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The Future Is Bright and Plastic Free With the Schippers Brothers

Kindhumans Profiles

The Future Is Bright and Plastic Free With the Schippers Brothers

Hans and Nick Schippers are on a mission to educate the next generation about plastic pollution and inspire it to action. They are driving along the west coast of the United States and Canada in an old converted school bus and speaking at elementary and high schools to teach kids about what they can do to help fight plastic pollution (sponsored by Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii [SCH]; called the “Schroadtrip”). We talked them into stopping the bus for a while and telling us a little more about their journey. -KH

 

What inspired you to start this journey?

Hans: After graduating from the University of Hawaii with a BA in environmental economics and political science I was fortunate to land a job in solar energy. I quickly realized that this was not implementing change in the way that I had thought it would be and I knew that I could do more. 

As a lifelong waterman I realized the fate of our oceans was at great risk and that the only option for me was to take a stand and fight for them. Taking what I learned from working with the Surfrider Foundation and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii I wanted to set out to do something that truly made a difference in the fight against plastic pollution. I called Kahi [the founder of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii] and presented the idea of driving up the west coast of the US to surf and educate students about plastic pollution and the associated effects on marine environments. I called my brother and insisted that he join me. One month later we were off to the races with a goal to educate 10,000 students!

Nick: Hans called me one day and said he had an idea. His idea was to scale the educational component of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and bring it to the mainland. In short, it was a way to take a 6 month surf trip down the west coast of the US while doing something meaningful and different that would set us up for future work in this field.

Having spent the last seven years pursuing my undergraduate degree in environmental studies and masters degree in environmental policy from the University of Washington, I was ecstatic at the idea of getting out of town and doing some traveling. While in school, I was working with the Surfrider Foundation and a shift of work from the policy field to more direct impact drew me in as something new. Noting the considerable increase in plastic pollution along the west coast at some of our local surf breaks, I felt that taking action on plastic pollution would be an easy and accessible way to bring coastal based communities into the conversation surrounding environmental issues.

 

“[We’re] making it fun and keeping it positive. From experience, we know that we cannot go into schools and communities with a doom and gloom approach for the future.”

– Hans Schippers

 

What makes you stoked to wake up every day?

Hans: The future — whether that be schools banning polystyrene lunch trays, students starting an environmental club, or communities we visited taking action in their own way. Knowing that the future will be better because of our impact is what keeps me going. I don’t want the future generations to grow up and not get to enjoy the most incredible place on earth, the oceans. I fall asleep easy at night knowing that I tried my best to contribute positive change towards a negative problem. 

Nick: I think for both of us the future generation of kids inspires us greatly and adds immense value to the work we are doing. We want to leave our youth with clean oceans so they can enjoy all the wonder that the oceans bring. Whether it be through sport, science, or even rest and rehabilitation, the oceans provide us with a physically and emotionally comforting environment that is critical to our own survival. This is worth protecting for generations to come.

What life lessons have you learned since starting the Schroadtrip?

Hans: I’ve learned to always consider other people’s lives and the circumstances they face every day when talking to them about plastic pollution. Nobody is perfect and they will do the best they can to make the changes they are capable of. On another note, I’ve learned to take some time to go outside and “get some ahhhhhhhh,” as [noted marine biologist and author] Dr. Wallace J Nichols would say. It serves as a constant reminder of how incredible this place truly is and why it is important to protect it! 

Nick: I’ve learned to keep things in perspective. With such a hectic world there are millions of ways to lose track or become distracted from issues like plastic pollution. At the end of the day we are all people and all we can do is our best. When trying to reduce our impact and be aware of environmental issues it is important to remember that change takes time, patience, and practice. Doing our best to change means different things on different days; being consistent and slowly improving makes a difference. It doesn’t happen overnight.

 

How do you approach the conversation around plastic pollution at schools?

Hans: It is not political! In this time of political chaos, we remind the students that solving plastic pollution in their school and in their community is not a matter of political standing but rather a value of taking care of the earth. We all need this place to survive!

Nick: Bringing plastic up as something that is tangible and that impacts us all. I think the cool part about plastic is that it is omnipresent in our world. Everybody sees plastic and is impacted by it in one way or another. When working with students, this aspect of plastic makes it easy to jump into solutions and get them thinking critically about how we can take action.

 

 

How do you think the kids in your program take the stoke they gained from your sessions into their everyday lives? Do parents ever get involved?

Hans: They leave the classroom and their school feeling fired up to do more and be the change that they wish to see in this world. Stoke is contagious and it is always so much better when that stoke about important issues like plastic pollution is shared with others, especially the younger generation. They bring this stoke out of the classroom and create a positive atmosphere as a school or group of friends by working to solve the problems of plastic pollution. Absolutely, we have parents reach out to thank us for our presentation and tell us stories about how their families are implementing changes into their daily lives. 

Nick: When we finish a presentation, one of our primary goals is to get the students to take what they have learned home and keep spreading the word. We always ask the students to think about just how easy it is to pass along the information they have learned. It doesn’t take much for them to realize that sharing the information we provide is both easy and worth it. The stoke we bring to the presentation is there specifically to create an environment that captivates our students and leaves an impression on them that they can share. We have heard back from countless parents, teachers, and others that the students we have taught have gone on to push for plastic reductions throughout their communities.

 

Over the past year your program has affected many lives, is there a certain story that sticks out in your mind? 

Hans: Yes! One that comes to my mind is the story of a girl at an Oregon school we visited who took action beyond her personal life. She was able to write a letter to a reusable water bottle company and in return received a donation of reusable water bottles to share with her classmates. To me this represents kindness and action in one. It is about community and she started with her individual action and took it a step further to build a better community. 

Nick: At one of the schools we worked with a young woman who went on to host a full blown community talk about the problem of plastic pollution. The community she was in was low income but tightly knit. They hosted monthly talks, somewhat like miniature Ted Talks, where adults and leading community figures could bring information to the public. After working with this student to help develop a slide show, she went on to lead one of these talks bringing simple solutions to her community so that they could work on reducing the amount of plastic they consumed. I can only imagine what this student is up to now, but knowing that we helped her lay the groundwork for this incredible action gives me hope that with enough education we can change the way that our society operates as a whole. 

 

What are some of the most surprising questions or comments you have gotten from the kids?

Hans: Some of the most ridiculous ones we come across are “can we just send all the plastic trash to space?” and “Can we send the trash into the sun?” They could be onto something but we remind them that these ideas are extremely difficult to do and are not the long term solution. We encourage them to think about how to be part of the solution locally, at school, in the community, and with their families.

Nick: Students always question whether we can blast the trash into space. They also always ask how tall we are. These questions aside I think the most surprising comments we have received have come from issues outside of or loosely related to plastic pollution. One student told us a story about how her Aunt would just throw fast food garbage out the car window and asked us what we could do to change that. Another student told us about how family issues at home have impacted them, and that plastic was honestly the last thing they had time to think about. These kinds of comments/questions motivate me to teach students in a way that is open ended and meets them where they are at. As a teacher you learn to remember that there is always a lot more to a student than what you initially see, and this is incredibly important to keep in mind to maintain an effective message.

 

What, in your experience, has the potential to inspire others to take action or create the most impact?

Hans: Making it fun and keeping it positive. From experience, we know that we cannot go into schools and communities with a doom and gloom approach for the future. Making it positive and leaving students and community members feeling motivated and inspired allows them to truly be the change they want to see! I live by the quote “Individual action effected upon millions equals results!

Nick: MAKE IT FUN! People want to engage with something that lets them feel like they are making a difference. If they can do that in a way that is fun it will be far more likely to draw other people in and that is when actual change is created. SO MAKE IT FUN!

 

What’s in store for the Schippers brothers in 2020?

Hans: VIVA 2020! We are already off to the races with hopes to educate 20,000 plus students on the West Coast of the United States! We will be engaging with more communities and schools through, not only educational outreach, but community cleanups as well. After this tour we will then work our way into Canada to run a series of cleanups across the country with the goal to inspire action in far removed places! 

Nick: With a goal to educate 20,000 students this year we are working to expand and get into more classrooms. Noting the current coronavirus outbreak and its impacts on schools, we are working with [ocean advocate organization] Parley to try and figure out how else we can reach out to students. We want to be cognizant of the issues they may be facing at home or as a community, but we want to work hard to provide kids with interesting and fun ways to engage with the material we offer and learn some good information while they are at it! We will be working to develop an online curriculum as well as spread the word through social media and other outlets. At the end of the day our goal is always to reach more students and begin creating generational change in the way our students learn about environmental issues like plastic pollution.

 

How does the Kindhumans community follow along your coastal school tour?

Hans: The best way to follow along with the tour is through our Instagram @schroadtrip and keep up with the global Parley network @parley.tv 

Nick: What Hans said!

 

What does kindness mean to you and how is it a part of your daily life?

Hans: Kindness is so, so important, especially in a time like today. Kindness to me means treating others around you with respect and bringing positive/inclusive intentions into society. In my life, kindness plays the role of helping one another through the good times and bad. It serves as a moral compass when choosing who to surround myself with as well as a way to lift others up and get them stoked! I show kindness by inviting people to be part of the conversation around plastic pollution as well as trying to contribute the best part of myself to society in order to make a better tomorrow. This for me starts with the simple things like saying hello to almost everyone and reminding people to have a great day. 

A smile a day, keeps the doctor away.” Kindness is infectious and we need kindness incorporated into everyone’s lives if we want to solve a lot of these issues we have today. 

Nick: Kindness to me is incredibly important and stretches beyond just being nice to one another. Kindness means having patience and a sense of understanding. It means that you treat those around you with respect and dignity. And it means you try and have a positive influence on those around you. By being kind you are in effect allowing others to be themselves without judgement. Where kindness gets really cool, is that it is quite literally contagious. Kindness allows us to find solutions to problems and create positive change because it creates a space for listening, being present, and working with positive intent. Kindness is incredibly powerful and should be passed on daily! I show kindness by listening with an open mind and creating an open invitation for others to be part of solutions. I try to make everyone feel included and use my personal strengths to lift those up around me. In agreement with Hans, the little things can make all the difference.

 

What is your advice for today’s youth?

Hans: SEND IT! Do not be afraid to take chances on something you see of importance. YOU can be the change that you want to see in this world. We have a lot of work to do but taking the small steps necessary truly does add up. We want them to walk out of their schools “thinking global and acting local.” The change starts with them, in their school, and in their community. 

Nick: Ask questions and take chances. You should always be curious and eager to learn. In a field like plastics where there is so much going on, there is always more information to learn and room for new ideas and concepts to grow. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, ask questions and recognize the things you don’t know. These will help you grow as both a person and an activist.

 

If you could spend time with any kind human in history, who would that be and what would you do together?

Hans: Jack Johnson. I would want to sit down with him and ask him about all the problems in the world and what his mindset is towards solving them/dealing with them. 

Nick: Jack Johnson. Simply said, the dude is a legend! I think his expression of modern issues through music is one of the most effective ways to get people to listen. It would be great to sit (as Hans said above) and discuss with him how he thinks about the issues we face and ways we can get people to change their behavior as a result. Obviously it would also be awesome to score a surf with him and my brothers.

 

What is a fun fact about yourself that isn’t widely known?

Hans: My family calls me Doodles.

Nick: In 7th grade I was 5’10” but had size 14 feet so I looked like a capital letter “L.”

Author Profile:

Hans and Nick are from Kingston, Washington and are currently living in a 1998 Bluebird Skoolie located on the West Coast near many different firing surf spots. Their love of nature and the ocean, paired with the need to protect mama blue, has led them on this amazing journey!

“Individual action, affected upon millions, equals results!” – Hans Schippers

“MLK once said, ‘I have decided to stick with love, hate is too great a burden to bear.’ To build on that I would say, being kind is never something you will regret – the more you practice kindness the happier you will be.” – Nick Schippers

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