Local Hero – Kleri

Our next local hero is Kleri Downward from Clean Blue Paros, an organisation tackling plastic pollution and supported by the Cyclades Preservation Fund

 

Tell us a bit more about Clean Blue Paros.

Founded by Common Seas as part of Clean Blue Alliance, Clean Blue Paros is a ground-breaking collaboration between Paros Municipality, local businesses, WATT, HERRco, WWF Greece, and the Cyclades Preservation Fund.

We tackle plastic pollution by driving new policy, demonstrating on-the-ground circular economy solutions, and changing how people use and dispose of plastic.

As our lighthouse project, Clean Blue Paros inspires and supports other island communities – in Greece and around the world – to chart a course to healthy seas.

We are supporting over 100 local business to reduce or eliminate their single-use plastics, by delivering systems that promote reusing and the circular economy.

 

What inspires your work?

I feel called to this work in a way that I can’t quite explain. The simple answer is that I do this work because I can’t not do it.

I was raised in the sea and in the soil – it’s hard for me to see myself without the natural world around me. But I was not always aware of the problems it faced. As I grew, the separation between people and planet became increasingly obvious and problematic.

Over the last few years I progressively learnt things of the environmental degradation, human health complications, and infringement of social justice caused by plastic production and pollution. I now see myself as a part of the collective responsibility and effort we need in order to approach and resolve the crises that we face.

Of course, this is not only a problem to tackle on Paros, but doing this work on the local level has also allowed me to become more embedded in my community, become attuned to its people and our needs, and understand the cultural contexts that will influence how change can be enacted.

I do this work because it gives me hope, because it makes me feel empowered, because we all deserve healthy seas.

 

How has CPF helped you?

CPF has supported us financially to create Business engagement materials and informational guides for businesses on single-use plastic reductions, as well as our COVID and reusables guide which advises businesses on how they can continue offering reusable options safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CPF has also been instrumental in communicating the work that we do to their ever-growing network of island communities, helping to spread our message and inspire others to follow our initiative and join our cause.

 

What is the biggest challenge you face?

On Paros alone we have audited well over 40,000 square meters of coastline to identify the worst plastic offenders, enlisted more than 100 businesses to reduce their use of plastic, delivered our educational program to all 13 schools along with a reusable bottle for every student and teacher, communicated our research into the islands tap water that indicated it’s safe to drink, used our reusable Community Dishes to remove single-use plastics from island festivals, avoiding 8,000 items at just one event!

We consider all of these to be great successes that are shaping daily life and the future of the island that we call home.

What has been a challenge is getting the public to learn about our work and participate alongside us. There are still many who do not yet know about our project, aren’t aware of the problems we are trying to tackle, or aren’t ready to change their life-long habits to avoid single-use plastics. While Clean Blue Paros was meant to be a pilot project of 3 years, this long-term awareness raising and behaviour change requires long-term commitment.

Furthermore, for our work to reach maximum impact we need our learnings and achievements on Paros to be replicated and scaled across Greece. We are currently working on a toolkit that will take our project to 5 more Greek islands.