Greenwich Resident Ready to Set Sail on Environmental Voyage
By Richard Kaufman
When Jeanine Behr Getz was little, she would visit her grandparents in the Adirondacks, and often row out to a small island with her cousins on an adventure to explore.
One would think that with all the natural beauty located within the Adirondack Region, there’d be virtually no noticeable pollution. However, Getz would find litter, and she took the time to clean up her surroundings.
That exposure to the wilderness at an early age had an impact on Getz, who has since dedicated her life to preserving and helping the environment; she was a founding member of BYO Greenwich, the organization that led the charge on banning plastic bags in Greenwich, and she’s the founder of BYO Connecticut.
Now, Getz, a Greenwich resident, is literally and figuratively getting ready to set sail on a new adventure on a much larger scale.
She has been selected by eXXpedition, a not-for-profit organization based in the UK that runs pioneering all-female sailing research expeditions all over the world, to investigate the causes of and solutions to ocean plastic pollution on a voyage to Antigua via Green Island.
EXXPedition features all female crews to set role models for younger generations of women who are underrepresented in the sailing community and in science and research, and to raise awareness about the health effects of plastics on women.
Getz will set sail with eight other crew members from Nov. 23-26 on a 70-foot, science-equipped S.V. TravelEdge. They will conduct various experiments, and even speak with children at a local school about science, sailing and solutions to plastic pollution.
The trip is part of a larger project for eXXpedition, in which 300 women from all walks of life will sail across 30 voyages in different locations over a two-year period.
“This is just another challenge for me,” Getz said excitedly, while admitting that she’s “not necessarily a boat person.”
“I wanted to learn the science, and I wanted to learn how the science is collected and how it’s analyzed, and really speak from experience, and not only speak from the studies I read,” she added.
According to the eXXpedition website, as of this past July, the organization received over 4,000 applications for the 300 spaces. After she applied, Getz underwent seven Skype interviews before she ultimately found out she was selected several months ago. Participants also have to get sponsored, and raise money.
Getz will lead the science aspect of the trip with another crew member. Using special machines, they’ll study the top of the water, at the midway point, and in the sediment for plastic toxins and pollution. Antigua is the perfect place for such studies, since they’ve made great progress in cutting down on plastic pollution since they banned single-use plastic items in January of 2016.
EXXpedition is partnered with internationally-recognized ocean plastic experts, Professor Richard Thompson from the University of Plymouth, and Dr. Jenna Jambeck from the University of Georgia, to interpret findings both at sea and on shore.
Getz, who has written a children’s book titled Think Green! said she’s particularly excited to speak with schoolchildren in Antigua.
“[Children are] still so hopeful and still so positive. They look at what bonds us and how we can do it together. I feel as though those kids at that level are the best audience to move things forward,” she said. “I’m super excited to go in there and share the science we’re learning, and listen to them. Most times kids have great ideas of how we can do things better.”
Once the trip is over, the crew members will discuss their findings. When she’s home in Greenwich, Getz said she wants to share her experience with as many people as possible; she has already been approached by several schools and other organizations about speaking engagements.
“I want to share what I learn and how I learned it. Maybe there’s some science we can duplicate in the Long Island Sound, or maybe there are already people doing it like SoundWaters that we can give more focus to and elevate their science,” Getz said.
Getz also wants to remind people that Greenwich can have a strong voice on environmental issues.
“We’re a formidable city. We used to set legislation for the country. We used to set legislation for the state. We were the leaders in doing the right thing. We count. We have voices that are represented in businesses all around the world. We have children that are being sent out from this town to all over the world representing Greenwich. I would imagine we would all want them to come back and we hope that they want to come back and be proud of our town,” she said. “I’m Greenwich proud.”
For more information on eXXpedition and to track Getz’s’ voyage, go to exxpedition.com.