Nice weather, long weekends and beach days—for many, the month of June is a happy reminder that summer is finally here after months of anticipation.
June also carries two important dates to remind us that we need to take better care of our environment and our oceans. This month, we celebrated World Environment Day (June 5) and World Oceans Day (June 8), as activists and environmentally conscious people across the globe raised awareness and educated others on the importance of changing our not-sustainable ways in order to keep our planet healthy.
In honor of the first day of summer, and a month filled with celebration of our environment, we wanted to highlight an inspiring person who is working hard to save our oceans. Oh, and did we mention she also happens to be a mermaid?
Mermaid on a Mission: Danni Washington's Quest to Save Our Oceans
Danni Washington learned how to swim when she was only five years old. From that point on, she knew exactly what she wanted to be, as well as her mission in this world.
“It was very obvious to me. I dreamed of being a mermaid,” she said.
The Miami native with Jamaican roots didn’t only dream of becoming a mermaid, but decided that protecting the oceans would be a priority throughout her journey. After all, what mermaid wouldn’t want to keep her home safe?
At six years old, Danni also dreamed of studying the oceans. That dream came true, and in 2008 she graduated from the University of Miami Rosentiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Marine Science and Biology.
When she was 21, Danni co-founded Big Blue & You with her mom. The 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization is dedicated to inspiring and educating youth about marine conservation through the arts and media. According to Danni, she wants to create a connection between the kids and the ocean through inspiration. The earlier they start understanding and knowing their oceans, the better.
“I wanted to get people to understand their connection through inspiration. It’s human nature, we don’t act when we’re feeling guilty or feeling bad about something,” Danni said. “But if you inspire someone to fall in love with it, I think they’re going to inherently want to protect it.”
Each year in Miami, Big Blue & You host their annual “Artsea” festival, where kids are engaged in different activities involving art, education and even yoga.
Danni is also passionate about science communication, and she shares her knowledge of the ocean and other scientific concepts through digital media. She is the first African-American woman to host her own science television series, and she hopes to inspire not only future generations to connect with nature, but to also break stereotypes within female minorities.
According to Danni, one of the challenges she faced during her career was the fact that she was a woman, and a woman of color.
“In this field, there are not many of us,” she said. “Growing up I didn’t have a role that looked like me working in marine biology.”
For three years, the ocean advocate was an on-camera personality and science filmmaker with Untamed Science, creating nearly 200 K-12 Science Educational Videos for Pearson textbooks in the US. Danni also co-starred with Jaden Smith in the official educational outreach video for the theatrical film After Earth starring Jaden and his dad, Will Smith.
Danni’s most recent work was as the host of XPLORATION NATURE KNOWS BEST, a new STEM educational TV series featuring the latest advancements in bio-inspired technology, which is syndicated on FOX and available on HULU, Amazon Prime, Roku and Yahoo View. She also co-created and produced a new initiative called Sea Youth Rise Up, a collaborative effort to elevate the role of youth leadership in ocean conservation policy and advocacy on World Oceans Day.
“I want to play a bigger role in connecting the general public to the ocean because, I understand what negative things are happening to the ocean and how we are impacting it directly but so many people had no clue what was happening out at sea,” Danni said.
The ocean advocate believes that we should not see ourselves as separate from nature, but one with it. According to her, a lot of the problems we have in our environment today is because people don’t know how to work in tandem with nature. And that’s where the future is leading towards.
“We have to look back. We see that our relationship is not good, it’s not working,” Danni said. “We’re doing too much, we’re taking too much and we’re not respecting nature.”
Danni also shared a few scary numbers with ROUND + SQUARE. According to her, it is estimated that there’s going to be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.
“I think it’s going to be sooner than that at the rate we’re going,” she added.
With our planet’s population increase, and the lack of awareness on what is happening, Danni shared her concern.
“We’re heading to 10 billion people shortly. Can the planet sustain us? Not with our current behavior. We have to change, we have to do a complete 180. Is there enough food on the planet to feed everybody? Yes, there is. It's simply not being distributed properly. It’s not fair," Danni said. "All of these issues are so complex, so deep. For me it becomes very simple when you look at it from nature’s perspective. You take only what you need, and you give back. That’s it. You create that cycle.”
ROUND + SQUARE believes in communicating and raising awareness on serious topics—such as gender inequality and sustainability—through beautiful designs and messages.
Just like Danni, our goal is to make people understand these issues through a positive, creative approach, which is why when ROUND + SQUARE’s founder and CCO Henriette Ernst first learned about Danni, she was immediately drawn to her positive energy and amazing mission.
“My team met Danni at the 2018 Women’s March in Miami, and we instantly became fans of her work,” Henriette said. “Meeting Danni happened in a very natural way, especially since it was in a setting surrounding women empowerment.”
Henriette said that she personally learned so much from her. Not only does she has a captivating, go-getter energy, but she is extremely knowledgeable about what she is talking about.
“Her work is so honest and she’s so passionate about it. I personally learned a lot with Danni,” Henriette said. “For example, when we first met, we talked about the ocean and the micro-plastic issues, and how they can also be found in clothing. Our ocean is our main organ, and it is crucial for a balanced, healthy world.”
“Danni is an amazing and inspiring young woman,” Henriette added.
The ROUND + SQUARE x Danni Washington connection was rather instinctive, since both parties understand the need for a fashion brand that takes the environment seriously throughout all processes of the supply chain.
"I absolutely love ROUND + SQUARE because they are doing it the right way. Every decision, every step of the process in producing their goods, takes into consideration the environment and people,” Danni said. “There’s that triple bottom line which I see in their business model: it’s people, planet, and then profit last. I love that.”
“If every business took on that triple bottom line, things wouldn’t be going on the way they are. I think that ROUND + SQUARE is ahead of the curve because this is the direction that fashion is going,” Danni added.
Just like Henriette, Danni also believes that gender equality and environmental justice go hand in hand.
“Women are inherently protectors, and have a clearer connection to protecting and taking care of our planet. Speaking to those two causes is really a strong choice. It gives us the platform we need to do something about it, through what we buy,” Danni said.
Watch Below: Amy Poehler's Smart Girls: "STEM10: Danni Washington, Ocean Advocate and Science Communicator!"