BHASSEXPLORE is a UK-based collective whose aim is to clean up over 50 years worth of rubbish from the coast between Eastbourne and the Cuckmere Haven estuary in Sussex, which forms part of the stunning Seven Sisters chalk cliffs landscape. In the span of just a year, the volunteer group managed to remove over seven tonnes of garbage from this wild and untamed coastal stretch of land, of huge ecological importance and cultural value.
We met the man behind the collective, Norman, who also documents his coastal cleanup efforts on his personal account, @warm_norm. To help popularize environmental cleanup efforts, Norman recently launched the #greensockmovement. People all over the world are sharing their environmental good deeds, participating in environmental cleanup activities while wearing green socks.
We chatted with him to learn about his affinity for England’s southern coast and what he hopes to achieve with his cleanup activities.
How did you get into sustainability and environmental protection?
I have always enjoyed the challenge of making things from the stuff l found thrown away, ever since l was a small child, like doing up thrown away bicycles and toys, or building dens from scrap material. l think it came from having no money and a curiosity to see if abandoned things could work or be used again or for another purpose! I always wanted to go off by myself and see what l could find in derelict buildings or down in the woods or the heavily shrubbed valleys we have here in Sussex. It’s amazing what you can find!
Then, as l got a little older, l started to think “Why is all this mess here… amidst such amazing natural surroundings…. just dumped in the bushes and quiet places where the wildlife lives?!” So l started taking interest and pride in totally clearing an area of broken bottles and cans and twisted metal and plastic, to leave it clean for the birds and rabbits, squirrels, foxes, badgers and other animals. That’s how it all started really – a lonely young lad, a loner, looking for amusement and places and things to play with, going to quiet places and enjoying clearing them up and then reusing anything that had the potential to be used again.
What is your goal and who is your audience?
My goal is to clear up as much plastic trash as possible from the natural environment, to organize groups of people to join me, to join the #greensockmovement, and to get out to as many natural wildlife habitats as possible and remove as much human-made synthetic material as we possibly can permanently from the places we share with all living things. There are places few other people would even consider cleaning. These are places that are difficult to access, but where tonnes of our trash still manage to accumulate.
My audience is just anyone and everyone who is interested in any way in the beautiful environment we are so lucky to live in or near to. Everybody really!
What has been the biggest learning curve in your professional growth?
l am not really experiencing any professional growth but surely am on an incredible journey and learning curve about what we have done and are doing to this planet, and the scale of it all – the immensity of the task of cleaning it all up and just how wasteful our modern societies are! I could go on forever about single use items and abandoned objects that never get recycled – billions of tonnes of waste! Crazy!
What are the biggest misconceptions about what you do?
Where do l begin? Everyone has their own agenda and opinion and way at looking at things. My wanting to clear up as much of this shameful harvest from our throwaway lifestyles and to inspire others to do the same has lead to people having all kinds of misconceptions about what l do and why l do it. l don’t have time to debate much of their over thinking or basically wrong views on what l try to achieve. I’m too busy just getting on with it to spend time on distractions. l am into focusing on the issue and working with good people with positive energy to get the task done!
What’s a day in your life like?
Busy, full, satisfying, tiring and rewarding.
Who inspires you?
All genuine environmentalists and people who truly live using minimal resources. All vegans and those who care for wildlife and the habitats we share with it. l quite like Chris Packham but don’t know him, loads of musicians, especially non musician Brian Eno, whose earliest music right through to his work with David Byrne is constantly playing in my head, loads of artists, kind people… so many people inspire me!
Who is someone you want us to know?
At the end of the day l am just trying to get to know myself and I enjoy meeting a few good people on the way.
One sustainable product you can’t live without?
For me it’s become increasingly important to get all my clothing and footwear second hand, all my utensils and tools and equipment pre-used. Nearly nothing around me is new. Does that count?! Not really answering the question but that’s my reply!
One eco-friendly habit you wish everyone practiced?
l would love it if everybody decided never to buy anything that has ever been wrapped in plastic ever again and for the whole world to go vegan! That’s a simple one!
What does sustainability mean to you?
It means going back to a much more natural, simpler, slower way of life and for us all to realize that we can use up far less of this Earth’s resources if only we put some thought into it!
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists or contributors are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the featured image: The Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, on England’s southern coast. Photo credit: Diego Torres