“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” –Baba Dioum ~ Sacha Greene Belter’s favorite quote
“It’s been full of good challenges and a lot of passion,” says Sacha Belter Green. “Even though we are landlocked (or as someone put it, ‘conveniently located between two oceans’) Colorado has the highest number of scuba divers per capita of any state in the US.” Sacha says that the owner of Ocean First Divers, Graham Casden created something really different with his dive business to help save the ocean. “He is an adventure traveler and as he traveled around the world, he was dismayed by the way he saw people treating the oceans. He thought education could be a huge part of changing that.”
“a philosophy of sustainable practices and marine conservation”
Casden tasked Ocean First Divers with a mission to be an ocean activist by stressing sustainable diving. “He built on an already wonderful team by encouraging people to find their true passion.” That created a philosophy of sustainable practices and marine conservation and established a holistic approach to the business. “When your team is excited the customer sees that, and they in turn get fired up by that passion and get on board. All of which has huge ramifications for the bottom line. There is a feeling when you come into our shop, an energy and people enjoy being there.”
“We started with a couple of solar systems on the roof”
Sacha continues “Then we took the big leap…. We started with a couple of solar systems on the roof and a thermal system that helps us heat water for the pool. We changed the fixtures on the exterior lighting of the building. We changed our landscaping so that there would be no watering. We replaced our pool pump with a variable pool pump so it becomes a smart pump and can tell how much the water is being used and adjust the water circulation and lessen how much energy it is drawing. Instead of being on all the time it is working only when it needs to. We installed a UV filter for the pool to decrease the amount of chemicals we use to treat the water.”
“We also offer voluntourism programs like shark tagging“
In terms of the Ocean First dive trips, Sacha emphasizes, “we decide who our partners are and who we book dive travel with. … starting with smaller companies and that has created a much better customer experience… In Cozumel we can now offer an eco-friendly program that is attractive to our clients. We have been able to offer “hot, new, undiscovered destinations” that people haven’t necessarily been to before. We also offer voluntourism programs like shark tagging in the Socorros and beach cleanups for volunteers that really want to make a positive impact on the destinations they are visiting. And we have drafted letters to both the governments and local tourism associations to be more conscious of recycling and trash disposal.”
Sacha received her Open Water certification at the age of fifteen and began her formal marine ecology education in San Diego, but Sacha has also studied in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. She has traveled and dove throughout the Caribbean and the Pacific and it is through those travels and continued education that Sacha became especially passionate about resource management and conservation of coral reef ecosystems.
Founded in 2005, Ocean First Divers is an environmentally conscious dive operation and an advocate for ocean ecosystems. The company has an organic vision for redefining the diving industry and looks to become the first dive shop in the world with energy independence and no carbon footprint. Ocean First Divers provides customers with a wide selection of scuba diving classes, organized diving trips and all the equipment needed to make your scuba diving experiences unforgettable.
“learn how to transition your dive operation to a sustainable business“
To learn more about how to transition your dive operation to a sustainable business and how to choose sustainable travel destinations to partner with listen to Sacha’s entire interview at Blue Ocean Summit 2014: Sacha Greene Belter and visit the Ocean First Divers website.
Vicki Nichols Goldstein has always been passionate about the ocean. She grew up clamming and fishing off the coast of southern New Jersey and then graduated with a BA degree in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic and stayed to direct their Natural History Museum and developed the Field Studies Program for Children.
Vicki earned a Master’s degree in environmental studies and marine policy from Yale and worked at the Peabody Museum of Natural History. She went on to conduct research on Alaskan wetlands and sea turtle conservation in the Caribbean and then joined the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) where she developed national oil spill contingency plans. She is currently bringing her experience of ocean protection and conservation to Boulder where she founded the Colorado Ocean Coalition. Her programs include Bluing the Dive Industry and the Ocean Ambassador Certification Program. To find out more about these programs read Vicki’s article “Blue the Dive Industry: Working Within to Promote Conservation Below” at: Ocean Profiles: Vicki Nichols Goldstein