Four years ago, Lizzie Carr‘s life suddenly changed. After years in an unsatisfying career in the corporate world, Carr submitted her resignation and set off on a ten-month eco-adventure to remote locations across the globe. After returning from her trip, Carr was diagnosed with stage-two cancer in 2013. She was completely blindsided.

After a hard-fought battle, Carr came out triumphant and slowly began to rework her way into normal life. On a visit to see her dad on the Isles of Scilly, she caught a glimpse of someone paddleboarding and thought it was something she might enjoy doing. With weak and unsteady arms, she picked up a paddle and just like that, she was hooked.

Standup paddling was the catalyst that changed Carr’s life. Photo: Joel Caldwell

“It was a really low impact way of restoring my physical fitness again,” Carr tells ASN. “But it was also quite meditative and I don’t think I realized at the time how much I needed that element.”

After returning from the Isles of Scilly, Carr began researching clubs and places to paddle near her home in London. She began exploring the city from a new perspective, atop her paddleboard in the canals that laced their way through the city. While Carr enjoyed the perspective that urban paddling offered, she quickly became privy to the amount of pollution dotting the city’s waterways.

“The amount of plastic I was paddling through was horrifying,” says Carr. “It was more than an inconvenience and an eye sore; it was actively impacting the wildlife. I was going on the water to restore my health and it was being compromised every time I was out there.”

And so, Carr set out on a mission to raise awareness about plastic pollution and protect the places that meant so much to her.

Picking up plastic in the UK. Photo: Andy Hargraves

Carr began by paddling the length of England in 2016, through the 400 miles of rivers and canals that had become her home. Her goal was to raise awareness at a local level and show people how their actions impacted the waterways that ultimately lead to the ocean. She photographed and geo-tagged every piece of plastic she found along the way and dropped them into an interactive map so people could see the weight of the problem for themselves.

After the trip, Carr developed an app called Plastic Patrol, through which she logs all of her data in a platform that’s readily available to the public. In addition to viewing her data, people can add their own findings to the collection. Through the app, Carr has been able to share approximately 50,000 examples of plastic pollution from 22 different countries, shedding some much needed light on a widespread issue.

In 2017, Carr set her sights on crossing the English Channel, again, in an effort to raise awareness about plastic pollution. During the crossing, Carr used her app to log micro plastic samples along the way. Seven and a half hours and 24 miles later, Carr became the first woman to complete the crossing solo.

Carr regularly takes water samples and collects plastic along her routes. Photo: Joel Caldwell

Last month, Carr headed to New York City to paddle the Hudson River in partnership with the APP World Tour. The U.S. is one of the biggest consumers of single-use plastics in the world, and Carr felt it was important to take her program overseas. Joined by locals and competitors on the Tour, Carr paddled the Hudson, taking samples and organizing cleanups along the way.

“Cancer was a catalyst to everything I’m doing now,” Carr tells ASN. “I often question, ‘What would I be doing now if I hadn’t had that experience?’ The truth is, I don’t know. At the time, cancer was my worst nightmare, but it’s evolved over time into my greatest blessing.”

Carr’s latest mission: The Hudson Project. Photo: Maximusinnyc

Carr’s drive and passion is evident through her words and actions. Her efforts in plastic pollution awareness/education and her endurance paddles have been well received by the public and have inspired individuals to begin paddling and limit their plastic use. Carr isn’t entirely sure what’s on the horizon but she plans to continue making waves through her efforts.

“I was just one person who wanted to change my habits and do something better for the planet,” says Carr. “It’s a ripple effect. If you do your thing, other people will learn and be inspired by what you’re doing.”

Be sure to check out Plastic Patrol on Instagram.

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