Exeleon Magazine

Tides of Change

Chloé Dubois, Ocean Legacy and Their Fight against Plastic Pollution

Chloé Dubois in Exeleon Magazine

Chloé Dubois: Ocean Legacy's Fight against Plastic Pollution

According to Chloé Dubois, a pioneer is someone who works with a vision greater than themselves, thinking beyond the conventional norms and business-as-usual mindset. With a keen ability to listen and closely observe the world, pioneers possess a unique insight into the changes needed to impact communities and environments positively.

Chloé Dubois is an example of a pioneering leader who is on a relentless pursuit to tackle the global crisis of plastic pollution.

As the Co-founder and Executive Director of The Ocean Legacy Foundation, Chloé’s mission is not just to clean up the oceans; it’s a quest to reshape the way humanity interacts with the natural environment.

Born from a desire to take action and make a tangible difference, the Ocean Legacy Foundation, under Dubois’ leadership, has become a leading voice in aquatic conservation. Through innovative cleanup and infrastructure initiatives, community engagement, and advocacy efforts, Chloé and her team are working tirelessly to rid our oceans of plastic pollution, one step at a time.

Fittingly, Chloe features on the Cover of Exeleon Magazine’s Pioneering Leaders to Follow in 2024 issue. Herein, we look into her journey, her fight against plastic pollution, and more.

A Personal Awakening

In 2011, Chloé Dubois found herself standing at a crossroads, her heart torn between a desire to make a meaningful difference in the world and the overwhelming complexity of where to begin. It was a pivotal moment in her life, one that would ultimately shape her journey and lead her to co-found the Ocean Legacy Foundation.

During this time Chloé enrolled for Work That Reconnects, a transformative course led by eco-philosopher Joanna Macy. Macy’s teachings resonated deeply with her, providing a sanctuary for her to confront the grief and despair induced by the rampant environmental degradation of our world. “Her work is acclaimed by the Dalai Lama and focuses on creating safe spaces within communities to grieve over environmental degradation,” Chloé reflects. This connection to nature and the urgent need for humanity to reconnect with the natural world would ultimately become the cornerstone of Chloé’s journey.

Through the course, she was introduced to “Albatross,” an unreleased documentary film by Chris Jordan that intimately chronicles the devastation wrought by plastic pollution on the Albatross species. The film served as a catalyst, igniting a fire within her to take action and confront the urgent crisis facing our oceans. “This film continues to drive me each day to engage in the incredible effort of reconciling the current state of resource exploitation with regeneration and active hope,” she shares.

Chloé’s newfound clarity and determination propelled her into a period of deep reflection, during which she delved into the study of Chinese medicine and contemplated the fleeting nature of life and the legacy she hoped to leave behind. As a person accustomed to throwing herself wholeheartedly into her passions, her resolve was unwavering. “My passions become my obsessions,” she recalls, “and my newly found insight ignited a fire within me.”

In 2014, united by a shared vision, Chloé and James Middleton registered Ocean Legacy as a non-profit entity, marking the beginning of a new chapter in their mission to combat plastic pollution. 

Chloé Dubois of Ocean Legacy

Making an Impact

After forming Ocean Legacy in 2014, Chloé Dubois and James Middleton wasted no time heading towards their collective mission. Their initial focus was on clean-up efforts and mapping out pollution concentrations, taking them on tours of remote and urban environments worldwide to grasp the sheer enormity and complexity of the plastic issue.

Reflecting on those early days, Chloé mentions, “It didn’t seem to matter where we went, plastic pollution was the new face of most environments.” This reality fueled their determination to lead large-scale remote expeditions, bringing together friends and colleagues to explore some of the world’s most environmentally remote places and raise awareness of the urgent need for action.

Their work quickly expanded to encompass a wide range of initiatives, from microplastic research expeditions in Antarctica to shoreline clean-ups spanning across Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, and the USA.

In 2016, Chloé and her team made a groundbreaking commitment to develop a new waste management system for marine plastics. This initiative, known as EPIC, aimed to address gaps in education, policy, infrastructure, and clean-up efforts. Securing an initial  grant from Innovation Solutions Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Chloé led a team in researching, designing, and commercializing new methods to wash and extrude ocean plastics, revolutionizing their processing capabilities.

dNearly a decade later, EPIC has evolved into one of the most comprehensive response programs of its kind. “EPIC is the integration of Education, Policy, Infrastructure, and Cleanup,” Dubois proudly declares. The program includes a 15-hour online education Academy in three languages, a marine plastics-based processing facility, large-scale remediation projects, a robust depot program covering seven regions across British Columbia and many international endeavors.

EPIC solutions for EPIC problems

The EPIC approach has become the backbone of The Ocean Legacy Foundation’s global vision.

“EPIC works to build a springboard of change,” Chloé claims, highlighting the need for collaborative efforts that empower local leaders and communities to take ownership of solutions tailored to their unique environmental and cultural contexts.

At its core, the EPIC approach seeks to assist, empower, and enhance leaders in developing and implementing worldwide plastic pollution response programs. By identifying and implementing innovative technologies, education initiatives, and skills training, EPIC aims to convert plastic pollution into economic value while preventing further environmental degradation.

Central to the EPIC approach is the creation of accessible platforms that help communities build the tools needed to restore ecologically and culturally sensitive environments. This includes assessing and developing long-term plastic collection, processing infrastructure, policy frameworks, and cleanup activities to mitigate aquatic plastic pollution sources.

Through EPIC, Chloé and the Ocean Legacy team are pioneering a new paradigm in the fight against plastic pollution—one that recognizes the interconnectedness of environmental, social, and economic systems and empowers communities to be agents of change in their own right. With EPIC as their guiding principle, they are forging a path towards a cleaner, healthier planet for future generations.

Navigating Challenges

Talking about the monumental challenges posed by plastic pollution on both a local and global scale, Chloé explains “The biggest challenges facing our team and this planet in respect to plastic pollution are multifaceted.” She highlights the unregulated surge in virgin plastic production and the lack of infrastructure to manage these materials worldwide.

She emphasizes the insidious nature of plastic pollution, viewing it as a design flaw and a symptom of humanity’s disconnect from the natural world. “Plastic pollution is a symptom of a much larger problem, our disconnect from the natural planet and our place within it.” This profound disconnection, she argues, perpetuates unsustainable consumption patterns and exacerbates environmental degradation.

Operationally, Ocean Legacy’s team grapples with a myriad of obstacles as they navigate diverse terrains and communities affected by plastic pollution. From remote, disaster-laden locales to rugged coastlines, each cleanup initiative presents unique challenges. “The remediation plans we establish are co-developed with local indigenous and non-indigenous community members and governments where possible,” Chloé explains, thus underscoring the importance of community engagement and cultural sensitivity.

Despite these challenges, Chloé remains steadfast in her commitment to fostering systemic change. She advocates for a paradigm shift towards circularity, where resources are recirculated within a closed-loop economy. “In order to shift our world away from a take-> make -> waste model, we need the principles of circularity ingrained in every decision we make.” This holistic approach, she believes, is essential for redefining humanity’s relationship with nature and promoting sustainability on a global scale.


Embodying Pioneering Leadership

A pioneer herself, Chloé defines pioneering leadership as embodying a vision greater than oneself and challenging the status quo. She believes that pioneers possess a deep-seated drive to make a positive impact on the world, driven by intuition and a commitment to learning from challenges. Despite facing criticism and adversity, pioneers persevere, driven by a strong sense of purpose.

Chloé integrates these pioneering qualities into her leadership at Ocean Legacy, viewing it as a lifelong journey of growth and adaptation. She talks about the importance of decolonizing leadership and actively supporting indigenous and marginalized communities. By prioritizing humility and listening to the needs of communities, she fosters collaboration and empowers others to drive change from within.

By nurturing a supportive team and embracing diverse perspectives, Chloé ensures that Ocean Legacy’s vision of ending plastic pollution is pursued with integrity and inclusivity.

Ocean Legacy Cleanup Foundation Group

Vision Ahead

Looking ahead, Chloé Dubois envisions a future where Ocean Legacy Foundation leads the charge in ending plastic pollution across all lands and waters. While acknowledging that achieving this goal may extend beyond her lifetime, she remains resolute in her commitment to systemic change and sustainability.

Central to Ocean Legacy’s vision is the recognition of the intertwined nature of environmental and social issues. Chloé emphasizes the importance of addressing inequality to foster a deeper connection between humanity and the natural world. “How can we protect the systems which sustain all life on this planet when half the world‘s human population is living in poverty, working daily to meet the needs of survival ” she asserts, underscoring the need for inclusive solutions that empower communities worldwide.

Highlighting the potential of plastics as a catalyst for economic stimulation, Chloé stresses the importance of implementing the integrative components of EPIC (Education, Policy, Infrastructure, and Cleanup) on a global scale. This comprehensive approach, she believes, is key to unlocking systematic change by equipping individuals and communities with the knowledge and tools needed to address plastic pollution effectively.

Education: Empowering Change

Chloé Dubois mentions about the crucial role of education in combating plastic pollution. Through Ocean Legacy’s EPIC Academy, she aims to help equip individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to drive meaningful action. By fostering awareness and facilitating grassroots engagement, the EPIC Academy empowers communities to make informed decisions and advocate for change.

Policy: Driving Systemic Change

Chloé advocates for policies that incentivize sustainable practices and mandate the use of recycled content in products. She emphasizes the need for a robust Global Plastics Treaty to address plastic pollution on a global scale. By engaging policymakers and advocating for meaningful legislation, Ocean Legacy seeks to effect lasting change at the policy level.

Infrastructure: Building Sustainability

Ocean Legacy prioritizes infrastructure development to manage plastic waste effectively. By investing in containment, processing infrastructure, product design innovation and product manufacturing that utilizes recycled content, she envisions a future where communities have the tools to minimize waste and recirculate resources.

Cleanup: Restoring Balance

Ocean Legacy’s cleanup initiatives span a wide range of environments, from remote shorelines to derelict vessels and aquaculture sites. By hiring and training rural coastal community members, Ocean Legacy helps to empower communities to take ownership of cleanup efforts. Chloé envisions a future where communities work together to restore balance to the environment and create a sustainable future for generations to come.

Ultimately, Chloé Dubois believes that redefining consumption patterns is integral to ending plastic pollution. Through the EPIC methodology, Ocean Legacy aims to navigate the complexities of addressing this crisis by developing tailored solutions that engage stakeholders at every level.

Chloé Dubois’s impact in water conservation extends beyond the removal of millions of pounds of plastic waste. Her legacy lies in the communities empowered, the policies influenced, and the educational initiatives that have shaped minds globally.