It’s been over a month since the bombastic pomp of the royal wedding, and the peace and quiet has allowed us to focus on the important things in life: politics, activism, and what the world will be like after England almost certainly wins the World Cup.
But for Meghan and Harry’s chosen wedding charities, life is noisier than ever — and one has revealed it’s seen its donations increase fourfold on the back of all the attention.
Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) was founded in 1990 to tackle beach sewage, but now it's a British marine conservation charity that focuses on ending plastic pollution.
It was one of seven charities that Meghan and Harry highlighted for donations for anyone wanted to give them a wedding gift, and it has since attracted “phenomenal” global interest.
And even before the limelight, it helped shape a national environmental agenda with several high profile global and local campaigns against plastic.
CEO Hugo Tagholm said the decision to highlight their work, supported in the past by musicians Ben Howard and Jack Johnson, was a “complete bolt from the blue.”
“Suddenly, people don’t think we’re just a bunch of surfers in a shack down at the beach,” Tagholm told the Guardian. “Suddenly, Surfers Against Sewage isn’t just a niche, quirky, little NGO. Suddenly, people realise we’re a really serious marine conservation charity.”
“The global interest is phenomenal,” he added. “We have never reached that many people in all of our history, ever.”
Since Tagholm took the role in 2008, volunteers have increased from 1,000 to 70,000, and turnover is now £1.3 million annually, according to the Guardian. In 2017, SAS cleaned 1,200 beaches, led by 155 regional volunteer representatives. It’s community work based firmly on the ground — or rather, on the sand.
SAS ran the successful “Plastic Free Parliament” campaign to — you guessed it — remove all avoidable single-use plastics in UK parliament.
It had found through a Freedom of Information request that more than 2 million pieces of plastic were purchased by the House of Commons and House of Lords last year, including over a million coffee cups and lids and 22,000 plastic straws.
Now, Britain is on track to have the world’s first plastic-free parliament. All plastic cutlery, plates, bags, and straws will be replaced by sustainable alternatives. Water fountains will be built to cut down on bottles, a “green stationery catalogue” will be introduced, and a 25p “latte levy” will be imposed on all disposable cups.
And on June 6, World Ocean Day, SAS relaunched their Plastic Free Communities campaign, inspiring 350 communities around the world representing 24 million people to work towards eliminating plastic entirely. It’s campaigned on a plastic bags ban, a bottle deposit return scheme, and to rid the Galapagos Islands of plastic, too.
The charities also include @sascampaigns, a national marine conservation & campaigning charity, which inspires, unites & empowers communities to take action to protect oceans, beaches, waves & wildlife. https://t.co/J7yExoY411pic.twitter.com/IpXgh23Y13— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) April 9, 2018
It was all achieved with just 19 staff members, living within a five-minute walk of the Cornish coastline in St. Agnes in the south of England.
Tagholm calls it a “small charity with a big voice,” which means the “Harry and Meghan effect” has had a far larger impact than it would have on a larger organisation. In the fight against plastic pollution, he’s optimistic about the future — and with support for both SAS and sustainable solutions growing all the time, it appears like it’s a war they can win.
“Plastic is the one pollutant that has truly galvanised every part of society,” Tagholm said.
Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, which include action on improving life on land, life below water, and creating sustainable cities and communities. You can join us by taking action here to call on business leaders and governments to scrap single-use plastics.