You Can Help Study Microplastics Pollution

October 05, 2015

This is a guest post written by our friend Gregg Treinish, founder of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, a non-profit organization that mobilizes the outdoor community to gather and share scientific data that drives conservation around the world. The photo above was taken by Henry Worobec/Bridger Brigade.

On a sunny weekend in September, nearly 60 volunteers gathered on the banks of the Gallatin River in Montana to learn about an emerging pollutant that threatens their local river, as well as all the world’s waterways: microplastics. And they were there to do something about it.

Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) brought them together for the first in a series of water sampling missions targeted at better understanding the distribution and type of this pollution in the Gallatin watershed. Ultimately, we plan to use this information to reduce the amount of microplastics pollution entering the watershed. (You can learn more here.)

Draining from Yellowstone National Park, the Gallatin is the headwaters of the largest river system in the lower 48, the Missouri-Mississippi. So the data our volunteers gather will truly make a difference locally while also affecting global ecosystem health.

What are Microplastics? Classified as plastic particles smaller than 5mm in size, microplastics have been found in abundance in marine waters. Since early 2013, ASC ocean adventurers have gathered samples from the world’s most remote oceans (check out our sampling map here), and our scientist has found microplastic pollution in roughly 95% of them.

Very little is known about microplastics in freshwater, which is why we expanded our research to study rivers, lakes and streams this spring. We want to find the sources of the pollution, and turn off that faucet.

Why Microplastics Matter. The tiny plastics attract toxins including DDT and BPA, which then enter the food chain when the particles are ingested by aquatic life. The toxins magnify as they move from smaller plankton and filter feeders up to larger fish and animals.

How Do They Enter the Water? Maybe you’ve heard of microbeads—the plastic particles manufactured as scrubbing agents for many cosmetics, toothpastes and household cleaners. With several state bans on products containing them, most recently in California, they have been in the news. This is good progress; however, other sources of microplastics are more prolific.

As you might suspect, much of this pollution comes from the weathering of larger plastic debris like bags and bottles. It breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, but it never disappears, instead becoming an aquatic plastic fog. Perhaps the most surprising source is clothing. Every time you wash your clothes, hundreds or even thousands of plastic fibers shed from the synthetic pieces. They’re so small they wash right through the washing machine filters, through water treatment, and directly into the outflow. A fleece jacket can shed up to 1,900 microfibers per wash, according to a study by leading microplastics researcher Mark Browne.

Together We Can Make Change. This is a problem on the scale of climate change—and yet at this point, we know very little about it. Now is the time to act.

I founded ASC in 2011 with a dream of putting to work skilled outdoorsmen and women gathering data for conservation, and we’ve done just that, retrieving hard-to-obtain data from some of the most remote places on the planet for projects involving both wildlife and habitat health. Our work in microplastics has strengthened my convictions that together we truly can change the face of conservation. Already, we have more than 1,000 samples from geographically diverse locations. Soon, we will be able to use this information to leverage change. Join us. 

Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation is a nonprofit organization that mobilizes the outdoor community to gather and share scientific data, driving conservation worldwide. Gregg Treinish is ASC’s founder and executive director.

Thursday Getaway: Outdoor Afro in the Arctic

August 27, 2015

We're continually inspired by the work that Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp does to build a broader community and encourage more diversity outdoors. Today, we're excited to see Rue in this beautiful short video from Sierra Club, where she speaks about the fact that before anyone can work to conserve or protect something, they must first feel a connection to it. The Upworthy post that features Rue in this video puts it this way: 


"At the core of any kind of caring, there has to have been a relationship," she says.To further connect with the land, Rue suggests a second step: connecting with our histories. "All of us in the United States, usually within a few generations," she says, "has significant ties and connections to land."



Thursday Getaway: What's Your Important Place?

August 20, 2015

Earlier this month, we spent several days at Outdoor Retailer, a trade show in Salt Lake City that brings outdoor brands and non-profits together in one place for several busy, fun and friend-filled days. Outdoor Retailer can also be a great place to find out about new products, new initiatives and new partnerships; it's when many organizations and brands reveal and celebrate what's happening in their worlds. This summer, we were excited to learn of a new collaboration between one of our favorite non-profits, American Rivers, and the always outstanding kayak, SUP, rafting (and much more) brand, NRS. Through this partnership, both American Rivers and NRS hope to help "protect and sustain the rivers, creeks and canyons that matter most," as they put it on a recent blog post


This year at OR, NRS and American Rivers held a Happy Hour to celebrate their new partnership, and when some of the Klean Kanteen staff swung by, we were asked one simple question: "What's your Important Place?" or "What river means the most to you?" All of us had a river place that came to mind immediately, which also made us smile and reminisce about why this particular spot was so special to us. Take a look at just a few of our important places, above. And be sure to take a few minutes to see the myriad important places others remembered when asked the very same question, here

So, What's Your Important Place? We invite you to recall the river that means the most to you, and to consider what your important place is. Share it with us on social media or, if you can, go visit it this weekend and create more river memories you'll never forget in your important place. 


#NON-PROFIT #ThursdayGetaway

Thursday Getaway: Beat the Bead

July 10, 2015

Beat the Bead from 5 Gyres on Vimeo.


At this point in the week, we suspect you're in the mood to get out and enjoy the world outside of your computer screen, but it's Thursday, and you can't – yet. Don't despair! We've got just the thing to make you smile, daydream or draw inspiration from for your weekend, which is just around the corner.

Take four minutes today to watch the video above and, once it's over, consider what might be in your exfoliating face and body wash, or even your toothpaste. These tiny beads are made of plastic (polyethylene to be exact), and they're wreaking havoc on our waterways while causing unknown amounts of damage to our bodies.

Here at Klean Kanteen, we're advocates for eliminating as much single-use waste as possible, and proponents of finding sustainable solutions to existing plastic waste problems. So, because microbeads simply don't break down, we're with 5 Gyres when they say: let's ban the bead

Take some time this Thursday to learn, take a stand and become part of the solution. Sign the petition to beat the bead for good right here, right now. 


Klean Voices: Swimming in the Bermuda Triangle and Talking Trash!

July 03, 2015

It’s been about a week since I returned from my life-changing trip through the Caribbean, and I’m still processing everything I saw and the fantastic people I met. My leg of the 5 Gyres expedition, which sailed from the Bahamas to Bermuda to study ocean plastics, was exceptional. The people who joined me on this journey were no less outstanding; musician and ocean ambassador Jack Johnson, Patagonia ambassadors Dan and Keith Malloy, along with Kimi Werner and The Legend Mark Cunningham, were all there for the ride. Together, we were joined by an incredible gathering of youth activists, nonprofit organizations and responsible brands such as ChicoBag and LUSH cosmetics, all of which came together to learn more about the issue of plastics in our ocean, share our passion for the ocean and discuss ways that we can share this important story with the world. We had a documentary film crew with us and a journalist aboard the ship, both of whom captured great footage and conversations along the way.

We sailed 850 nautical miles while sampling the water’s surface for plastics, and we didn’t pull up a single trawl that didn’t contain plastic fragments; as many as 700 pieces showed up in a single sample! None of this came as a surprise to me based on the information I have, yet this journey has moved me in ways that I never expected. I often give talks on plastic pollution, sharing the data provided to me by 5 Gyres. But this time, I was the student and not the teacher. I found myself often sitting in silence, watching and listening (not my usual demeanor if you know me at all), absorbing all the information and knowledge I could. Our days were filled with inspiring conversation and scientific research, and our nights with spontaneous jam sessions and laughter with newfound friends.

My trip also had land legs, and we were blessed to spend time on beautiful beaches and swim in the most crystal blue water I’ve ever seen. We spent time with local students on the beaches doing research and enjoyed the hospitality of the communities along the way, who are also very concerned about the issue of plastics and how it affects their islands.

So, what exactly did I learn while I was out there? Well, here’s my big takeaway… What you see is not what you get. The ocean and beaches look perfect at first glance. They are so inviting and appear so healthy. But time after time, with a closer look we saw the real damage and effect humans and our habits are having on the ecosystem. Sure, we saw some large pieces of plastic and things we recognized from our daily lives just floating about, but more often, we saw this confetti of sorts, a smog of plastic–both in the water and on the shore. What's more, this plastic confetti is too tiny to clean up with any machine or net, and too constantly flowing into our waters to ever really make a difference with clean-up efforts.

I don’t say these things to be a Debbie Downer or to make people feel there is no hope. In fact, I feel quite the opposite. This trip has left me inspired and hopeful. Our ocean will heal herself if we just give her a chance. We have to make a change in the way we live our lives and in the choices we make every day. We must shop smart. We have to refuse single-use items that live forever after we throw them “away." So, reuse and repurpose whenever you can. Teach what you learn and lead by example, and in doing so, we can all play a part in healing this BLUEtiful planet.

Klean Voice Contributor Caroleigh Pierce is the Nonprofit Outreach Manager at Klean Kanteen, and quite possibly the most naturally energetic human on the planet. Caroleigh is incredibly skilled at aligning Klean Kanteen with nonprofits that do incredible things, and her passion for fostering these relationships is simply beautiful. 


Klean Voices: Klean Kanteen On the Open Seas

June 01, 2015

“I’m about to sail through the Atlantic Ocean!” These are words I never, ever thought I would speak out loud. Soon I will be joining our partners at the 5 Gyres Institute on the second leg of their S.E.A. Change Expedition, sailing for approximately eight days from the Bahamas to Bermuda. I will be in good company on my leg of this trip, alongside musician Jack Johnson, documentary filmmaker Ian Cheney and several other change-makers from both the business and the nonprofit worlds. We're all hitting the pause button on our everyday lives and coming together to share our passion for the big blue ocean. 

This is the 16th research expedition for 5 Gyres, and is yet another effort to collect important scientific data on marine plastic pollution while inspiring leaders in conservation. Before we set sail, I will personally be participating in a three-day Youth Plastic Summit at the Island School in the Bahamas with both local and international students. Of course, we'll also be celebrating World Oceans Day on this amazing Island. I have no doubt that it's going to be awesome!

I have several goals for myself on this trip; I want to soak up all the knowledge possible about the issue of plastic debris in our ocean, build relationships with people who have a passion for taking care of the planet and its people and, of course: try not to throw up! I’m not going to pretend that I’m not a little nervous about the trip or the things I will leave behind. My family. I have a wonderful and supportive husband and four great children, and my first grandbaby is due while I’m out at sea. My Inbox. Since I’ve started working at Klean, I haven't ever unplugged for this long. I admit it: I have a tough time “checking out.” My comfort zone. I am a bit of a control freak and feel pretty confident and in control of most aspects of my life at home and at work. Somehow, I know I will have to give up all of these things to really make the most of this trip.

But, oh, all the things I will gain! Like the first stamp in my passport, my first sailing experience on the open water, an opportunity to observe and measure the problem first-hand alongside experts in the field and a pocketful of memories that will most likely change my life forever.

I am excited and hopeful for the knowledge I will gain and the information and voice I can bring back with me to share out with our community to inspire and create solutions. My job at Klean has taken me to places I never thought I’d go, and allowed me to meet people I never thought I would call my friends. I am truly blessed and inspired to be alive and present every day.

To learn more about the entire three legs of the expedition, our goals on this voyage and to support the work of 5 Gyres, please check out their website!

Klean Voice Contributor Caroleigh Pierce is the Nonprofit Outreach Manager at Klean Kanteen, and quite possibly the most naturally energetic human on the planet. Caroleigh is incredibly skilled at aligning Klean Kanteen with nonprofits that do incredible things, and her passion for fostering these relationships is simply beautiful.