Tod Hardin attended Macomb in the early 1990s after graduating from Chippewa Valley High School. He took political science and journalism classes and discovered interests and talents that continue to drive him today as a defender of the world’s waterways.
“I had two Macomb professors who were my educational mentors,” says Hardin, who transferred from Macomb to Wayne State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations. “They made it fun. I loved going to school there.”
Hardin is the director of operations and communications for Plastic Oceans International, a Malibu-based conservancy organization. He recently returned from Easter Island in the South Pacific, known for its monolithic rock sculptures (maoi) built hundreds of years ago by the Rapa Nui. But it was what was washing up on the island’s shores that brought Hardin there.
“Eight billion tons of plastic currently pollute our oceans, and that’s just a guess,” says Hardin. “We will live to see a day when there is more plastic in the ocean than fish.”
Plastic Oceans partnered with Breathe Conservation, founded by Sarah Ferguson, a long-distance swimmer from South Africa, on the Swim Against Plastic, an event designed to increase awareness about the environmental impact of plastic consumption. It also gave Hardin a crash course in the culture of the Rapa Nui who still call Easter Island their home.
“Before Sarah could get in the water, they came to us and said: ‘There is a ceremony we have to do so nothing bad happens,’” relates Hardin, and he doesn’t discount the possibility that it might have intervened with the high winds and strong currents that were forecast for the swim. “All I know is that the storm that was supposed to hit, didn’t.”
Overcoming Easter Island’s rocky coast and chokingly salty seas, as well as three jellyfish stings, Ferguson became the first person in history to swim completely around the triangular island. She finished the approximately 40-mile swim in a little over 19 hours.
“We estimated it would take her at least 24 hours to swim it,” says Hardin. “That she did it in 19 says a lot about her endurance and her commitment to this cause.”
It’s the same cause that drew Hardin away from the marketing and advertising firm he founded and still manages. Plastic Oceans had been a client for four years when Hardin decided to sign on as part of its small, global staff.
“It was a combination of wanting a better work/life balance and wanting to do work with a higher purpose,” says Hardin, who joined Plastic Oceans a year ago and works remotely from his home in St. Clair Shores. “A lot of what we do is about awareness and education.”
Hardin worked in marketing at Motor City Casino in Detroit for 12 years before moving out West, where he lived for a decade as he grew his firm. He appreciates that his role with Plastic Oceans has allowed him to return to his roots, not only in Michigan, but in political science and journalism as well.
“Plastic does a lot of amazing things and has its good uses. It’s the single-use items that are impacting our waterways, and it’s not just the oceans, it’s our lakes and rivers as well,” says Hardin, who also works with the Belle Isle Conservancy on its coastal cleanups. “If everyone would skip the plastic bags, don’t ask for a straw and exchange plastic water bottles for the reusable kind, that would make a big difference.”