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CLEAN OCEAN PROJECT: Campaigning to keep Canarian beaches clean

Sometimes it takes a fresh eye to spot things which, as locals we take for granted, or don’t even notice. In 1994 a young man named Wim Geirnaert from Belgium arrived in Fuerteventura to follow his passion, surfing, and cast that fresh eye over what he saw. Over the following five years, the rubbish accumulating around the island increasingly disturbed him. In those days, this included even old fridges and electrical appliances. Instead of tut-tutting, as most of us do, he decided to do something about it.

Clean Ocean Project

Clean Ocean Project

He began by organizing protests about the rapidly growing problem. Since his passion is for the ocean, it was natural for him to concentrate especially on the shoreline, and he started to organize beach cleans, but instead of criticizing the lack of activity in this area from the local councils, he involved them by asking for gloves and bags for the volunteers to use. Little by little, involving the community in this way began to work. Wim’s philosophy is to teach by example instead of lecturing – which none of us like to hear, even when we know the lecturer is right!

Clean Ocean Project

The name of this growing movement is Clean Ocean Project, and when I first met Wim he was busy practising what he preaches, cleaning the beach at Majanicho, near Cotillo in Fuerteventura, favourite haunt of surfers. True surfers are usually a conscientious bunch when it comes to keeping their environment clean, but nobody is perfect, and beaches are there for all to use in Spain. As well as rubbish left by visitors to the beaches, a fair amount also washes in from the sea. On some islands, trash washes down the barrancos during the rainy season, so it isn’t just people who use the beach or sea, but those in the mountains who pollute too.

Wim was, obviously, busy that particular day, but I managed to catch up with him in his shop in Las Lajares a couple of weeks later. The shop, of the same name, sells clothing and surf gear made from organic cotton and recycled materials. It’s easy to spot when you arrive in Las Lajares from the south, by the distinctive mural outside, representing a surfer in a sea of rubbish. I can vouch for the excellent quality of the goods, as I bought a couple of T-shirts and a hoodie. I asked how he could be sure that everything made for Clean Ocean Project is the genuine article, and he assured me that he personally ensures that everything in the shops (there is also one in Corralejo) is sustainable. That said, he was eager to point out that this is a movement, encouraging us to be positive about looking after our environment, and he was reluctant to answer questions about himself. Nevertheless, I had the distinct feeling that his leadership and example is the driving force behind the movement and the business.

Beach Clean up in Alcala, Tenerife

It goes without saying that the words “islands” and “ocean” go together, perhaps for some archipelagos more than others, making pollution of the seas a topic which is of vital concern to those of us who are island dwellers, and it is encouraging to know that someone is giving back to the ocean.

The Canary Islands, sited at this crucial crossroads between Europe, the Americas and Africa, as the politicians like to remind us, perhaps is more conscious of its relationship with the ocean than other island chains are. Since the Spanish conquest, shipping from all four of those continents has passed through here, and with all the environmental concerns that implies. First they raped the land for wood and tar for their wooden boats, now they dump their rubbish in the water, and there is the constant worry of oil spills on pristine beaches.

Then there is tourism, the great and the awful lifeline, which lifted the islands into the 20th century, when its agriculture was failing and thousands were migrating elsewhere, but which brought its own distinct problems when it comes to the environment

Apart from supporting the movement against the drilling for oil off Canarian shores, Clean Ocean Project is concentrating on campaigning against plastic at the moment. Figures suggest that 80% per cent of rubbish on beaches is plastic, and Clean Ocean Project believes that we are all responsible for our own litter, but that companies should take more responsibility for plastics. Nestlé in particular, with its plastic Nespresso cups is coming in for a lot of criticism.

Will big business listen? Wim thinks so, provided that enough of us make our voices heard, after all it’s our environment.

You can follow Clean Ocean Project on Facebook and Twitter to see when there is an activity in your area you might want to join.


Canary Green – Helping to keep the Canary Islands Green


Lanzarote Joins Canary Islands Olive Oil Revolution

An ambitious project to add olive groves to the natural economy of the Canary Islands has grown steadily since it’s launch in 2005 and now another island government is taking it a stage further with the campaign Ecological Olives In Lanzarote. The climate in the Canary Islands is ideal for large scale olive oil growth and cultivation, the first of the new groves were planted in Arico, Tenerife but now there are over 60,000 of the Acebuche trees planted across the seven islands, all promoting organic farming.

AgroLanzarote, part of the Lanzarote Insular Agricultural Service are taking the lead by offering olive trees to prospective farmers for 2.70 euros each with a minimum order of 300 trees. Francisco Fabelo of AgroLanzarote has pledged their full support. “Olive trees can be very productive, and can generate profits in the agricultural sector of the island. Therefore AgroLanzarote is trying to promote this culture and help farmers who venture to try it. The Insular Agricultural Service is hiring technicians experienced in these olive varieties, who can control the plantations until they reach production, with at least three visits per farm per year.”

The Acebuche tree is native to the Canary Islands, mainly in the valley areas, and produce large crops of olives. The long term aim is to encourage more olive groves across the Canary Islands and add exporting to the already growing local market.



Cabildo Gives Unemployed A Green Purpose In Tenerife Parks

It’s a perfect match, 122 unemployed people in Tenerife have been given rewarding and useful work that will benefit the entire Tenerife community. The Cabildo (government) have taken on the work force to clean and maintain key areas of protected natural spaces around the island.

The project was started up in December 2010 through the Cabildo’s environmental department and is 80% funded by the European Social Fund. There are many protected natural spaces in Tenerife including the rural parks of Teno and Anaga, both of these have been targetted for the new campaign. At the Parque Rural de Anaga 31 workers will clean and clear forest paths, viewing points and walkways that are part of the main hiking routes. At Teno similar work will see 29 new staff helping to replant indigenous plants and also improve walkers access to Monte del Aqua.


Community Key To Green Year In Tenerife

The Office of Participation and Environmental Volunteers for the Tenerife government has looked back on the 2009 programme with some pride after 2,290 volunteers joined business backers to improve Tenerife.

The biggest project was a reforestation programme involving 750 people, this covered Finca La Orilla in Anaga National Park, Las Calderetas in El Sauzal, plus El Rayo and El Rosario. Some 2,500 trees of varying species were added to boost the natural scenery.

La Mar de Limpia is another long standing project that cleans up rubbish along the shoreline. Last year 470 volunteers removed 830 kilos of discarded rubbish from around the coast. Education was an important part of this initiative with talks about the coastal environment and the release of turtles back into the wild after treatment for injury. In Teno it wasn’t just the beaches that were cleaned up, teams of divers made sure that the sea beds were also made safer.

This years clean up campaigns are already well under way, the removal of rubbish addresses the immediate problem but informing people of the damage caused by discarding waste should help to cut down on further erosion of the coast and rural areas.


A Bioclimatic Vision Unveiled In Tenerife

It started as an open challenge 14 years ago from the Tenerife government to architects around the world, design a self sufficient dwelling that blends in and makes full use of its natural surroundings, with zero CO2 emissions. Some 397 applied for the project but that was whittled down to the best 25, they were given full reign to develop their ideals on the 400,000 square metre ITER (Institute of Technology and Renewable Energy) site in Granadilla, Tenerife.

The world’s media came together with the scientific and architectural community on Friday 19 March to celebrate the official inauguration of these 25 beacons for the future. With 90 % of the worlds population expected to live in cities within five years the drive has been to make houses that are functional, practical and pleasing to live in, the applicants certainly rose to the challenge.

The winner of the contest was La Geria (above) from a Spanish team led by Cesar Ruiz-Larrea Cangas. The name refers to a horseshoe shaped protective wall used to shield vines in Lanzarote’s wine regions, and bunkered down into the earth, this house makes good use of the grounds warmth and insulation. Facing the best light source keeps energy use down and liberal sprinklings of plants on the shaded patio area contribute to the cool feel of the building.

All the houses differ but they share common features, extensive use of photovoltaic solar panels, wind turbines and a shared water supply with desalinated sea water from the Atlantic that laps the perimeter of ITER. Complimenting the environment is also an important consideration, the partial sinking of many of the houses helps to blend them in and building materials were carefully chosen to be recycled and good for the retention of heat, light and energy. Each dwelling also blends with its neighbouring buildings using natural colours and textures.

The competing architects have not lost sight of the need to make these houses into desirable homes, many of the external looks are bold and exciting such as La Estrella (the star) or the open fronted Las Bovedas. The nest stage of the project is for scientists and other interested parties to live in the houses and test them as they interact on a daily basis. All the houses are fitted with monitors to constantly check air flow and quality, inside and outside temperatures and humidity.

Tenerife presents unique weather and environmental challenges and advantages, those have all been factored into the development of this village, but the idea is to use the knowledge gained on this site to implement bioclimatic techniques around the world. The new homes will now act as a living laboratory and are making a big impact on architectural thinking and planning for the next generation of homes


Cumbria wind farms ready in 2011

After years of discussion, two large offshore wind farms have been given the green light for Cumbria and should be producing enough power to run 445,000 homes by the end of 2011.

The farms will feature 130 of the latest turbines, and are being backed by major players in the alternative energy field, work will start on the sites this summer. The biggest of the two is at Walney, 9.3 miles (15 kms) west of Barrow in Furness, and will contain 100 turbines. This development is being financed jointly by Danish firm, Dong Energy, and Scottish and Southern Energy.Â

The second farm, Ormonde, Â is slightly smaller with just 30 turbines, and is being run by Vattenfall, a leading Swedish company. This will be positioned 6.2 miles (10 kms) off Walney Island.

Carrefour lead Tenerife bag ban

One of the biggest supermarket chains in Tenerife, Carrefour have banned plastic carrier bags, the first store to do so on the island. Saturday 14 November was the last day the old bags were being issued.

Some 75,000Â re-usable bags have been issued to customers for continued use, they can be used up to 15 times and even then, they can be re-cycled after they are worn out. The old style carrier bags can take up to 400 years to bio degrade.

Tenerife Cabildo takes lead in coast clean

Thanks to some 470 volunteers and a strong lead from the Tenerife government, 800 kilos of rubbish was removed from beaches around the island during this summer.

This is the third year of the “La Mar de Limpia” initiative, prompted by the Office of Participation and Voluntary Environmental Work. The teams picked the busiest tourism summer months, when discarded rubbish can be a big problem. The scheme helped to mobilise local groups and to show visitors the damage they can cause.

The main beaches targeted were La Ballenita and Las Arenas in Buenavista del Norte, Puertito de Guimar,San Telmo on Puerto de la Cruz, and Playa de la Arena in Santiago del Teide . The rubbish came in many forms, from paper to heavier iron and metal objects, local diving teams helped to ensure that the sea bed got a  good spring clean too. Hopefully those who witnessed the clean up will be more careful in their daily activities, now they have seen the effect it can have.

Arona leads the way in clean up fight

There’s a recycling revolution going on in Arona, the southern municipality of Tenerife. The council has embraced sustainable principles by providing a wealth of collection points where paper, glass, plastics and other waste can be seperated for easy treatment.

Arona includes the tourist hot spots of Los Cristianos and part of Las Americas, so produces lots of waste on a commercial level. The council have a free collection service to take cooking oil from bars and restaurants for recycling. Smaller domestic users now have a municipal waste depot near Buzanada where people can take a diverse range of waste and leave it free of charge. This covers batteries, paint, wood, metals and aerosols to name just a few.

The example set by Arona is alreadt being picked up by neighbouring councils, all helping to improve the future of Tenerife.