With the oceans literally catching fire around us, the time has come for serious action. Project Zero is here to help. The nonprofit’s mission is straightforward: to create more worldwide ocean sanctuaries, preserving aquatic life against the climate crisis. By restoring the health of oceans and marine ecosystems, the organization aims to combat issues like pollution, drilling, and fishing that harm the world’s waters—92.3 percent of which are unprotected, according to the Marine Protection Atlas.
Michele Clarke’s own love for the oceans drove her to found Project Zero just over a decade ago, setting out to raise awareness and generate funding to secure ocean sanctuaries worldwide.
“Unfortunately, awareness that the ocean is in such dire straits is low, and ocean conservation gets a fraction of a fraction of global philanthropic funds that go towards the environment: 3 percent to the environment as a category, and the ocean gets 6 percent of that,” Clarke said in an email conversation with Grazia Gazette: The Hamptons. “Given that the ocean comprises 70 percent of Earth, that’s pretty scary.”
To further Project Zero’s mission, Clarke has tapped a unique group of ambassadors to represent the organization. These include model, DJ, and activist Alexandra Richards, artist Cavier Coleman, actor Ronen Rubinstein, entrepreneur Mei Kwok, and musician Griff Washburn; all five share a passion for ocean life.
Alexandra Richards, who also serves as a board member for Project Zero, has championed the organization’s cause for more than a decade. “I saw a very concerning documentary back in 2009 called The Cove, and I was trying to figure out a way I could help,” she explained. “The ocean is our planet’s life support system. It gives us every second breath we take.”
Richards believes that small steps are the best way for people to begin to make a difference in promoting sustainability. Personally, she first committed to eliminating her use of plastic straws and to carrying a reusable tote bag. Now, she lives a largely sustainable lifestyle. “I’d also like to point out that no one is perfect,” she notes. “What is important is that we are all doing something to reduce our individual impact on the ocean—and our planet.”
In particular, Richards hopes to instill the values of sustainability in her newborn daughter, Arlowe, through initiatives like local sourcing and removing harmful chemicals at home—and, of course, to continue promoting awareness through music. “Sustainability is something that we incorporate in our lives every day and we’ll be teaching our daughter that too as she grows up,” Richards explains.
Ronen Rubinstein shares similar sentiments. The 9-1-1: Lone Star actor consciously reduces his carbon footprint by eating vegan, buying vintage clothing, living in a solar-powered house, and driving a hydrogen fuel cell car. Rubinstein’s care for the oceans was his motivation for joining Project Zero as an ambassador, exemplified through his beach cleanup efforts during the pandemic. “Beaches were empty. Waters were cleaner than ever. I have never seen more dolphins and seals in the Cali coast in my life,” he told Grazia Gazette: The Hamptons.
As Project Zero continues to push for greater ocean protection, the organization is continuing various initiatives to that end. One such project is “Adopt-a-Coordinate,” where individuals can adopt 1-100 km stretches of sea throughout the Pacific, Atlantic, Arctic, and Indian Oceans, in the meantime sharing their additions on social media to raise awareness and funds for the climate crisis. Standard investments in any amount can be made on the project’s website. However, there’s also a fashionable component to the cause: The brand’s created a range of graphic T-shirts to promote their efforts.
Ambassador and artist Cavier Coleman is the latest creative to be tapped as a contributor, adding his signature facial print to the shirts’ “Ours to Solve” lettering. The pieces are printed on an on-demand basis in a renewable energy-powered factory, making them both sustainable and stylish. “The ocean gives us life. It’s important to take care of the ecosystem that makes life possible,” Coleman states in an email.
Coleman believes that investments in the ocean—no matter how big or small—make a major difference in aquatic health. “The ocean is our biggest ally in the fight against the climate crisis. Project Zero is working to secure a global network of ocean sanctuaries, and they all need investment to secure them for the good of the planet and the people living around them,” he says.
Indeed, ocean restoration is a public matter—and, according to Clarke, people should care about it if they like to breathe, drink fresh water, and live on a habitable planet. Even if someone can’t invest financially, for example, they can still support ocean restoration and sustainability from home.
“There are so many super easy ways to help,” Clarke shares. “Start by reducing your carbon footprint by doing little things like turning off the tap when you brush your teeth, washing your clothes in cold water (they get just as clean), switching to a green energy provider, lowering your thermostat. All these little things add up, especially if we all did them.”
For more information on how to get involved, visit weareprojectzero.org.