Many vacation fantasies include lying on a beach, drink within reach, as crystal clear waves break gently on the shore. As part of our vacation ideal, no one imagines helping to build a sandcastle and encountering cigarette butts or stepping on glass. We all have a vision of clean beaches and a healthy ocean. So does Ocean Conservancy, an Accredited Charity with a mission to preserve the ocean for future generations to use and enjoy.
2015 marks the 30th Anniversary of the International Coastal Cleanup; a global effort involving hundreds of countries and thousands of volunteers.
Do you ever wonder what to do with your grandchild, especially those that are in their teens? This is a great opportunity. It is outside and away from electronic distractions, it taps into idealism and the provides a concrete way to make a difference. “The timing is great, since the kids are back in school and looking for a way to make a difference in their community.” notes Allison Schutes, Senior Manager of the Trash Free Seas Program for the Ocean Conservancy. “The Cleanup lets you get your hands dirty and have a great impact.”
As a child in Iowa, I remember watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau with my grandmother on Sunday nights. Later when I was in college in California, after an awful day I would drive to the beach and stare at the waves until I put my problems into perspective. My own love of the ocean creeps up on me in unexpected moments and I feel homesick for the sight, sound, and smell of the ocean. Now my family is landlocked in Illinois, but within driving distance of the Great Lakes. I can still be involved since the Alliance for the Great Lakes is holding cleanup events on the same day. There is an easy to use map where you can search the globe to find a beach cleanup near you.
Over the past 29 years of the Coastal Cleanup:
- Over 10 million volunteers picked up more than 175 million pounds of trash from about 340,000 miles of shoreline.
- Volunteers found 59 million cigarette butts, which, if stacked end to end would stretch from Washington, D.C. all the way to Miami.
- Volunteers found more than 10 million plastic bags, which required 1,047 barrels of oil to produce.
Just last year:
- 561,895 volunteers in 91 countries collected 16,186,759 pounds of trash (the equivalent weight of 52,215 NFL Linemen)
- 3,294 divers collected trash underwater along 86 miles of waterways removing 183,828 pounds of trash.
- Weird finds included: a plastic banana in Guatemala, a wig in China, a lawnmower in Spain, 8 bowling balls, 1 plastic dinosaur, 26 barbecue grills and 5 rubber ducks.
- More common finds are Cigarette butts (2,248,065), food wrappers (1,376,133), plastic bottles (988,965), bottle caps (811,871), and straws (519,911)
Building a Legacy of Change
Commenting on the impact of the cleanup, Allison Schutes pointed out that, “The bottle cap you pick up may have been around for 30 or 40 years. Doing something today is preventing trash from being there when they bring their grandchildren to the beach.” Many volunteers come back year after year showing a commitment to an issue that facing us all. “There is a challenge for change” she notes, “When you pick up that piece of trash, you see your direct impact. You also may think: ‘Maybe we should look at the way we treat our trash so it doesn’t end up on our beaches’.”
Do you have fond ocean or beach memories? Share your love of the ocean and waterways with your grandchild and join a team of like-minded volunteers this September 19th. If you can’t make that date there are tools available for you to plan a cleanup of your own. Living now, miles from the ocean, I’m planning on spending the day at Lake Michigan to play one small part in making the beaches cleaner.
Official Site: Ocean Conservancy
International Coastal Cleanup: Official Information Page
2014 Report: 2014 International Coastal Cleanup Report