At the origin of Ocean's Zero

28/11/19

Inside #7: Rémi Touja. Remi founded the Ocean's Zero application while working as an environmental apprentice for Surfrider Europe. Despite spending most of his earlier years unaware of the impact his lifestyle was causing, the inspiration for the app came from him making small personnel changes to live more sustainably, and a desire to inspire people to do that same. 

Tell us about yourself  

My name is Rémi, I am 36 years old although everyone thinks I am 26, and I am passionate about new technology and the uses made of them in our society. Although I remain a grown-up child nourished and influenced by pop culture and the Internet, I am now a (almost) responsible adult, father of two children. Becoming a father has led me to confront the question of intergenerational transmission: what do I want to pass on to my children? Through a cultural aspect, in terms of values and knowledge, I wanted to share some of what I believe in with my sons. Respect for the ocean and taking daily actions to protect it are obviously essential notions I want to pass them on.

What is your daily environmental approach?

Before I explain my environmental approach currently, I would like to point out that 20 years ago, I was an ecological disaster. I was talking above about transmitting values, educating my children to respect nature... my parents never made me aware of these notions. On the contrary! I was not aware that my actions could have an impact on the environment.

Today, it is the opposite. I try to produce as little waste as I can: it involves simple actions such as making my own household products, avoiding single use (capsules, bottles, paper towels...). I have also decided to drastically reduce my carbon footprint. For this reason, I chose to become a vegetarian and no longer fly.

I still have many aspects to improve, but the reality of everyday life sometimes makes it difficult to implement certain actions. My next goals are to get to work on public transportations and stop using tissues.

You have been working with Surfrider Foundation Europe for 10 years, when did you realise the need to support society in a concrete way? 

During these 10 years at Surfrider Europe, I have been able to develop my ecological awareness by being confronted with the disastrous impact that humanity has on the Ocean. I started from far away, unaware of this problem in my early years. I sorted my waste, avoided fast food, but finally my commitment was far from being up to the standards to which I now adhere to since joining Surfrider.

Two years ago, I became aware of this dissonance and decided to go further in my zero-waste approach. During the transition period, I realized that adopting better behaviors is not as complicated as I first imagined. Zero waste is not binding. I would even say that it is very satisfying. It is the phase of change that disrupts our acquired habits. 

I wanted to use this personal experience in my work at Surfrider with the objective of helping people who, like me, are committed to a zero-waste approach. I asked myself the following question: How can I learn and implement daily actions to reduce waste in a simple, positive and concrete way? From this came the idea of Ocean's Zero, a smartphone application to learn important characteristics about a zero-waste lifestyle and ways to implement these changes. 


Three highlights in the implementation of the Ocean's Zero application?

The first highlight of Ocean's Zero's success is the hackathon organized by the Bouygues Telecom Foundation in February 2017. This opportunity to put the skills of Bouygues Telecom's teams at the service of Surfrider perfectly coincided with my objective of introducing citizens to zero waste. Within 48 hours, We Sea, the prototype that was to become Ocean's Zero two years later , was born. 

The other important moment in the genesis of the application was crowdfunding, launched in September 2018. I had been refining the project for a year and a half and the pending success of the participatory funding was going to be a determining factor in the realization of Ocean's Zero. Beyond the financial aspect, crowdfunding allowed us to know if the promise of an application to learn how to reduce waste would find its audience. Fortunately, we successfully completed this crucial step.

A month later, on November 19, 2018, Ocean's Zero was launched. This is the third and final highlight of the project's implementation. We launched the application during the European Week for Waste Reduction. Thanks to support from our crowdfunding donors and passionate Surfrider community, Ocean's Zero was immediately well recieved. At the end of 2018, it had already reached 20,000 users.

Today, one year after its launch, we are at almost 100,000 active users while the application was only available in French. It is now available in English and we intend to introduce all European citizens to zero waste through this tool.

A message to be conveyed (to those who would like to get involved but who do not dare?)

If I made it, you can too! I started from very far away and nothing predisposed me to one day be a zero-waste advocate. We often tend to see the zero-waste lifestyle as a constraint to our lifestyle, when we can derive a lot of happiness and satisfaction from it. Pierre Rabi speaks of happy sobriety, or voluntary simplicity. If you want to move towards a more ocean-friendly lifestyle, you shouldn't do it because you feel obliged, but because you want to. 

Ocean's Zero IOS

Ocean's Zero Androïd

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