gave that presentation and slowly started getting more involved as a volunteer. I had my first chance to see the issue firsthand in 2004 on a research trip, and then again in 2008, after I moved back to Los Angeles from Monterey, California, where I had pur- sued my graduate degree at Middlebury Institute of International Studies. It was in 2008 that I had my first chance to go out to the North Pacific Gyre with Captain Charles Moore and a crew of six people. It was on this trip that I got engaged to my now-husband Marcus Eriksen. When I saw firsthand the scope of the plastic pollution issue, I was determined to get more involved. PLASTICS AND OUR FOOD CHAIN When we went out to the gyre in 2008, what we saw was something new for the two of us. Not only did we see plastic pollution gathering in the ocean currents; but we saw firsthand proof that plastic is getting into the food chain. We collected all these small fish that are really important in the ocean ecosystem, and roughly a third of them had plastic inside their stomachs. These are fish that are eaten by the bigger species that humans eat—like tuna, mahimahi, squid. That was the first light bulb for me that plastic is not just impacting marine wild- life. It's not just about aesthetic issues on our beaches and in our communities. It's also affecting the food chain that we are at the top of; so this is a potential human-health threat. ABOUT THE COUPLE'S PLASTIC-BOAT JOURNEY No one was really talking about this, and Marcus had done a couple of crazy stunts in the past. [So] we decided on that trip to do a much bigger stunt—to build a boat out of 15,000 plastic bottles and junk from around Los Angeles that he and our friend Joel Paschal would sail from Los Angeles to Hawaii while I ran ground support, media, fund-raising, etc. We did that in 2008. We predicted a six- week journey. It ended up taking three months. We were in daily communication via satellite phone, but I still panicked quietly on a daily basis. The point was to bring new media awareness to the issue, especially around food-chain impacts. They caught one fish, a rainbow runner, that had 17 pieces of plastic in its stom- ach. This really encapsulated the entire point of the journey, and that photo has been shared thousands of times. Marcus and I then followed JUNKraft with an outreach tour where we cycled from Vancouver, Canada, to Mexico, giving dozens of lectures along the way to edu- cators, students and policymakers. We "The word 'gyre' means spinning. Every ocean is spinning in a huge vortex; kind of like a huge whirlpool." Images courtesy of The 5 Gyres Institute The 5 Gyres Institute was co-founded by Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen.

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