Who doesn’t love the beach? Everyone says they do, but the impact humans are making, along with lack of restorative action, is painting a different picture. Unfortunately this doesn’t fare well for the beaches we love so much, and the marine animals inhabiting these beaches.
There are multiple ways we can help however. One of these is to make consumer choices that don’t have as negative of an effect on our environment and beaches.
The second way is to get involved directly, and help out by volunteering at a local beach cleanup.
What is a beach cleanup?
A beach cleanup is where volunteers gather to comb lakes, rivers and beaches around the world for trash.
That’s right, you don’t have to physically near an ocean to contribute to a beach cleanup. All waterways lead to the ocean, so no matter where you’re at – you have a chance to contribute to cleaner beaches.
For a decade, volunteers with Sustainable Coastlines have picked up everything imaginable along NZ’s shorelines: cigarette butts, food wrappers, abandoned fishing gear and even automobiles and kitchen appliances.
This is just one of the ways organizations get involved in beach cleanup efforts, which are also initiated by local government agencies, surfing and boating foundations, and eco-friendly companies.
The positive impact on beaches
Beach cleanups do double-duty by both cleaning up existing rubbish, and making participants and local community more conscious about the impacts of littering, and of their consumer choices. For example, the Sustainable Coastlines is involved in efforts to reduce plastic pollution through behavior change, promoting alternatives and policy efforts, like single-use bag ban.
As far as explicit impact, the Sustainable Coastlines has hosted 75 beach cleanups between Dec 2010 and April 2016, removing 1,732,991 individual items of rubbish with the help of 78,279 volunteers.
Just recently, on Versova Beach in Mumbai, India, hatchlings from a vulnerable turtle species were spotted for the first time in decades, after the beach was rejuvenated in the past two years by a massive volunteer cleanup operation.
One of the leaders of the cleanup effort, a local lawyer, said “Beach cleanups definitely have a positive effect on nesting turtles. Many beaches which are major nesting sites are cleaned prior and during the nesting season by villagers, which increases the chances of getting nests [there].”
Though it was a struggle to get people to help initially, he and others stuck with it:
“For the first six to eight weeks, nobody joined,” he said. “Then two men approached me and said, very politely, ‘Please sir, can we wear your gloves?’ Both of them just came and joined me. That’s when I knew it was going to be a success.”
Due to these efforts, at least 80 Olive Ridley turtles have made their way into the Arabian Sea from their nests on the south end of Versova beach, something that could not have happened without these volunteers chipping in.
The benefits of participating
Taking part in a local beach cleanup opens your eyes to consumer culture and to your own choices. Close-up involvement makes it much more likely you will consider eco-friendly options and companies when making purchases.
Another benefit is you’ll get to know more like-minded people in your area. If someone is at a volunteer event to help clean up our beaches, you can be almost guaranteed to find other common interests and compatibility.
As seen with the hatchling turtles in Mumbai, participating in a cleanup of marine debris also helps save marine animals’ lives. We can help remove potential hazards (such as pieces of plastic or straws) that animals could end up swallowing or getting cut on, which helps make their homes more inhabitable, and shows our respect for the waters and shorelines that we have a responsibility to protect.
How can I participate?
If you’d like to locate a beach cleanup event, check upcoming events
Environmental organizations such as the Ocean Conservancy also have information on cleanups, and you can sign up to receive email notifications of various initiatives they are promoting.
Additionally, if you can’t find a cleanup in your area, you can always create and organize one of your own!
One other thing – don’t forget to put September 15th, 2018 on your calendar! The third Saturday of every September is International Coastal Cleanup Day.
Of course with your commitment to an eco-friendly lifestyle weren’t not suggesting you only use one special day to concentrate on cleanup efforts. It is, however, a great excuse to draw attention to the cause, and get friends involved as well!