Brett Howell
Beach clean in action Author: Luke Hosty

Brett Howell

MI’12 – Conservationist

exploring plastic pollution solutions

meet brett

Brett Howell is the founder of the Howell Conservation Fund (HCF), a non-profit organization that addresses the root causes of conservation issues. In 2019, Brett carried TEC Flag #97 to Henderson Island, one of the most remote areas on the globe, to lead the clean up of the world’s most plastic-polluted beach. The expedition was featured in publications, scientific papers, and stunning artwork which resulted in heightened awareness of plastic impacts on wildlife. In addition to developing solutions to plastic pollution, he is engaged in projects that include coral reef management, environmental behavior change, and wildlife conservation.

exploring plastic pollution solutions
Nominated by: Steve Pigott MN'13
Class of 2022 Location USA
Beach clean team clearing a cave
Beach clean team clearing a cave Author: Iain McGregor

The Henderson Island plastic pollution expedition broke new ground for The Explorers Club as one of the early expeditions awarded a flag in consideration of the environmental impact of explorers. The expedition opened my eyes to the global impacts of the plastics problem. Even though I have been working in marine conservation for years, seeing the scale of this problem in a very remote part of the world was life changing. As an example, about 50% of the plastic we collected was directly from the seafood industry, including illegal fishing. This has made me reevaluate my own consumption habits.

“If we reuse plastic in creative ways, rather than making more single use items that become trash, people and the planet win.”

- Brett Howell
The Henderson Island expedition with TEC Flag #97
The Henderson Island expedition with TEC Flag #97 Author: Luke Hosty

Plastic is a reality in our world, but I believe that we can use it in moderation while finding ways to allow nature to prosper free of anthropogenic pollution. I’d love to walk on Henderson Island one day and see colorful seashells instead of plastics. Achieving this goal will require further scientific exploration and research, and new breakthrough materials that can replace plastics. It also will need changing the way we think about and manage waste and shifting the products we use. This requires raising awareness about living in better harmony with the planet and its ocean.

Solving plastic pollution will help to address the source of many related issues including climate change, given the significant impacts that plastic production has on greenhouse gas emissions. If we reuse plastic in creative ways, rather than making more single use items that become trash, people and the planet win. HCF is working with partners across the globe, through expeditions and new alternatives to plastics. Collaboration is a key tenant of our work, given the multiple sectors required to achieve large-scale change.

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