The foundation and the people
By the Ocean
Plastic pollution has become one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. Worldwide, on average eight billion kilos of plastics end up in our oceans every year – that is 23.000 kilos every single minute(!). Those plastics – ranging from large to microscopically small – cause devastating effects on the environment, animals and possibly ourselves. We no longer want to be on the sidelines.
By the Ocean we Unite is a Dutch foundation with charitable status (ANBI) that contributes to preventing more plastics from ending up in our oceans. Through the organization of a variety of activities – sailing expeditions, lectures, documentaries & more (see below) – we conduct research, create awareness, educate and activate people, organisations and governments to make much needed changes. By joining forces with partners worldwide we increase our outreach and positive impact. Join us on our journey and help protecting our oceans, the animals and ourselves from plastic pollution.
How it all started..
Our founder, Thomas van Thiel, has been a passionate sailor and lover of our oceans almost his entire life. In 2014 he fulfilled a lifelong dream: crossing the ”The Pond” (Atlantic Ocean) on a sailing ship. When the crew was ten days out, with another ten ahead before they would reach land again, Thomas saw a plastic bottle floating by. This hit him hard, something man-made, that far from civilization. His eyes were opened and from that moment on he started to see plastic pollution everywhere. His beloved oceans were sick and he wanted to do something about it: in the beginning of 2016 his foundation ”By the Ocean we Unite” was born.
Our vision is a world where no plastic ends up in nature anymore. A world with healthy oceans and animals (including ourselves) where we, as humans, collectively protect that where we came from: our oceans.
Our mission is to take people out to our oceans and seas, be it real-life or digitally, and make them aware of the plastic soup our waters have turned into. Through conducting scientific research we want to the increase knowledge on the causes and consequences of marine plastic pollution. To really prevent plastic from being discarded in nature we provide the general public with tips to change their behaviour. To increase our positive impact we combine forces with many individuals and organisations worldwide.
We’re currently an enthusiastic and dedicated team of 16 volunteers (not everyone is on this page yet) , trying to stop the flow of plastics to our oceans. Some of us are working (almost) full-time for the foundation, while others are working part-time next to their ‘real’ job. Our binding and motivating factor: a deep love for our planet, the oceans and all life within!
I’m a passionate sailor and traveler with a big love for nature. I was shocked and upset when I saw what is happening to our oceans. I needed to do something, so I started By the Ocean we Unite to combine sailing and the love for our ocean, to stimulate each other to take action. We’ve had a successful first expedition, that gave a lot of new insights. There’s still a lot to do, but I believe when we will all unite with eachother we can prevent plastics from coming into our oceans.
From fishing with my dad when I was a little boy to (free)diving and working on marine conservation projects in recent years, our waters and all life within have always had a huge attraction to me. By the Ocean we Unite combines adventure, profound experiences in nature and a lot of good people with actively contributing to the solution of one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. I’m happy and proud to use my broad background in among others the fields of events, PR, sustainability and tourism to work towards our goal: stopping the flow of plastics ending up in our oceans.
My name is Franka, 30 years of age and I am responsible for all financial and back-office related activities. My official job description is to be the treasurer of the foundation. I love doing this for By the Ocean we Unite because our volunteers are working hard to reach our goal; to stop plastic pollution. It’s my job to make sure everybody can do his or her part by enabling them financially or by being a communication channel for the board.
And of course I am responsible for all financial matters, and to communicate our financial statements to the public.
Having recently finished my PhD in coral reef ecology, I felt that more effort should be taken in bringing scientific knowledge to the general public. There are a number of major problems in the oceans and the general public hardly hears what scientists are discovering about them. Through a shared acquaintance, Thomas got in touch with me and told me that he was looking for a marine biologist for a new foundation which would spread the word on the issue of marine plastic pollution through sailing expeditions. I was happy to join him and the other enthusiastic team members of By the Ocean we Unite and I can not wait to see where this rapidly growing adventure will take us.
I am a filmmaker with a background in social sciences and anthropology. When I met Thomas, it all came together: my goal to contribute to a new collective consciousness, my love for the ocean and my wish to experience sailing at open sea. I so much enjoy using film as an instrument to raise awareness and inspire people to take action. Together with our team I make sure we communicate By the Ocean we Unite’s message to the world and give people the tools to contribute to cleaner oceans.
“We didn’t inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children” – Chief Seattle. As a great lover of the sea, the ocean and the earth it hurts me intensively that littering plastic has disastrous consequences for nature and wildlife. Through my commitment to By the Ocean we Unite, I hope to make young people aware of the fragility of our planet and to inspire them to transfer this wonderful structure with the greatest care to our children. Do you stand up for the earth with us?
I’m passionate about sailing, flying gliders and nature and dedicated to growing the BTOWU online community. I want to create more awareness for plastic pollution and seek more interaction with our followers. Small actions from many people can change the world, if we unite, share our knowledge and take action.
Being a water and boat dweller I coincidentally got to know By the Ocean we Unite and embarked on the first expedition ‘Up to Norway’ as an expedition member. Along the way I not only got to know the foundation and its members, but also the goals, views and beliefs they share. Instinctively I knew this expedition wouldn’t be the end of it. From contributing with my own views and opinions as a fairly level-headed outsider, to carrying out the message and activities of By the Ocean we Unite as a videographer and graphic designer from within the organisation, I’m more than happy to be part of this incredible team.
My love for the ocean and urge to explore yet protect it, made me study Marine Biology. I love to learn about the underwater world and to be able to explain how ecosystems work. My latest research was conducted in warmer waters with lots of diving. Every day in the field we would kayak to our research spot. During these kayaking trips I saw a lot of plastic floating in the water, which was easily mistaken as a food source by turtles. I realized that my research was fun and interesting, but I missed action and a greater goal. I am happy that I can join this crew of like-minded enthusiastic people while using my scientific knowledge, and hopefully feel more useful in our battle for cleaner oceans.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead. I am 25 years old and a law graduate. I am in charge of organizing screenings for the documentaries of BTOWU and providing legal assistance. From a very young age I have been passionate about preserving the nature our precious planet holds. Industrialization and the rapid increase of our population have created many challenges that may feel insurmountable at times. One of those challenges is the plastic pollution of our oceans. I am very glad that I was able to join the team of BTOWU, which is full of inspiring people. It has opened my eyes to see that together with all the like-minded people in the world, we can come up with more solutions than there are problems. Positivity and awareness together are the key.
Born and raised in Slovenian countryside, among thick woods, mountains, cleanest rivers, lakes and Adriatic sea, I grew up with a strong sense of consciousness about unspoiled nature. City life in one of the most densely populated areas in Europe has made me realise even more of the impact we have on the planet and the urgency of preserving the nature and its diversity. In one of the public events in Amsterdam, Thomas, Karl and Nanne presented BTOWU and I immediately got hooked on their contagious enthusiasm. It’s amazing to be a part of this fantastic team, where scientists, activists, dreamers, environmental enthusiasts share the common passion and search for ways of protecting our planet.
By the Ocean we Unite is made possible by a lot more people!