By Jennifer Worth.
Lauren Fritz is a writer, wildlife photographer and marine naturalist who has spent the last few years country hopping all over the world as a wildlife guide for various marine based eco-excursions. Her passion for the ocean and its inhabitants has taken her from Hawai’i and the San Juan islands in the USA, to both the east and west coasts of Australia. She is currently in Kaikoura on New Zealand’s South Island where she takes people swimming with wild dusky dolphins and will spend the next few months in Tonga working with humpback whales. Lauren is also the founder of The Greenest Blue – a website and blog that celebrates living mindfully and sustainably while encouraging us to keep a positive mindset when talking about marine conservation. Lauren’s love for the ocean shines through in her work and she has written guest posts and features for many other like-minded sites and brands.
We caught up with Lauren to find out more about the work she’s doing and the issues currently facing our marine ecosystem.
Hi Lauren! I find it interesting that you grew up in Idaho, yet your life and career is now dedicated to all things ocean. Do you think living so far from the coast gave you a deeper desire to discover more about it?
My journey to find this ocean passion was so random! I’ve always had an inexplicable need to challenge myself and try new things. When I was at University trying to come up with a new idea for something to do one summer, a bit uninspired with my engineering coursework, I came up with the idea of venturing out to South Africa to do an internship with great white shark conservation. It was one of those “Hell yah, why not!” type of situations. I’d never really been out to sea like that before (thank goodness I didn’t get seasick, otherwise this lifestyle would have taken a different route). So I suppose, yes – growing up so far away from the sea made it a bit of an unknown for me, which led me to seek it out as I sought challenges later on in life.
You’ve called many places home over the past few years! Is there a particular part of the world that inspired you to start writing about marine conservation and the issues affecting our blue planet?
The San Juan Islands, absolutely. Something clicked when I moved there one summer to work as a whale watch guide. Tucked away in the Salish Sea, north of Seattle and south of Vancouver, these islands are an absolute gem of the Pacific Northwest. The waters are incredibly nutrient-rich, so I was constantly surrounded by amazing wildlife. But I was also surrounded by the reality that many of these animals were fast racing towards extinction, like the Southern Resident Killer Whales. After learning about their plight and talking about it on the boat everyday with guests, I realized that I was fast falling in love with an ecosystem (and planet) that was in dire need of our help. That’s really what sparked my writing and blog, and I don’t think I can ever turn back now.
Tell me about your blog and website – The Greenest Blue. What was the inspiration behind the name and what are you hoping people will take away from your stories and experiences?
The Greenest Blue is about enjoying our lives to the fullest while remembering to care for the planet and be mindful of our lifestyle choices. I think that those of us focused on conservation get overwhelmed with the state of the environment and all the crises facing the ocean, and our mental health suffers as a result. I get it. I’m surrounded by it every day at work. But my blog tries to focus on stepping away from that “doom and gloom” attitude and embracing life for what it is today, while taking mindful actions that support our eco-friendly mindsets. I want to focus on conservation conversations that people can be happy about – we can’t just hone in on the depressing bits!
The inspiration for the name came from my desire to inspire readers to live a greener lifestyle in order to protect the big blue. Also, if I had to pick one thing that stands out in my mind when I think about the ocean, it would be the color – so the “greenest blue” just made sense to me.
“There are so many habits we’ve developed around modern day “conveniences” that we need to toss aside if we really have the planet’s best interests at heart.”
Your writing focuses on living sustainably, with an emphasis on avoiding single use plastics and non-eco-friendly products. Why is this important and what changes can we make to ensure we are ‘doing our bit’ for the environment?
There are so many habits we’ve developed around modern day “conveniences” that we need to toss aside if we really have the planet’s best interests at heart. Single-use plastics are problematic not only because of the direct harm they cause to marine life and the Earth’s ecosystems, but also because they encourage our mindset of instant gratification and support a “throw-away lifestyle.” The same is true of a lot of environmentally-damaging products, like bottled shampoos, toxic cleaning products, and unsustainably-made clothing. It really comes down to effort on our part – how much time and resources are we willing to spend to step away from the easy route and take the eco-friendly one? It’s going to be challenging – but we’re in this together! To ensure we’re all doing our bit, we can continuously educate ourselves on environmental issues to make sure we stay up-to-date on these topics. Then we can spread the word through our actions – it’s always best to lead by example. People are more apt to adapt change when they’re not being chastised or talked at. They don’t want to feel like they’re dumb, or they’ve done something wrong. They’re going to need to be led gently. They want to see the change in action. I like to call it the “ripple effect.”
As well as managing the website and freelance writing, you’re currently working as a wildlife guide in Kaikoura, New Zealand. Are there any specific challenges that eco-tourism companies are facing right now?
Interesting question! I think ecotourism is booming – maybe a bit too much. As global travel becomes increasingly popular and attainable for people from all over the world, the popularity of ecotourism is growing. That presents a challenge for companies that are, of course, trying to make a profit, but also trying to protect the environment that they’re taking guests out to explore. They must ensure that they are regulating numbers and keeping the wildlife’s best interests at heart. That’s one thing I’ve loved about all the ecotourism companies I’ve worked for – they each have a strong environmental focus. So, the issue here isn’t a lack of business – it’s too much business and how to balance that with environmental conservation. If they don’t protect the wildlife or respect it, it will eventually come into trouble, and therefore business will suffer – it’s really in everyone’s best interests to be mindful of this.
There must be a fine line in wildlife tourism between respectfully observing the animals and encroaching their natural habitat. What sort of research should we be doing before signing up for marine based excursions?
This is SO important! As a traveller and a visitor to a new place, it is our responsibility to do our research before any marine or eco-excursion. The best things you can do are peruse the company’s website – check to see if they make references to environmentally-friendly practices or have any eco-certifications. If they do, the companies are usually quite proud to display these. Then check the reviews of the company. Most guests will comment if they feel uncomfortable with the way a tour operates. And you can’t go wrong with a good ole Google search – “most eco-friendly tours in….” Is a great place to start. But definitely take responsibility for your travels and your impact.
Finally, what advice would you give any conservationists out there who want an outlet to write about the issues that they’re passionate about, but don’t know where to start?
I’ll reiterate exactly what I did – just start somewhere! My blog started as a personal travel monologue when I went abroad to study in Australia. It has since morphed into the conservation-centric site that it is today. You can also start reading other conservation articles on the internet and comment on them, it’s a great way to inspire conversations and connect with like-minded people. There are some amazing Facebook groups out there as well that you can join. If you want to go more freelance, check out websites like Upwork to look for employers that want writers for certain topics. You definitely need to get creative, but don’t be afraid to start. Now more than ever we need everyone’s voice and light in the world to create a positive change. We’ve got this! But we’re going to need to take some serious action.
For more information about Lauren’s work and some positive conservation inspiration, check out The Greenest Blue at the following links:
About the author:
Jennifer Worth is an ocean loving plastic fighter who is trying to make a difference. She is happiest by the sea with a strong coffee and a dog to pet. You can read her blog at jennywrenny.blogspot.com.