Hannah Smailes – founder of Sea Good
My name is Hannah and I’m a 17-year-old Aussie conservationist and educator living and working on beautiful Kaurna Land in South Australia. I run the environmental non-for-profit Sea Good, an organisation dedicated to all things people and planet. There’s nothing that brings me more joy than being outdoors with the people I love most, and I am deeply passionate about sharing this with everyone, helping forge beautiful, intimate connections with Earth. Earth has a lot to give us, and in turn our love grows which leads to the all-important passion to drive positive environmental action. Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, says “We protect what we love”, and honestly, he could not be more right. If we don’t love the planet, why would we care about its protection?
I spent my childhood in wild places, growing up in bushy suburbs with everything from the hills to the beach only a stone’s throw away, and the snowy mountains as our school holiday playground. However, it wasn’t until 2018, when I watched ‘War On Waste’, that my passion for environmental protection was well and truly ignited! The Aussie series just completely opened my eyes up to the detrimental damage that this disposable society was having on our home planet. It completely held me accountable to all the ways I was contributing immensely to this degradation in my everyday life. I was deeply moved by the confronting exposure to these issues and felt empowered by the solutions that War on Waste challenged me to implement. I started refusing single use plastic, I swapped meat for more veg, I ditched fast fashion and switched to op shopping, and I just overall took a much more mindful approach to my consumption, knowing full well that humanity was in danger if we continued to do nothing.
And then, in the earliest moments of 2020, I experienced that most beautiful ‘ecological conversion’ – a day of bodysurfing on these totally remote waves, just me and my friend and the endless blue sea, and that just unlocked something so deep in me. It was a moment of such deep clarity, such firm realisation, and such immense love for creation. For the first time in my life, I felt well and truly connected to the natural world. That experience changed things once more. Suddenly my sustainable choices were no longer out of fear for extinction, but out of the purest love for Earth. It was my gift back to her. That connection with the ocean was something I fostered at every chance I had, with regular morning trips down to the beach before school, or evenings swimming in the light of the moon. In turn, the ocean fuelled me with my passion to continue driving environmental action and offered the deepest peace to fill my heart and warm my soul.
With a newfound appreciation for Earth that was only growing stronger by the day, I leapt at the opportunity to take part in my first ever climate strike in early 2021; a chance to skip class and have my voice heard on a bigger level. I grabbed a bunch of friends, hosted a fun poster-making session, and then we all caught a bus into the city. It brought me to tears hearing the stories of those most directly affected by the climate crisis, being part of such a passionate, unified group of youth, and grappling with the immense strength of people power. The strike made me realise, more than anything, that every single on of us has the power to save the planet. It gave me more purpose than ever to keep fighting for our common home.
I stumbled across Algalita Marine Research and Education later that year as I completed my research project dedicated to reducing school lunchbox waste and was beyond stoked to discover the awesome Wayfinder Society community. It was so empowering to be able to connect with a community from the opposite side, and work alongside an awesome bunch of young people with such an important, common goal. I applied for the Stay Stoked Award with the dreams of turning my Sea Good vision into a reality, and was beyond grateful to be one of the inaugural winners.
Through the generosity of Wayfinder Society, I have been able to launch Sea Good, helping me share my environmental mission to so many more people on a personal level than I would have ever thought possible. The funds helped me launch my website, run community clean-ups (from land AND sea!!), spread my Litterless Lunchboxes campaign across Australia, run programs in local schools, host clothes swap events,
launch better bin systems, and just really offer hope, passion, and action to the people around me. I’ve had the chance to not just scratch the surface, but actually go deeper, building local connections, offer ongoing mentorship and give back to the communities who have given so much to me over the years.
I am forever inspired by the countless kids I work with all over the world who are fighting for the common goal of saving Earth – hearing their stories and just having such a solid community behind me really fuels my hope for the future. The issues are huge, but so is the power we all hold to lead change within every single one of us. I could not be more grateful for the opportunities and community that Wayfinder Society has shared with me and I have so much hope for a future led by today’s youth!
Sending so much peace and hope from Aus,
– Hannah 🙂
Hannah was one of Wayfinder Society’s 2021 Student Mini Grant Award Recipients!