Cleaning Up an Ocean of Plastic, One Gyre at a Time

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WholeFoods Magazine Staff
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For those unfamiliar with the term, in the context of oceanography, a gyre refers to any large system of rotating currents in Earth’s oceans. There are five primary gyres, from which the environmental group 5 Gyres takes its name. A new partnership has been formed in support of this group’s mission, which is to “research and communicate about the global impact of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.” Supplement company Rainbow Light now sponsors 5 Gyres, as its team embarks this month on its next sailing expedition.

“Our June expedition from Bermuda to Iceland will cross two gyres—the North Atlantic, and the sub polar, yet to be surveyed for plastic pollution,” says Anna Cummins, co-founder of 5 Gyres. She explains that in addition to generating scientific data on plastic marine pollution, the expedition will serve to engage the public, as a crew of journalists, photographers, activists and community members will be brought on board. Each will participate in the research, Cummins says, and gain firsthand experience of the issue so they can work toward solutions upon their return.

Getting involved with 5 Gyres fits with Rainbow Light’s ethos, says Michael Galef, the company’s vice president of marketing. A direct parallel exists between the 5 Gyres mission and Rainbow Light’s use of Eco-Guard technology for its supplement bottles. By committing to this 100% post-consumer recycled packaging option, the company has reduced its carbon footprint by 92 % and keeps approximately 10 million plastic bottles out of the waste-stream annually. According to Tracy Oliver, director of marketing communications, spreading the adoption of this technology is a major goal. “You can imagine if we could just get even 10 corporations to adopt Eco-Guard technology. Imagine if Proctor & Gamble did it, what a seismic difference that would make,” she says.

Though Rainbow Light’s sponsorship helps 5 Gyres’ endeavors, Galef says another term is more apt. “It’s really a relationship that we’re trying to build, develop, and nurture, because it’s so important for us and the environment.” This new relationship is part of Rainbow Light’s Circle of Care program, an umbrella term for its social responsibility efforts. The company first learned of Anna Cummins when looking for activists suited to its Game Changer/Life Changer campaign, which “profiles remarkable women who are making important differences in personal and planetary health,” Oliver says.

Beyond its work through and surrounding its expeditions, 5 Gyres also offers educational materials and works to reduce plastic pollution through activism. It was involved in a campaign to combat the flow of micro beads from personal care products into the ocean, and Johnson & Johnson has since said it will phase out micro beads from its products.

Oliver says that for future expeditions, Rainbow Light may either provide funding for a marine researcher to attend, or have someone from Rainbow Light attend if it will raise awareness for the cause. Sponsoring a film crew or seeking out a high-profile public figure to attend and help build awareness are other possibilities.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, June 2014