#SaveOurOceans is a social media campaign that draws NGOs and social media platforms together in the form of a TikTok contest that ultimately pledges a monetary contribution that goes towards protecting oceans and marine life by reducing plastic waste. TikTok has partnered with Conservation International to protect marine life due to the impact that ocean life has on our world. According to data provided on their website, the impact of healthy oceans affects society both economically and physically. Over 3 billion people are estimated to depend on seafood as the main source of their protein. In addition, the ocean provides an economic value of over $2.5 trillion per year with over 44 percent of the population living along the coast. According to the Marine Conservation Institute, the ocean “generates over half of the oxygen” that we inhale and more so, the ocean makes up over 97% of our waters. In addition, the ocean also makes up “at least a sixth of the animal protein people eat”. Ultimately, through protecting the ocean, we are able to protect a variety of ecosystems, but also allows for the reduction of climate change as the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide as well. 


Ocean pollution can come from a variety of things, whether it be debris that humans leave on the sandy shores of local beaches or company tragedies such as oil spills. An example that National Geographic references in their article titled Marine Pollution, the Pacific Garbage Patch is an example of how ocean pollution is hurting our environment with over 1.6 million square kilometers of trash and plastic floating between California and Hawaii. In terms of the geographic mapping of this global issue of plastic waste in oceans, we can reference the map below.


Through this image, we can see all the 1000 rivers around the world that are impacted by over 80% of the global annual emissions and the other 20% of plastic emissions going to smaller rivers (as seen by the blue dots). The main countries that seem to be affected are those of Eastern Asia. 

In terms of relations to other hashtags and movements, this can also relate to the #NoDAPL. This movement relates to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests as individuals were pushing for the prevention of an oil pipeline that would run 1,172 miles long. Although many businesses and individuals saw this as an opportunity to increase employment and gain economic benefits, activists saw this plan as detrimental to the nearby water supply as well as the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

In terms of key images or symbols, the only one seems to be the image of the whale on their website shown below.




Various international foundations like Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund have increasingly raised people’s attention on marine pollution issue.


Before 2016, most famous NGOs still used traditional ways to recruit volunteers. Several related hashtags arise during this period like #trashtag.


Through increasing awareness to global warming issue and the consistent call from the United Nations, Marine conservation has been raising the public’s attention proved by a growing trend of # used during 2017-2018.

Facebook has launched a similar event in 2017 but cooled down quickly.


TikTok grew rapidly over years and build up its CSR.


Through cooperation with Conservation International, they dove into the international #SaveOurOceans challenge


Special ocean effect on TikTok goes live which allows users to virtually clean up the ocean


Last day to use special ocean effect on TikTok


Recently there are 10+ different projects related to environmental protection are raising funds and asking for volunteers to enable people to participate from every part of the world.


Social Media Presence

Platform Used

As mentioned in the introduction, the main Social Media that this movement is a part of is Tik Tok. Other minority platforms that this hashtag has been used on are Twitter and Instagram. The description given on the Tik Tok page is as follows: “We must #SaveOurOceans as they are being destroyed at an alarming rate. By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. Show us how you will help #SaveOurOceans and TikTok will donate $2 per video (up to $100,000) to Conservation International to protect 3,000 sq. km of the ocean (1800 miles).” In terms of overall views, the hashtag has gained over 1.5 billion.

In terms of analyzing whether this movement and the images/videos collected are memes or supportive of the cause, it seems that all of these videos in some way show support or educate followers on what is going on in our waters. Some Tik Toks are meant to be comedic, showing the destruction that can be caused by throwing out cans or bottles of liquid the wrong way. Social media has played a key role in spreading this message. When looking at Tik Tok specifically, it allows for a variety of content to be produced and shared at a rapid pace. When looking at the key examples of impactful content are shown below, we can see a wide variety of different posts that are meant to inspire, educate, and impact. When analyzing these examples on a closer level, it is important to recognize the differences and similarities between all of these posts.

  • Example 1: This example highlights the predator of our oceans being plastic. It references how humans have killed over 100,000 marine animals every year over the span of the past 2,000 years. This Tik Tok is meant to educate consumers on what environmental impact plastic has had. Since this movement, we’ve seen a lot of companies minimize their use of plastic, such as Starbucks offering drinkable lids instead of straws. This Tik Tok received over 100.3K likes and 1913 comments.
  • Example 2: This example shows the celebrity engagement with #SaveOurOceans as Shailene Woodley goes on the platform to talk about the impact that plastic has on our oceans and why it matters to us. Woodley is an American actress with over 4.4M followers on Instagram. Her stardom is closely tied to the film Divergent, which she held the leading role of the main character. 
  • The next few examples highlight the beauty of our oceans through aesthetic video images as seen in the image above. 


Perspective from the Platform

In an interview, Director of Public Policy for Tik Tok, Nitin Saluja, stated that ““TikTok’s global community allows users to showcase and consume creative, everyday moments through videos. We’re delighted to partner with Conservation International on the #SaveOurOceans challenge, which empowers our community to use their creativity to show their commitment to and raise awareness toward clean oceans.”


Steps to Participate

The following steps are how Conservation International recommends playing your part within this movement:

You can help protect 3,000 square kilometers of ocean. TikTok will donate $2 for every uploaded video.

  1. Join the challenge: Download or open the TikTok app and show us how you will reduce plastic and help #SaveOurOceans. You can use a cool ocean effect that allows you to virtually “clean plastic” out of the ocean with the swipe of a hand.
  2. Use the hashtag: Every time you share using the hashtag #SaveOurOceans, you will help Conservation International raise enough funds to protect 3,000 sq. km of ocean.
  3. Spread the word: Share these videos to your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and help us reach our goal. We need 50,000 #SaveOurOceans uploads on TikTok by September 9.


Key Actors

Conservation International

Conservation International is a non-profit organization that Tiktok partnered with to bring the campaign’s impact to the real world. Conservation International is an environmentally focused non-profit organization that seeks to empower and promote responsible and sustainable solutions to society. With 2,000 worldwide partners and offices in 29 countries, the organization has aided in the protection of over 6 million square kilometers of sea and land. 



The #SaveOurOceans campaign was able to reach globally due to the impact influencers had in spreading the message to a wider audience. Local influencers and global influencers alike played a role in spreading the campaign. Visitearth, Hannah Snow, and Katy Hedges are just some examples of global influencers who utilized their viewing audience on YouTube to promote the campaign. Miss Fuji the Shiba Inu is an example of a local content creator that helped spread the campaign on TikTok.


Understanding Tik Tok


Tik Tok is the crux of this movement and we believe that the Conservation International partnership with the company has allowed for developed growth and success. Some interesting facts about Tik Tok and its user engagement are listed below:

This platform specifically can allow for the spread of the #SaveOurOceans campaign at a rapid and a cohesive rate. This campaign consists of both organic and planned growth. The planned growth aspect comes from the incentive given for everything that is produced. In addition, Conservation International has also worked to gain more celebrities on their platform to spread the message. However, there is a sense of organic growth due to the strong message and simplicity of the movement overall. In terms of offline presence, the only presence that was found in the research would be the apparel and products that reference the movement. 


Understanding Tik Tok’s Core Competencies

As mentioned in an article titled TikTok activism: ‘We’re changing the world in 15 seconds’ by Hanna Price from the BBS, teens are utilizing social media platform TikTok to share big issues that are affecting their lives quickly. Whether it be a crime or world poverty, users are utilizing clips that range from 15 to 60 seconds to highlight these serious subjects. TikTok has gained traction in the past and currently is gaining traction during shelter-in-place times due to the funny and “joking” content. With a user base of main people under 30 years old, TikTok curates content for users based on location and interest even if the user doesn’t follow the creator of the content. This allows for an increase in terms of spreading these clips of serious subjects that matter. 

Expanding on the Platform and Initiatives

By expanding the #SaveOurOceans through TikTok, the movement can reach a higher number of users and can create change through targeting younger demographics. 

This image highlights the community response to posts related to serious movements. 

Through this article, we can see that teens have been using TikTok to educate the community on subjects ranging from Aboriginal culture, trans people, the Global Climate Strike, and much more. 

When going to TikTok’s website, we see that they also push initiatives such as #SaveOurOceans. They allow movements and campaigns to have account management, advanced analytics and promoted hashtags. The account management feature allows users to manage campaign relationships to help organizations and platforms reach the end goal. Advanced Analytics helps analyze audiences and uses data insight to rate video performance. Lastly, promoted hashtags can lead to an increase of awareness for posts and movements, targeting the millions of TikTok users. Some initiatives that TikTok for good uses as examples are #EduTok and #ForClimate.

Platform Drawbacks and Shortcomings

TikTok has faced criticism in that they were accused of censoring content that was being spread during the Hong Kong protest as the Chinese government was said to not like it. As mentioned in the article, TikTok responded by saying that “TikTok does not remove content based on sensitivities related to China. We have never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked.” Some other weaknesses of TikTok include the limited age range of their consumer base. 

In a New York Times article titled Major TikTok Security Flaws Found, Ronen Bergman, Sheera Frenkel and Raymond Zhong highlight how users can send malicious malware links to other users. Also, Check Point’s intelligence unit performed analysis on the security of user accounts and found that there were major issues in securing video files. These vulnerabilities are extremely dangerous, especially considering the amount of young users on this platform.

TikTok paid a settlement of $5.7 million to settle issues with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act a few years back as well.


Alternative platforms


In addition to utilizing TikTok, the movement has had minor success on Facebook as well through the spreading of a company called “Save Our Oceans”. This company is described as an online shop that has a passion for ocean conservation and has raised over $50,000 since opening in 2017. The past posts have referenced the variety of products that they’ve sold including earrings and other reusable goods. They also highlight recent disasters related to global warming that negatively affects the ocean and our environment. One of these examples includes the carbon emissions gap that is occurring in the United Nations.

One of the ways that the company works to spread the movement is through free giveaways in which they provide consumers the opportunity to win a free pendant or product.



Save Our Oceans has a moderate presence on Instagram as well as a variety of ocean conservative profiles have worked to share their message. One of these pages includes the user @underwaterstuffs. The description of this page is to highlight the issues negatively affecting ocean life including pollution, plastic waste, carbon emissions, etc. There are a variety of images and videos that underscore the deaths and destruction to the ocean ecosystem. 

In terms of overall statistics, this page has gained traction with over three-hundred and fifty-five thousand followers and around two thousand posts.

Antecedent Movements


This hashtag campaign was a similarly motivated effort launched by Ocean Conservancy in August and September of 2018. The campaign was launched around the time of Ocean Conservancy’s 33rd annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) on September 15, 2018, to motivate people to head to their local waterfront to participate. 


The #trashtag campaign was originally started in 2015 by UCO Gear. However, it was revived in 2019 when an individual on Facebook posted a before and after photo of an area that needed maintenance/cleaning from littering. This post went viral and inspired a global audience to get involved as the #trashtag hashtag was utilized by people across the world to showcase their efforts in cleaning up on social media. 


Meme vs. Cause

When doing analysis on #SaveOurOceans posts, the majority of posts were used to promote the cause. These posts would range from going in depth about various news or information on how ocean pollution is affecting the world or sharing imagery of the ocean’s beauty. Memes that were created were not for comedy, but more so to share the message as seen below:

Impact of Movement

In regards to the movement, CMO of Conservation International, Anastasia Khoo, stated that “By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. TikTok offers an imaginative platform that has the power to both educate and inspire users to take action. That’s why we are partnering with TikTok and its global communities to address one of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges and to, together, inspire a creative, call to action around protecting our oceans for a better future.”

Aside from impact on the social media world, the movement has seen tangible results as well. In 2017, the movement and the Ocean Conference in New York saw a surge of voluntary commitments to improve the livelihood of our ocean waters by a variety of different organizations, whether it be business, tech or civil service. The commitments were around 600 by June 2nd. The Ocean Conference then allowed these organizations and leaders within the field to discuss what changes they should target in terms of solving ocean problems, protecting coral reefs and also reducing plastic to ensure a sustainable cycle for wildlife. In an interview with the UN News, UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson established that “ reducing marine pollution and sustainably managing and conserving marine resources are some of the expected outcomes from the upcoming Ocean Conference”.

Critiques of the Movement

In comparison to other social media campaigns with similar motivations of ocean conservancy and protection, the #SaveOurOceans campaign could have been improved in a number of aspects. In the #suituptocleanup campaign led by Ocean Conservancy back in 2018, there was a clear call to action in the name of the hashtag and in the connection of the movement. The hashtag was meant to inspire individuals to go out and help clean up pollution in beaches in waterways nearby. This action was aided by the fact that there was a specific date, September 15, 2018, that was associated with the social media campaign to unify efforts and create more cohesion between actors. Similarly, the #trashtag campaign was able to inspire individuals to clean up areas that need maintenance by posting before and after photos. While there wasn’t a specific date for this campaign, it was still able to achieve a tangible improvement to the environment. The TikTok campaign for #SaveTheOceans is more focused on raising awareness on the current state of the oceans and the need for immediate action to protect them. The campaign did include a section of “Other ways to get involved” on the Conservation International website promoting it but it didn’t have a specific date or message tied to the movement that directly resulted in action from the participants that enabled them to feel connected to the process. For example, a participant of the #suituptocleanup campaign could go to their local beach, clean up trash, and visibly see their impact on the environment around them.

Moreover, the #SaveOurOceans campaign never extended its partnership with other major organizations to extend its impact beyond Conservation International. For example, the #suituptocleanup campaign brought together Ocean Conservancy and International Coastal Cleanup to broaden its reach. Furthermore, they were able to secure a $250,000 grant from American Express in support. By incorporating other big corporations, the campaign was able to make news headlines that further promoted the campaign and helped reach as many people as possible.

Critics argue that the #SaveOurOceans campaign was limited in scope due to its limitation to one social media platform. Although, this limitation may be included because Ocean Conservancy wouldn’t be able to fulfill its promise if the hashtag gained a lot of attention. Nonetheless, the campaign’s limitation to one specific platform limited its demographic to that platform’s user base. TikTok is gaining popularity rapidly in the United States at the time of the contest but it is most popular with teenagers and young adults. In fact, 41% of TikTok users are 16-24 years old. The movement could have been more impactful to the direct core of the issue if it was able to reach an older demographic that has more disposable income and power (i.e voting, property, etc.) to make an impact on the issue.

Another critic of the campaign relates to the connection between the participant and the campaign. The #SaveOurOceans campaign keeps the participant mostly separated from impact of the campaign as Conservation International does the donation for each upload on behalf of the participant. Although the participant has the knowledge that they contributed, there isn’t a tangible way for them to feel their impact on the environment. The #suituptocleanup and #trashtag  campaigns empowered people to contribute to the issue in any varying degree of participation that they felt was necessary. This allows people to feel personally responsible for impacting their environment in a positive way. Continuing, the hashtag #suituptocleanup was also used as a way to tell stories of individual participants by beginning their posts with “I #suituptocleanup for…” and then continuing with a story behind their purpose. This strategy helps to make the campaign a more personal one for participants which further increases their likelihood of going out of their way to promote the issue to other people or find other ways to aid.


#SaveOurOceans is a social movement in environmental protection which uses non-traditional social media campaigns to draw the general public and the NGOs’ attention. Through the partnership between TikTok and Ocean Conservancy, this movement successfully pledges a large monetary contribution and public awareness that goes towards protecting oceans and marine life by reducing plastic waste.

Through this social movement, the hashtag #SaveOurOceans reached its peak in September 2019. In the past 30 years, various international foundations like Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund have increasingly raise people’s attention on marine pollution issue, but did not have a successful social movement to attract a large population; Before 2016, only a few people has used the hashtag on Twitter, though there is a slight increase between 2016 to 2018, it is not significant to drive a social movement. Not until 2019 when TikTok and Conservation International Dove Into the #SaveOurOceans Challenge, the app declared that they would donate $2 for every video uploaded with the hashtag, up to $100,000, which has a large impact on the entire society and eventually made it a global campaign. The usage of hashtag has decreased recently but the use of non-traditional social media to promote the NGOs campaign is a great success and could be taken as an example in the future. Recently their official website has 10+ different projects asking for funding and volunteers and people can participate all around the world.


“About Conservation International”. Conservation.Org, 2020, https://www.conservation.org/about. Accessed 3 Mar 2020.

“Beyond The Straw: Ocean Conservancy Launches #Suituptocleanup Campaign Ahead Of 33Rd International Coastal Cleanup – Ocean Conservancy”. Ocean Conservancy, 2020, https://oceanconservancy.org/news/beyond-straw-ocean-conservancy-launches-suituptocleanup-campaign-ahead-33rd-international-coastal-cleanup/. Accessed 3 Mar 2020.

“Causes And Control Of Water Pollution – Boating And Marinas”. Ehso.Com, 2020, http://www.ehso.com/WaterPollution_Boating.htm. Accessed 3 Mar 2020.

“Missouri Department Of Natural Resources”. Dnr.Mo.Gov, 2005, https://dnr.mo.gov/pubs/pub1188.pdf. Accessed 3 Mar 2020.

“NOAA’s National Ocean Service Education: Nonpoint Source Pollution”. Oceanservice.Noaa.Gov, 2020, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/pollution/09activities.html. Accessed 3 Mar 2020.

US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “What is the biggest source of pollution in the ocean?”. oceanservice.noaa.gov. Retrieved 22 November 2015.

Meet the Authors


Arnav Jain | https://www.linkedin.com/in/arnav-j-9a18bb140/

Arnav is a sophomore majoring in Economics at UC Berkeley. Arnav was born and raised in Edison, New Jersey and although he calls the east coast his home, he has grown to love the west coast and its natural beauty. This past summer, Arnav worked as an equity research intern for a small company based in New Delhi, India. On campus, Arnav is a member of the UC Berkeley Model United Nations team and travels across the country to attend college debate conferences. Continuing, he is the VP of Finance for a multidisciplinary professional fraternity.  In his free time, Arnav enjoys playing soccer and basketball and spending time with family and friends. As an avid debater, Arnav takes a special interest in international issues and has debated the intricacies of maritime sea law and solutions to climate change. Moreover, Arnav volunteers in his local community through public speaking and leadership classes for younger students at his local community center.

Alex Tran | https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexkhangtran/

Alex is a junior double majoring in Business Administration and Economics. Born in the Bay Area and growing up in the East Bay, Alex has been a California kid all his life. This summer, he worked at Cisco as a Business Analyst in San Jose. On campus, Alex is actively involved in the ASUC as the Director of Financial Wellness. Aside from work, he enjoys spending time with friends and family, hitting the gym to lift/hoop, vibing to music, and exploring nature with the homies. After graduation, he hopes to pursue a career in consulting with the long-term goal of one day starting his own non-profit, giving back to communities in need. Alex does not have a background in oceanography or environmental science, but through his experience with UGBA 39E in Civic Technology, he has analyzed the impact of social media and technology in the past. 

Ziyuan Ying | https://www.linkedin.com/in/ziyuanying/

Ying is a senior majoring in Business Administration at UC Berkeley Haas School of Business with a consistent interest in social services, NGOs, volunteering, and education. 

Ying was the cofounder of Excel Orange Education & Technology Group which is the official partner with 10+ world-class universities, institutions, and NGOs, including Stanford Research Institute and the University of California, the company provides free exchange & volunteering programs and has 50+ students involved in 2019. Ying worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)  where he drafted grant proposals and designed fundraising strategies to help NGOs in Africa, he was one of the representatives for the state of California in UNA-USA and delivered the proposal to call on the U.S Congress to fully fund the UN, presented in Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Barbara Lee’s office at Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. in 2019. Ying was also a volunteer for the San Francisco Marathon and the founder of Rio 2016 Olympics Chinese Volunteer Group. Ying has a deep interest in marine conservation dated back in 2015 when he volunteered in the Maldives for the cultural immersion program.