GARBAGE IN PARADISE

The Discovery Channel show Naked and Afraid sends contestants to remote locations around the world where they must survive for 21 days. They are, as the title promises, naked, and depending on the conditions can be very afraid. Alison Teal was afraid when she was a contestant, but not for the reason you might think. Alison, who was placed on an uninhabited Maldivian island, was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of plastic trash she found during her time there. Even as she beat the challenge and left the island, she knew she would have to come back. One year later, she has. Teal is determined to do something for the land that sheltered and fed her, and has begun working with the Maldivian government to highlight the problem and work to solve it.

When Teal returned to the island she didn’t arrive alone. Photographer Sarah Lee and filmmaker Mark Tipple accompanied her to document her work as part of Teal’s online film series Alison’s Adventures. The photographs Lee took are stunning. The gorgeous white sand beaches and blue waters are marred by the piles of plastic water bottles and Styrofoam trash that crowd the shores. Teal poses in front a crashing wave cloaked in blue plastic wrap. Everywhere you look lies more litter. But there are steps we can take to solve that.

First, we must reduce our usage of single-use plastic bottles. There are so many options for stylish, durable reusable bottles that it seems silly to still be buying bottled water from vending machines. Second, stop using plastic bags for grocery shopping. Two generations ago everyone used cloth bags and no one thought a thing of it. It’s practically traditional! So spend a few dollars on reusable totes, and bring them to the store with you! Third, remember to recycle. The trash that wound up on a beach in the Maldives didn’t come from a recycling plant. It was thrown in the garbage can or carelessly tossed onto the ground. Plastic is recyclable, and by reusing it as much as possible, we can cut the amount of waste that winds up on pristine beaches. Doesn’t everyone want to keep our planet’s beaches beautiful?

To learn more about Teal’s work, read her interview with Carla Herreria on The Huffington Post.

Image credit: Alison’s Adventures