Beach Cleaning Goes Online

SEGO Initiative is an NPO that organizes outdoor cleaning activities to raise awareness and appreciation for the environment while giving participants quality bonding time with family members, friends or colleagues. Fortunately, Covid-19 and its social distancing have not stopped them from organizing regular beach cleaning activities. Connect had a short talk with Alana Bonzi, one of the founders, about their mission and beach cleanup efforts.

Becoming a Full-Fledged Organization

SEGO Initiative was founded by husband and wife Michel and Alana Bonzi, both of whom shared an undying love with the sea that had been nurtured since their earliest days. Having moved to Fujisawa in Kanagawa Prefecture and established a strong relationship with the locals, the couple felt a deep need to share the message of keeping the sea clean by bringing foreign and local communities together. They wanted to create something tangible with no language barrier. 

Michel and Alana from SEGO
Alana and Michel Bonzi, founders of SEGO Initiative

That was how the organization’s precursor—the Fujisawa Beach Cleaning Project—was born in 2009. The vision did not just end with beach cleaning; Alana and Michel wanted it to become quality bonding time between family members or corporate colleagues. Alana explained that sometimes corporations did not pay attention to where their community activities were organized, or where their employees lived in relation to those activities. As Fujisawa is a location where many employees, Japanese and foreign, choose to live, she figured a beach cleaning team building activity there would bring employees a sense of pride by cleaning up their own community while contributing to corporate social responsibility efforts. 

The project began to receive recognition from a few corporate sponsors who encouraged them to increase the scope of their activities. The couple branched out to meet other needs in the local community, and they found out about organic farms in Fujisawa. They came up with the idea of Satoyama and Satoumi which, respectively, represent projects promoting and raising awareness about the land and the sea—and their interconnectedness.

Replacing their grassroots beach cleaning activities, the couple developed something more structured and, in 2014, SEGO Initiative was born.

Three Pillars

The beach cleaning activity is based on three pillars: 

  1. Volunteerism

Over the past 10 years, more than 5,600 volunteers have participated in SEGO Initiative beach cleanups, donating more than 11,280 hours and an estimated ¥9,472,500 in time and services.

  1. Public Education

Citizen Science: One part of the beach cleaning is that volunteers collect and analyze how much trash they found on the beach, what kind of trash it was, and how it made its way to the beach. The collected data is sent to a global database, and to schools to teach children.

Art: The organization started to hold panel exhibitions open to the public designed to raise public awareness about the impact of human behavior on the environment. According to Alana, art provides a space for people to think, learn and experience, and sparks conversation subtly but powerfully. This year, they hosted a virtual art space.

  1. Reconnecting to the marine environment via sailing (Clean S.E.A)

Sailing is a part of the activity—after their trash and data collection, volunteers can go sailing in the ocean. Alana believes that this aspect of the activity creates a direct connection between volunteers and the sea. This is also a fun activity that makes volunteering more enjoyable. 

Sailing activity organized by SEGO
Sailing activity organized by SEGO

Together Apart ICC

Unlike other years when huge beach cleaning activities are organized twice on Earth Day or ICC (International Coastal Cleanup) Day, this year SEGO organized a very special event called Together Apart ICC—an online cleaning event. 

They made it online by asking volunteers to clean anywhere that is close to where they live, work or play. The event was also done in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy’s 35th Annual International Coastal Cleanup Day. Even though it was bittersweet that a big event could not be held in person, Alana was still satisfied that the online event propelled more people to join and still enabled them to be part of a global movement. The event was praised by a lot of corporate sponsors who also suggested their staff take part. 

SEGO is actively organizing online webinars featuring talks from experts on topics related to the ocean, and connecting interested people without having to go to the beach physically. 

Become a Corporate Sponsor

If you are interested in what SEGO does, become a corporate sponsor! SEGO can help organize team-bonding events for you that are environmentally conscious. Please contact Alana Bonzi: alana@segoinitiative.org

SEGO is also recruiting volunteers.  

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