Global Clean-Up

The energetic co-founder and CEO of Sustainable Coastlines, Sam Judd thinks big. And he's rapidly making inroads on a global scale. 

Since 2008, Sam has been resolute on reducing plastic and food packaging rubbish that collects in drains, waterways and around our coastline to end up in oceans, seriously threatening the lives of vast numbers of marine mammals and birds.

Sam has collaborated with numerous experts; built a network of passionate volunteers and an impressive list of sponsors to fund large-scale coastal clean-up events, educational programmes, public awareness campaigns and coastal planting projects.

He also corralled inmates at Auckland Prison to take up tools to build the Sustainable Coastlines Flagship Education Centre at Wynyard Quarter, where Sam and 10 staff coordinate the charity’s activities. In exchange for connecting old shipping containers and recycling wooden pallets as decking and cladding, Sam shared his knowledge about waste and water quality. In the process, prisoners learned valuable welding and joinery skills that have seen them get work outside the prison walls to reduce the rate of re-offending.

Now, Sam is winning the race which will likely see the Flagship Centre, with its modular design by Jasmax Architects, become Auckland’s first Living Building in the global Living Building Challenge. The challenge promotes a rigorous degree of sustainability in the built environment and is incredibly challenging. 

In addition to meeting the most rigorous performance standards they estimate to have created the structure from over 85% built of salvaged materials.

“That’s a hard call for a small organisation in central Auckland with hardly any money,”

Sam explains: “We must collect our own drinking water and have a grey water treatment facility. The centre on Auckland’s most valuable waterfront real estate, which has been kindly provided by Panuku Development Auckland, has composting toilets and we’re currently working on a solar array to generate our own power.”

A host of innovative features too long to list, includes a membrane roof system that improves the building’s insulation levels and can even decompose airborne pollutants into non-toxic by products, offsetting the equivalent of over six cars worth of emissions.

It all started on the other side of the Pacific in the Galápagos Islands, where Sam was surfing with his mate. Sickened by the rubbish they saw piling up on the world heritage site, Sam organised a large-scale beach clean-up. It made such a significant impact that Sam won an international environmental award for his efforts. 

When he arrived back in New Zealand, he wasn’t ready to give up “his pirate lifestyle” to apply his hard-earned law degree in an office. Instead he gained a job free-diving for sea urchins in the Hauraki Gulf and Northland. On Great Barrier Island, he saw piles of rubbish accumulating and decided to run another clean-up. In five weeks, he raised $45,000 to get 700 volunteers involved in a clean-up that removed 2.8 tonnes of debris.

Part of the cost was getting 250 students from low decile schools in South Auckland on board to help to expand their knowledge of the problem. Sam explains, “People in high decile areas already have the opportunity to get on a boat. But the impact for South Auckland kids getting on a boat to do this is significant.”

Feedback from school principals made Sam aware that though these 10 and 11 year-old kids live a 15-minute drive from the beach, more than a quarter had never been to the beach in their life.

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Several more island clean-ups later, he came to realise, “It’s a major challenge to motivate people who have never been to the beach before.” 

So, he shifted his focus and Sustainable Coastlines began running educational programmes. Then he went on to create team building events with corporates who wanted to get involved. It proved a brilliant way to generate an income so they could employ and train staff to work on the cause.

“Now we train ambassadors. That’s the apex of the partnerships. Values synergy is becoming more important for people entering the workforce. For our partners, the association is not just about sustainable reporting. It’s enabling their teams to feel a sense of pride in who they work for.”

“We now have a bespoke training centre where we train people to reduce the cost of solutions that improve the environment by collaborating with multiple experts.”

“It’s a unique project where more partnerships are leveraging off that position. We’ve never had such a big opportunity to offer measurable results from partnerships, that save money by reducing clients’ staff turnover.”

The Sustainable Coastlines Flagship Education Centre is clearly a fitting showcase for sustainability and aligns perfectly with the charity’s push for a more eco-friendly lifestyle, especially in an urban setting. 

But to complete it and to win the Living Building Challenge, Sam and his team are looking to activate more partnerships that will not only fund the centre but exponentially increase their impact on saving the world from plastics. So if your business wants to be a partner, email Sam Judd on sam@sustainablecoastlines.org or call 021 058 9349.