You know that saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”? Jessica Pritchard, who some refer to as Bondi Bin Chicken (where her beach cleaning began), takes the phrase quite literally.
After collecting thousands of pieces of rubbish off Australian beaches, including microplastics, Jess couldn’t find the heart to throw it away. Especially knowing most of it wouldn’t get recycled and would end up back in the ocean. Now she has turned those microplastics and ghost nets into beautiful pieces of ocean inspired jewellery. As a plastic free advocate, Jess has changed her entire lifestyle in a relatively short period of time. Starting out by refusing to purchase plastic packaged food items, to using plastic free beauty/household products, to volunteering for marine conservation organisation Surfrider Foundation, today Jess carbon offsets the footprint of her jewellery business, and even switched her bank to one that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels. She has truly looked at all the individual impacts of her life and made positive actionable changes. She is an all-round legend when it comes to saving the ocean, and we were stoked to chat with her about her journey.
Where did your environmental journey begin?
I was looking for a better way to use my following, it took me a while but it happened really naturally. I went from self-absorbed, follower obsessed, Instagram model to eco-warrior over a short period of time. It started with surfing. I fell in love with what the ocean could give me and that was a sense of peace. But I noticed how filthy Bondi beach was and read a few articles about whales washing up on beaches all over the world with tummies full of plastic and suddenly cleaning up beaches became the most important thing to me. I’d do it in my spare time but then slowly met the right people to help me get the message out about why I was doing it and why it was so important.
You completed a self-challenge in Western Australia called "60 days 60 beaches", can you tell us about that and what it became?
In 2019, I spent 60 days cleaning beaches in Western Australia. I drove a van from Esperance to Broome. The trip was just under 4,000 kms. Every day I pulled up to a beach and didn't know what to expect. Western Australia in summer is insanely beautiful but the environment is unpredictable and harsh. This tested and pushed me to my limits, working in 40-degree heat, storms, wind and flies that would drive me insane.
I would repeat to myself one sentence: “One piece of plastic can kill or injure a thousand animals in its lifetime.” This helped me pick up 2,780 pieces of plastic over two months, potentially sparing the lives of over 2 million animals.
On the grand scale of things, this number would never put a dent in the actual problem. I can’t save the entire world, I can only tend to the garden I can reach, but I’m so happy that I get to dedicate the rest of my life to the best job in the world: cleaning beaches, saving animals and spreading awareness on the devastating effect plastic has on the environment and us.
What is the meaning behind "Ripple"?
Along my journey in WA, every single person I met, I would tell them about what I was doing and they would connect with it one way or another. I'm still in touch with some of them and each of them have changed a habit around plastic after meeting. That’s why I called my jewellery line ‘Ripple’. I believe one small action can have a ripple effect, and the ability to change someone’s life with just one conversation or seeing a different perspective. Once you hear about how insane the plastic problem is it’s hard not to be aware of your daily actions. Even if that means that person changes one habit, like using a straw, it makes a difference over a lifetime and I’m stoked to be a part of the waves of change we make as a collective.
What does the ocean mean to you?
The ocean supports all life on this planet. It’s the reason we exist. I personally love free diving over any other water activity because I can pretend I’m the only person in the world underneath the waves and can truly appreciate the vital balance required within nature to keep it the way it is
In what ways do you lessen your environmental impact?
I’m extremely conscious of my plastic use. I’ll go out of my way to make sure my shopping is completely plastic free. It means going without some items, or paying more for alternative options, but in the end it benefits everyone. I reuse literally everything. Everything has a second use if you take the time to think about it.
What is your best advice for others to get involved in ocean conservation?
Join a local conservation group. No matter how small it is you will likely meet your new best friends and it’s easy from there. The people you surround yourself with are the subconscious influences in your life. If those people are awesome, you will be awesome. Simple.