Cape Town - Former South African international swimmer Sarah
Ferguson has linked her talent for swimming to a passion for the environment by
joining SPAR Eastern Cape as an ambassador in their Stop Plastic campaign.
The long-distance ace was a top pool competitor during
the 2000s, swimming for South Africa in a number of World Cups, but is now
putting her skills to work for another cause.
This month she formed a partnership with SPAR EC in
their campaign to educate the public about the dangers of plastic pollution,
combining it with challenging swims around the world.
She recently completed a 100km Elephant Coast swim,
which took her from southern Mozambique to northern KwaZulu-Natal over a period
of six days.
with SPAR EC was sparked by a presentation Ferguson, who lives in Durban North,
gave after a 2km swim in Hawaii, in which she became aware of the dangers of
plastic to the environment.
“I came to Port Elizabeth for a meeting and they liked
what they saw,” she said.
“Equally I was keen to work with them to promote
their Plastic campaign.”
In April this year, SPAR EC took the bold step of trying
to limit the use of plastic in their stores by encouraging consumers to make
use of alternative packaging options available at all outlets.
In particular, they are focused on limiting single-use
plastic, which includes items such as plastic bags.
At that stage, managing director Conrad Isaac said it
was time to take a stand and to set an example to others, even if the journey
started with one small step.
“Let us start by cleaning up our own backyard. If we
are able to maintain the spaces in which we live and work by reducing the
plastic content, that is a start.
“And if it helps to clean up the world, well that
would be just great.”
That initiative is now beginning to stretch beyond the
borders of the Eastern Cape, with ambassadors such as Ferguson joining the
fight against plastic pollution.
“SPAR EC are supporting this trip, which is amazing,”
“Basically we are trying to develop a relationship to
work towards creating more sustainable solutions around the use of plastic and
doing a lot of work in the schools through education on the issue.”
She added that their modus operandi was to tackle
long-distance swims that hadn’t been done before, using the occasion to highlight
the issue of plastic pollution and ensuring the swim was challenging enough to
make a statement.
“We will produce a documentary series on each stage of
the swim and release our findings on how important it is to shop plastic-free,
which helps to minimise our impact on the environment.
“Pretty much 80 or 90 percent of the time I come
across plastic in the oceans,” said Ferguson.
“Obviously there is a lot more on the beaches, but
sometimes in the ocean you can’t tell the difference between a piece of plastic
and a jelly fish.”
She praised SPAR EC’s step to do something tangible
about the problem.
“It’s a wonderful initiative and to have someone like SPAR
EC stepping up to tackle the issue is fantastic,” she said.
“They are the first SPAR region to do so and they have
set the benchmark for others to follow.
“This is a global problem - it affects everyone - and we
are excited to be partnering with them in trying to combat this very real