Wine merchant's Cash Trash Bash initiative
Sure Karen Jones knows her wine, but garbage is her real passion.
The 34-year-old is in the water at 6am every day, diving up trash. Sponsors give her cash for her efforts.
It's all part of an initiative the general manager of Discovery Wines started last year. A close friend was getting married and she thought up Cash Trash Bash as a way of funding the bachelorette party.
She raised more than $1,500 collecting marine waste. This year she decided to do it for charity.
“As a kid, if we couldn't afford it we were encouraged to fundraise for it. Why can't you do that in your 30s, 40s, 50s?” she asked.
“With Cash Trash Bash I couldn't dare put my hand out without also helping with the other. [Also, there] is a small part of me that is slightly bothered with the fact that I am working in an industry that is producing trash.”
She's hoping to raise $2,000 through daily two-hour dives this month. One hundred per cent of the cash will be split between two charitable causes: BAMZ's Kids on the Reef and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
She and her fiance, Nicolas Plianthos, will travel to Africa's oldest park next month, to deliver their donation. They decided to help after seeing films encouraging people to support the human rights movement there.
“I believe in local and I believe in external, because it's not just all about Bermuda,” Ms Jones said. “We have to be conscious of what's happening in the world. If you can have people educated through an experience then you can build their confidence.
“How can you expect people to conserve something when they don't know what it is? What better way to get young Bermudian children to want to protect our oceans and our reefs than by taking them there and introducing it to them?”
She believes education is an invaluable element in any pursuit. She knew “nothing” about wine when she landed the job at Discovery.
“My former manager, Christian Robertson, was all about education of employees and I'm so happy that he pushed and pushed and pushed,” Ms Jones said.
Five years later, she believes she's the first Bermudian to pass Wine & Spirits Education Trust's level four diploma. The gruelling programme took three years to complete and involved blind taste tests three times a week, five-hour exams and written theory observing clarity, colour, depth of colour, the nose, palate, quality and grape varietal.
Ms Jones studied online and travelled to London, England for exams. She found out she passed on May 20.
“I'm all for enjoyment and appreciating different levels of wine, but you have to be socially responsible for the choices that you're making,” she said.
“It's this dilemma that I live with every day. I used to teach people to snorkel; what's the impact on the environment there? Virtually nothing.
“Every single case of wine that walks out this door has a carbon factor. So, what can I do? Going out, picking up bottles, challenging myself every year to do 30 days of trying to recoup what I have essentially created.”
She'd like Bermuda to introduce a bottle bill, a law that requires deposits to be paid on beverages sold in recyclable bottles and cans.
“I know that I am responsible for this waste going out there and if I could create a way that this waste is better treated locally, that would be amazing,” she said.
“Would I want wines to be 25 cents more expensive to ultimately pay for a proper recycling centre? Absolutely. Alcohol is a luxury. Many will say it's a necessity, but it's not.”
She added: “But it's more than just a bottle bill. It's changing the mentality of Bermuda as a whole.
“When you consider that in a space that's four times the size of my office, this morning between the hours of 6am and 8am, my mom and I collected six onion bags full of bottles right off of Fairylands. It's mind boggling.”
She challenges those who declare “glass is sand”.
“Oh, it will break down as sand. How many thousands of years is that going to take? Once it goes below the surface you don't see it and you think it's OK, but it's the problems that are below the surface that are most concerning.”
She's been diving all her life. Her parents would load up their houseboat at the end of the week and the family of six wouldn't dock again until Monday.
“We've always picked up trash, but now I'm naming it,” she said. “Giving it a focus and trying to get some recognition behind it.
“As far as I'm concerned, Cash Trash Bash is a good way to stretch your lungs in the off-season.
“The ultimate goal is to throw a party at the end to celebrate.”
•Learn more about Cash Bash Trash here: igg.me/at/LLMqBLvWXUA