Catherine Barley is a marine biologist, a guide on the marine eco-safari yacht Ocean Adventurer and a Two Oceans Aquarium volunteer. She took part in the 2014 Penguin Promises Waddle for a Week. Ahead of the 2016 Penguin Promises Waddle for a Week, which kicks off on 11 April, Catherine shares with us the penguin promises she has made: for the African penguin and the human race.

You don’t have to be a member of Greenpeace or an environmental activist to change the world. All you have to do is start with you. Change your own life and go from there. That is what I did.

Penguin Promises is a great way to start you on the road to helping the environment and the organisms living in it. I participated in the 2014 Penguin Promises Waddle for a Week and it was a life-changing experience to see how people can make a difference just by spreading awareness. I made my first “penguin promise” on the Waddle, and it was to recycle and reuse everything that I can. This was an easy promise to stick to and once I got started, it became easier to make promises. Now, these are no longer promises, they are a way of life.

I promise to never use a single-use plastic bag again.

I’ve carried armloads of groceries to my car or all the way home when I walk to the shops (another promise) because I forgot my reusable bags. There is satisfaction in looking the check-out lady straight in the eye and saying, “No, I’m fine thank you, I don’t need a bag. I’ll just carry these,” knowing that you have prevented the escape of another plastic bag from a store.

Nothing’s as effective at stopping you from taking that plastic bag than picturing a seal with a plastic bag wrapped around its neck.

When I am really lucky, I sometimes even get a “thank you” when I say no to a plastic bag. Those occasions really warm my heart.

Catherine's eco-friendly cleaning arsenal

I promise to only use eco-friendly cleaning products.

This one is one of the best changes I have made. I thought that I would struggle to find affordable eco-friendly products, but to my surprise you can find them almost anywhere, and they are often cheaper. When people tell me to “just use some bleach” I say, “We don’t have bleach at home, I’ll just use lemon juice”. I then follow up with an explanation of why it is important not to put harmful chemicals down our drains, which ultimately land up in our oceans.

Catherine rests her legs on day 3 of the 2014 Waddle

I promise to walk or ride my bicycle instead of driving, if driving is not necessary.

Great for the environment and for your health. And an opportunity to experience things you wouldn’t when you are stuck in your car, like meeting new people and popping into that little shop you always drive past, and discovering that it is the best shop ever. Public transport is also an option if your destinations is too far to walk or cycle.

And if you need to be convinced with rands and cents, you will be happy to know that it will save you money over time (maybe to spend in that little shop you find).

I promise never to use plastic drinking straws or single-use plastic cutlery again.

I am still working on this one, mostly because I forget to tell the waiter not to put a straw in my drink at restaurants. I try to always carry my own faithful straw and cutlery in my bag and just wash and reuse these.

I promise to never buy bottled water, unless it is an emergency.

This is my most recent lifestyle adjustment, and so far, so good. I carry my trusty water bottle everywhere I go. This way I don’t need to spend extra money on water and I don’t add unnecessary plastic bottles to the environment.

Volunteering with the African penguins at the Aquarium 

I promise to do my best to educate people and change their perception of the environment and the impact they have on it.

Everybody just needs a little encouragement and to be shown how they can make a difference. Penguin Promises is a way for every single person to make a change. I hope after reading this you are all inspired to be proactive.

The human race is at a tipping point, and if each and every one of us does not make a change now, it may be too late to reverse the damage we have done. I can promise you… You won’t regret it.

blog comments powered by Disqus