Born and raised on Maui, Kimi Werner has a natural affinity for the ocean. It has delivered her opportunities to explore many of the ways in which the water is at once playground, refresher of spirit and spoke in the wheel of life. The former United States National Spearfishing Champion and accomplished freediver is also a certified culinary chef who creates incredible dishes from her catch, and an artist who frequently paints scenes from the aquatic life. She’s also encountered and ridden a great white shark while diving – an experience that would top the list of fears for most.
But not for Werner. To her, swimming in a tangle of plastic trash is more frightening than grabbing a dorsal fin.
Werner’s home state, Hawaii, is in the center of the world’s largest gyre, and Werner has swum through trash just circulating around her. A “smog of microplastics” is how she describes the pollution – thousands of pounds of tiny bits of consumer plastic that washes up on the beaches of her home archipelago every day.
But she’s not the sort to simply bear witness to the problem. “We all have a special place where when we’re there, we’re in our element and we know it,” Werner explains. “Whether that place is the ocean, snow, the desert, the mountains, I do think that we all have a responsibility to live our everyday lives in harmony to that place – to truly honor it.
“We got sold on this whole throwaway society, this whole throwaway idea that the more civilized you are, the more convenient everything should be,” she continues. “But there is no ‘away’; there is no such place as ‘away.’”
Werner recognizes that to stem the seemingly endless tide of single-use plastics, we need to begin at the source: us, and our consumer dependency on disposable items. So she’s made a return to the reusable. It began with a water bottle and has since expanded to include utensils, totes – even to-go containers.
“The more that I started just incorporating these daily decisions and seeing what I could do to reduce single-use plastic in my life, the more liberated I felt,” Werner shares. “Right now, completely eliminating single-use plastic entirely from our world isn’t possible. But I can’t help but believe that we can be the spark to start that fire, or to start that wave that will slowly grow and will slowly rise into a real solution, a lasting change.”