Instead of participating in Black Friday, the biggest shopping event of the year, an alternative is gaining momentum. Blue Friday, held on the same day as Black Friday, is an attempt at bringing our Earth back into focus on a day that typically promotes hyper consumerism, fast fashion and over consumption. The movement began in Victoria, in 2019, with the mission of raising both awareness and funds in order to have a tangible impact on ocean conservation initiatives.
Since its inception, Blue Friday has raised over $65,000 and donated to projects like Surfrider Foundation’s Dock the Debris Program as well as their Foam Free Docks Projects. This has been enough to fund 3 Sea Bins and the replacement of EPS foam at 2 dock locations. These projects have been monumental in fighting plastic pollution on Vancouver Island, and have helped to reveal one of the main culprits of ocean pollution in the area - read on to find out what it is!
In this blog post we will be describing the impact of Blue Friday from the past three years. To jump to a year, click on of the links below:
To stay up to date on Blue Friday, please visit blue-friday.ca and follow their Instagram page @blue_friday.ca. If you are interested in participating as a brand, sponsor or volunteer please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
For the first ever Blue Friday in 2019, 7 local Vancouver Island businesses joined forces and raised a total of $15,203 - each brand donating a percentage of sales to the cause. The proceeds were donated to Surfrider Vancouver Island’s Rise Above Plastics (RAP) program, which focuses on tackling plastic pollution with long term strategies, such as advocacy, education and action.
Simply put, Seabins are essentially floating garbage bins suitable for calm water environments, such as marinas. Water is circulated through the Seabin with a water pump system. Surface water is drawn from the top of the bin and then passes through a filter as it is released back into the marine environment through the bottom of the bin. The filtration system collects trash, microplastics <2 mm, and even contains oil absorbent pads that collect surface oils and detergents! One seabin is estimated to capture 1.4 tons of debris a year or 3.9 kgs per day. For more information on Seabins, please visit their website.
The following year, 9 brands participated in Blue Friday. Despite the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, the businesses raised another $11,613 which funded the purchase of an additional seabin for the North Saanich marina.
As part of the Dock the Debris campaign, Surfrider collaborated with the University of Victoria to assess the debris collected by the seabins. Students from UVic supported four data collections of the two North Saanich Maria Seabins. One of the bins, installed on the northern dock, collected an average of 923 foam fragments per day. The other seabin, collected an average of 5,611 foam fragments per day. Together, the estimated annual foam fragments is around 2.5 million.
As a result of the Dock the Debris campaign led by Surfrider and made possible by Blue Friday, this study was able to identify one of the main sources of debris in the marinas' waters: Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), also known as Styrofoam™. Another study on microplastics in BC shorelines, completed by Environment and Climate Change Canada and Ocean Diagnostics, discovered that an estimated 81% of microplastic pollution present in Vancouver Island's southern beaches is polystyrene.
Where is all this EPS foam coming from? How can we stop the issue at the source?
It happens that around 80% floatation devices in BC, like docks, are made of EPS foam. Unfortunately, EPS erodes rapidly, and releases fragments and microplastics into the marine environment. Now that the source of plastic pollution has become clear, the next step for Surfrider Foundation and Blue Friday was to tackle the issue right at the source: un-encapsulated EPS docks.
With the stresses of the pandemic subsiding, and Blue Friday beginning to gain momentum in the community and across North America, 40 brands participated with the goal of raising $12,000 to help fund Surfrider Pacific Rim’s Foam Free Docks campaign. This project would remove the un-encapsulated EPS docks at Tofino’s First Street Dock and replace it with floats that utilize air-filled HDPE pipes.
Replacing these dock floats is important not only to stop plastic pollution, but EPS – a petroleum based plastic – leaches other toxic chemicals like styrene and benzene into aquatic ecosystems, adversely affecting marine life and communities that rely on them.
Together the brands wildly exceeded their goal, and raised $40,183! Enough to double their impact. They were able to raise enough to replace both the Tofino First Street Dock and, and the Dock at Big Tree Trail at Wanachus-Hilthuuis (Meares Island)! Located on Tla-o-qui-aht Land as part of a designated Tribal Park, this dock acts as a landing spot for a First Nation’s flagship visitor experience.
As this journey to remove EPS foam from our oceans continues, inevitably, the foam collected needs somewhere to go. EPS foam is difficult to recycle and currently the closest recycling facility is in Richmond, BC, off island. This year Blue Friday is working with Surfrider Pacific Rim to build a Marine Styrofoam Processing Facility based in Ucluelet on Vancouver Island. The Building will have the capacity to clean, grind, and process marine plastics and foam into usable products - like surfboards! Offcuts and material that are too contaminated to be upcycled will be ground down and compressed, making it far more cost- effective to ship to the chemical recycler.
Since funds raised last year far exceeded the goal, there is now a secondary project in place for monies raised beyond what the primary project requires. For this Blue Friday is partnering with Living Oceans, an organization that carries out beach cleanups in remote environments only accessible by air travel. This project will focus on an expedition to the Scott Islands (just off Cape Scott) to remove marine debris that is impacting foreshore and intertidal areas of this important refuge for seabirds and marine mammals. The recent spill of cargo from the container ship Zim Kingston has left the remote area on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island littered with plastic, metal and other consumer items.
Collectively between both projects, Blue Friday is aiming to raise $100,000! To help, make your Black Friday purchases Blue this year by supporting sustainable businesses that are participating in the initiative. Check out the full list of participating brands here.