This is fishing – with a twist. I’m in a bright yellow boat, made entirely from recycled plastic, touring around the canals of Amsterdam. And my role? To use my net to fish plastic bottles, plastic bags and all other kinds of waste from the waterways.
I’m feeling a mix of emotions: partly proud and inspired by the environmental activism we’re undertaking; partly saddened by the sheer scale and ubiquity of the problem. But positivity is the over-riding theme of the day. As we travel through the heart of Amsterdam, crowds of tourists lining the canals clap and cheer. One young man, pint of lager in hand, shouts out “great work guys – thanks for what you’re doing”. Public opinion has turned on the plastic problem, it would appear – and outdoor brand Keen is, well, keen to do its bit too. Good on them.
“We hope we can encourage and foster environmental activism”
The company, best known for its sandals, shoes and hiking boots, has launched the inaugural Better Takes Action Boat Tour: a European-wide tour of its plastic-fishing boat, coupled with events designed to inspire the public to take action to protect outdoor spaces. The unique boat, which is made from recycled Amsterdam canal plastic, including a hull comprised of hundreds of bottle caps, will visit several key European cities throughout the Netherlands, Germany and the UK across Spring and Summer 2019.
“Why are you doing this?”, I ask Perry, marketing director at Keen’s European headquarters in Rotterdam, as we both fish out floating plastic bottles from the canal. “Because it’s fun and worthwhile – and because we’re not just here to make shoes, we want to make the world a better place”, he replies. I nod in agreement – and find myself feeling admiration for the campaign.
I load up an email on my phone, which outlines the official party line on the project. It’s of a similar tone:
“Preserving and protecting the places where people work and play in the outdoors has always been at the heart of who we are as a brand, so we are thrilled to be launching the Better Takes Action Boat Tour. Over the years we have endeavoured to always lead by example, supporting and engaging with a variety of interventions including beach and mountain clean-ups and donating funds and products for disaster relief across the world. We hope through the tour we can encourage and foster environmental activism and, in particular, by aiming to work with children and young people during the tour, Keen can also help to nurture a future generation of planet stewards.”
Keen has partnered with social enterprise Plastic Whale, the first professional plastic fishing company in the world, and record-breaking paddle-boarder Cal Major, founder of Paddle Against Plastic, on the Better Takes Action Boat Tour. Cal, an environmental campaigner who aims to inspire others to care for the environment through adventure, is sporting a broad smile as she gets stuck in to the plastic-collecting mission.
“You’re in your element, aren’t you?”, I probe. “It’s amazing – this is such a positive action, and it gives me hope and pride in being part of the solution”, she replies enthusiastically.
Cal will be accompanying Keen during all legs of the Better Takes Action Boat Tour this summer, enabling fans to join her on the boat and learn more about how communities and individuals can work together to take action to tackle plastic pollution at source.
She was also present as the series kicked off on April 5 in Keen’s European home, the Netherlands. The event saw the boat make its maiden voyage on the canals of Amsterdam, with volunteers, friends, partners and brand ambassadors enjoying an afternoon fishing and helping to keep the city’s canals free of plastic. Future tour dates include:
Germany, Hamburg – 22nd June
Germany, München – 30th June
UK, London – 13th July
Designed to raise awareness of sustainability issues and inspire and engage people to get outside and protect outdoor spaces together, the Better Takes Action Boat Tour will give members of the public a hands-on opportunity to help address plastic pollution. During the tour, Keen is inviting the public to get aboard the boat and get involved in a ‘fishing excursion’, helping to clean up polluted waterways.
All waste collected will be harvested, recycled and subsequently re-purposed for a future life, courtesy of Plastic Whale. The German legs of the journey will also be supported by the Clean River Project, a non-profit environmental and educational charity that strives to reduce plastic pollution in German waterways.