EOCA’s Future Focus

An article following the launch of EOCA's evolution and launch last week of its new 2 year focus campaign Plastic Free: Mountain to Sea

EOCA’s vision: The outdoor sector and the millions of people who enjoy the great outdoors are active champions for the conservation of nature and wild places is about taking responsibility for our planet’s environments and being involved in looking after them.  Since EOCA started in 2006, the environmental, political and social arenas have changed drastically and created an era of global uncertainty.  It is therefore vital that EOCA evolves accordingly, addressing the environmental issues facing the outdoor sector. 

The outdoor industry is a values-led industry, which needs to define very strongly what it believes in and how it is working to achieve that.  In terms of conservation and sustainability, the industry must make a stand and speak out for the protection of landscapes and wild places, which are not only its enjoyment and passion, but also its livelihood.  This is a central part of the outdoor industry; this is what EOCA stands for and EOCA believes it is its responsibility to act – with and on behalf of the outdoor industry.

As part of this evolution to become a more prominent organisation and following on from the success of the 2 Million Tree project – which set itself the ambitious target of raising enough funds to plant 2 million trees around the world – the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) is delighted to be launching its new focus:  Plastic Free: Mountain to Sea.

300 million tonnes of plastic are produced annually globally, 8 million tonnes of which enter the oceans each year.  80% of marine plastics originates from land sources – impacting on all habitats and wild places and threatening wildlife, food safety, human health and contributing to climate change.  The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) considers palstic marine debris and its ability to transport harmful substances as one of the main emerging issues affecting the environment.

Plastic pollution is found in mountains, around crags, along and in rivers and lakes, forests and beaches impacting disastrously on wildlife and blighting every type of habitat and landscape enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts.  Ultimately, a lot of the plastic waste will find its way to lakes and rivers and ultimately end up in the oceans.  100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds are killed every year through entanglement or by ingesting plastic litter.

With this in mind, EOCA will work with its members and the European outdoor industry to clean up plastic waste from habitats from the summits of mountains to the shores of the seas, whilst also reducing their use of everyday single-use plastics.  This will be in conjunction with educating and inspiring outdoor enthusiasts to get involved to combat the issues.

The spring 2019 round of projects funded by EOCA will fund conservation charities to carry out waste clean up projects around the world.  Meeting EOCA’s usual funding criteria, these projects will raise awareness about the issues of plastic waste, educate and train people to reduce their use of it, work with local communities to address a specific threat caused by the plastic waste, have a link to the outdoor enthusiast and leave a legacy once EOCA funding comes to an end.  Not just cosmetic exercises, these projects will have longer lasting impacts, changing attitudes and behaviour.

EOCA will coordinate a calendar of clean up events and activities that companies are organising themselves, and that companies and consumers alike can get involved in.  These could be general beach cleans or clean ups targeted at specific activities such as mountain races, trails to climbing crags or rivers and lakes used by paddlesports.

Working with its members and the outdoor industry, EOCA will provide guidance to companies wanting to reduce their everyday single-use plastics – in their offices, at tradeshows and by imndividual employees.  Companies will be able to sign up to pledges to commit to reducing their in house plastic waste.  This work will complement that being done by the Single Use Plastics Project being run under the umbrella of Retail Meets Brand an initiative of the EOG, looking at single use plastics in supply chains, as well as the EOG sustainability group and its work on microfibres, to make sure all areas of single use plastic are covered but not duplicated.  Meetings with ISPO on reducing plastics during the shows there are also planned with the Messe itself and a number of brands.

Engaging outdoor enthusiasts is another strand to this two year focus, which will be covered by the creation and communication of guidance to encourage the reduction in use of everyday single-use plastic in outdoor spaces and at home:  picking up litter when out in wild landscapes and getting involved in clean up events local to them.  EOCA will also work with IGOT and other organisations to promote ethical excerice, combining exercise and clean up actions, as well as relevant events through their communication channels.

As with EOCA’s 2 Million Tree Campaign, a public fundraiser will be launched to enable the public and brands to raise money and awareness of a specific project from EOCA’s current funding round, giving outdoor enthusiasts and the outdoor industry ownership of a particular project to donate to or fundraise for.

Finally, following on from the international bodies (such as the UN Declaration on Forests, The Hague Principles on Earth Trusteeship) interested in the work being carried out by EOCA on its 2 Million Tree Project, EOCA will work with and endorse a number of other organsiations and initiatves during the 2 year focus to generate and share relevant information, increasing the impact that the outdoor industry has on this issue, raising awareness of what the industry is doing to address it and giving EOCA a louder voice on this global issue.

The headline target for this Focus is that EOCA and its members will collectively clear 3000km of habitat, trail and beach of plastic waste and pollution over the next 2 years.  That is the distance from the Mediterranean coast to Lapland!  An ambitious target, but one EOCA looks forward to delivering with its members.