08.07.19

Meet The Women Creating A Floating School For Adults To Learn How To Be Eco Warriors

Olivia Burton

When two adventurous changemakers get together, anything is possible and for Sara Rickards and Kate Nelson, that anything is an activist school (for adults) set on a sailboat called Mer-School.

Sara and Kate are no strangers to education and activism, with Sara being a Biomedical Scientist, Environmental Engineer and educator, and Kate, a plastic-free activist and yoga instructor.

The innovative pair developed the concept of Mer-School in response to the current global plastic and waste crisis. The school’s aim is two-fold, to educate and empower a group of individuals centered on a specific waste issue, while also having a fun holiday with a purpose.

plastic free mermaid

“We both care about sustainability and consumption  – and we wanted to focus on how we could train up epic change makers, help them find their purpose, empower them to go out into the world and create their own unique ripples of awesomeness.” – Sara Rickards

plastic free mermaid

The pop-up prototype set sail on a 46 ft. sailboat in late August this year, carrying 11 people including a Marine Scientist skipper. With Australia having one of the highest carbon footprints per person, Sara and Kate decided to focus on individual consumption and waste for the first trip. Individual lifestyles can make a significant difference to the environment, with people consuming and wasting more than ever before.

The average Sydney-sider uses a shocking 200-300L of water per day, Mer-School attempted to drop that to just 12L per person. Diet was also a huge focus, with it being over a quarter of our ecological footprint, the school focused on plant-based and plastic free meals. 

plastic free mermaid

plastic free mermaid
plastic free mermaid

Aside from practically focusing on food, water, and plastic consumption on the weeklong adventure, activities included snorkeling with whales, sailing, workshops and plastic-free product making. The workshops covered topics such as purpose, environmental activism, and consumption. Thanks to Kate, there was also yoga and meditation sessions run daily. 

Mer-School is a prime example of an innovative solution to education and activism. It firstly engages and empowers individuals in a practical, fun way outdoors, doing more than a packaged holiday around a pool (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It also changes people’s perception of education, which is essential considering education is suggested to be the key to a sustainable future. 

For future trips, Mer-School is looking for businesses to pitch their waste or sustainability issues, which future participants will then work on for the week. There are also options for companies to sponsor places in the school, in exchange for sustainability consulting or collaboration. This is one of the ways that Sara and Kate believe the school can be more accessible and diverse.   

To get in touch with Mer-School as a business or participant – please email mermaid@iquitplastics.com

Olivia Burton

Olivia is an eco-writer, producer, science graduate & ocean enthusiast. After moving from London to Sydney, she found her love for the outdoors and recycled textiles, which led her to start writing about science and sustainable fashion. Olivia is really passionate about brands using fashion for good and innovation in the industry. She now splits her time between several not-for-profit organisations in communication roles. Olivia is also a Centre for Sustainability Leadership alumni and sits on the Fashion Revolution committee for Australia & New Zealand.