In 2008, Sam Judd, travelling with Kiwi buddies James Bailey and Zach Beard, volunteered for the Galápagos National Park. Shocked to find the uninhabited coasts spoiled with litter, they removed 1.6 tonnes in just eight days. Despite a near-fatal tiger shark attack, Sam got right back to work with James and Zach, motivating 300 locals to remove 7.5 tonnes of litter from the remote San Cristóbal Island. The trio pledged to continue their efforts back in the Land of the Long White Cloud. The idea for Sustainable Coastlines was born.


Sustainable Coastlines was launched in 2009 with our first signature event: a clean-up of Aotea / Great Barrier Island. Sam joined forced with James, Camden Howitt and a team of organisers to bring together 700 volunteers from schools, the local community, and the mainland for a massive clean-up over two days. The volunteers removed 2.8 tonnes of litter and the event garnered huge media attention. 

Our efforts continued that year in the Pacific when the team sailed to the Ha’apai Islands in Tonga. Their three-month-long litter education campaign culminated in a gargantuan clean-up effort, removing eight shipping containers’ worth of waste.


We returned to Aotea / Great Barrier Island in 2010, this time joined by more than 1,000 volunteers. We removed 3.1 tonnes of litter from the same coastlines we had cleaned up less than a year earlier. The litter was travelling, and it was increasing. Picking it up off the beach wasn’t enough: we realised we needed to stop it at its source. To do this, we created ‘Love Your Coast’, a grass-roots programme that couples education with beach clean-ups. We hit the ground running — with events in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and the West Coast we engaged 4,400 volunteers, cleaning up 68,000 litres of litter.


The year 2011 saw the inception of our Hawaii chapter. Presenting at the fifth International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu, during their stay Camden and Sam slept in hammocks at the house of local Kahi Pacarro — who they had connected with at our very first clean-up on Aotea. After teaming up on a huge clean-up on Oahu’s North Shore — attended by musical legend Jack Johnson and family — Pacarro was inspired to start Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, which continues to create huge impacts and jobs.

As well as expanding across the Pacific, we also expanded our efforts upstream. To have healthy water at our coasts we need to look after our rivers. We began to focus our wintertime efforts on restoring fresh water through riparian planting.


Marine litter is a global problem, and our approach proved popular across the Pacific. Throughout 2012 we delivered grass-roots solutions to Vanuatu, the Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea, spreading litter-reduction education and engaging local communities in clean-up work. More importantly, we set out longer-term solutions through training athlete ambassadors in collaboration with the International Olympic Committee. The educational programmes proved to be a hit and the results on the ground were outstanding. It was clear that people everywhere wanted to protect their coastlines; they just needed tools to make it easier.


While Love Your Coast grew from strength to strength, the awards started rolling in. On behalf of the Sustainable Coastlines team, Sam was named 2013 Young New Zealander of the Year. At a Ministry for the Environment ceremony in the Beehive, we picked up the Supreme Green Ribbon Award — the country’s most prestigious environmental award. And for our work in collaboration with the Papua New Guinea Olympic Committee, the team won the Oceania Sport and the Environment Award from the International Olympic Committee and United Nations Environment Programme in Sochi, Russia.


Our wintertime programme officially launched with a nationwide tour in 2014. Dubbed ‘Love Your Water’, the programme brought much-needed freshwater restoration education, riparian planting days and community engagement activities to every region of New Zealand. Continuing its long-standing relationship with the Department of Corrections, the charity helped build a nursery at a Waikato prison in an effort to reduce the costs of tree planting and to assist inmates in achieving horticulture qualifications.


In 2015 the official launch of Sustainable Coastlines Papua New Guinea was spearheaded by long-time team-member Ryley Webster, who had worked with locals in Port Moresby to build on the success of our existing grass-roots programmes since 2012. Alongside huge clean-ups, the Papua New Guinea chapter has created award-winning community engagement and educational activities that have been recognised as international best practice by the United Nations.


In response to high demand, in 2016 we established a partnership with International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ). This enabled travellers to engage with our cause and give something back during their time in New Zealand, allowing us to massively upscale our efforts.

Our ever-increasing international credibility also saw Camden invited to speak on plastic pollution at the United Nations headquarters in New York.


With our capacity and engagement scaling up, in 2017 we not only celebrated our 500th beach clean-up, but also the opening of The Flagship Education Centre!

Located in Auckland’s wonderful Wynyard Quarter, our unique events, education and training space is made from 85 percent salvaged and upcycled materials. Designed to meet the rigorous Living Building Challenge criteria, the building could become Aotearoa’s most sustainable. It was built with the help of over 2,000 people, including inmates learning trade skills at two prisons, hundreds of Kickstarter campaign supporters, and dozens of sponsors that provided pro-bono materials, labour and services. This was a true collaboration that has created an inspiring model for sustainability.


Picking up the most prestigious youth award for sustainability in the world — the Energy Globe Award — for our work with young people and The Flagship, meant that our year began on a huge high. 

We also ramped up our training by launching our official Ambassador Programme, with induction weekends and targeted training to enable others to look after our waterways and coastlines.

We took the chance to reflect on ten years of Sustainable Coastlines, knowing that while the movement has gained massive momentum, the journey is far from over.